#1000: Voices of VR Retrospective on the Ultimate Potential of Virtual Reality

Episode #1000 of the Voices of VR podcast is a special, three-hour retrospective featuring over 100 of the best answers I’ve received about the ultimate potential of VR over the past 7 years. I hope that it serves as a primer on the scope and breadth of different XR applications across many different contexts and domains of human experience as described by a diverse range of subject matter experts who are on the frontiers of innovation within spatial computing. The episode starts with describing the power of presence and immersion, and then elaborates on the underlying neuroscience foundations of perception and embodied cognition that explain why Extended Reality (XR) technologies like Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR) present unique affordances that go above and beyond what previous communication mediums can deliver. I believe XR represents a new computing paradigm that will be moving from flat 2D interfaces through windowed portals to volumetric experiences and worlds that are more embodied, immersive, participatory, social, and spatial.

There’s been a lot of recent buzz and hype about the potential and possibilities of the “metaverse” ever since Mark Zukerberg told Casey Newton on July 22 that as Facebook is “building out the next set of computing platforms, like virtual and augmented reality, to give people that sense of presence,” and that if they do this well enough then “I think over the next five years or so, in this next chapter of our company, I think we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.” What does Facebook mean by the Metaverse? Is VR just a fad? Or is this type of rhetoric overblown hyperbole?

After conducting over 1600 oral history interviews over the past seven years, I can say that there are some compelling reasons why I think VR and AR are on the cusp of becoming a reality. How metaverse will continue to unfold, whether it’s closed or open/interoperable, and what it will ultimately look like is still up for debate as it’s still being created. But what I can say is that there’s been a ton of foundational work that’s been done on these immersive technologies since the mid-1960s starting with the military and continuing on through academic research, and then through the first wave of enterprise VR in the early 90s, and now with the second wave of consumer VR that was catalyzed in August 2012 with the Oculus Kickstarter.

Virtual Reality was considered an emerging technology by Gartner’s Hype Cycle Map up until 2017, but since 2018 it’s not been tracked as an emerging technology as it has graduated through the plateau of productivity into an established market. Virtual Reality is here, and it’s actually happening this time around. This podcast episode takes a 10% sample of my first 1000 episodes of the Voices of VR podcast to show a wide range of immediate, near-term, and potential future applications across a wide variety of contexts.

The first Oculus Developer Kits (the Oculus DK1) were shipped in March of 2013, and I bought my DK1 on January 1, 2014. I attended the first professional conference during the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality conference on May 19 and 20th of 2014 where the excitement about the potentials of this new medium was palpable. I ended up recording 44 interviews over those two days because I wanted to capture what felt like a historical moment within the community of early adopters and innovators who would prove to become key figures in the development and continued evolution of what’s possible within the VR medium. I feel like I’ve been in a collaborative conversation with the broader VR community over the past 7 years helping to document the full range of applications, but to also tap into the more philosophical, ethical, and future dreaming potentials for where this could all go.

This episode is broken up into loose sections that cover XR applications and potential futures spanning everything from medicine, neuroscience & behavioral research, early education, training, hanging out with friends in Social VR, connecting to family, recording memories, travel, wayfinding, location-based entertainment, embodied AI & virtual assistants, telepresence & remote work, productivity, new spatial computing paradigms, interdisciplinary collaborations, new human-computer interaction paradigms, the metaverse, open standards like WebXR and OpenXR, empathy, immersive storytelling, journalism, documentary, porn, gaming, ethical considerations around addiction & escapism, trolling and harassment, risks to privacy via surveillance capitalism, risks to Neuro Rights of Agency and autonomy, identity, psychological implications of avatar embodiment, accessibility, diversity and inclusion, the philosophical implications of our first-person perspective, situated knowledges, pluralism, filter bubbles of reality and worldviews, activism, ecological and relational awareness, speculative design and worldbuilding, future dreaming, indigenous futurism, latent human potentials, expanding perception, consciousness hacking and transformative practices, cooperative models of AI development, simulation theory, virtual goods and resources, environmental sustainability, more equitable access to experiences, limits of simulation vs reality, being able to see reality in a new way, and being in right relationship to ourselves, to each other, to the planet, and to all aspects of reality.

Thanks for coming along on this journey so far, and please consider supporting this work via the Voices of VR Patreon. I wouldn’t have been able to come this far without the support from the community, and I have over 600 other unpublished interviews that I look forward to digging into many more insights and reflections on the ultimate potential of VR. More detailed shownotes can be found down below:


Links to episodes referenced in the podcast:


Neuroscience Foundations


Early Education, Training, & Behavioral Research

Hanging Out with Friends in Social VR

Connecting to Family & Recording Memories


Augmented Reality, Wayfinding, Location-Based Entertainment, Embodied AI & Virtual Assistants

Telepresence & Remote Work, Productivity, New Spatial Computing Paradigms, Interdisciplinary Collaborations, & New Human-Computer Interaction Paradigms

The Metaverse, Open Standards like WebXR and OpenXR

Empathy, Immersive Storytelling, Journalism, & Documentary

Is it Porn or Gaming that’s Driving VR Innovation?


Ethical Considerations Including: Addiction & Escapism, Trolling & Harassment, Risks to Privacy via Surveillance Capitalism, & Risks to Neuro-Rights of Agency & Autonomy

Identity, Self-Expression, Psychological Implications of Avatar Embodiment

Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion, & Sense of Self

The Philosophical Implications of XR, Limits to First-person Perspective, Situated Knowledges, Pluralism, & Filter Bubbles of Reality & Worldviews

Consciousness Transformation, Activism, & Relational Awareness

Speculative Design, Worldbuilding, Future Dreaming, & Indigenous Futurism

Latent Human Potentials, Expanding Perception, Consciousness Hacking and Transformative Practices, & Cooperative Models of AI Development

Simulation Theory

Virtual Goods and Resources, Environmental Sustainability, More Equitable Access To Experiences, & Limits of Simulation vs Reality

Being Able to See Reality in a New Way, and Being In Right Relationship to Ourselves, to Each Other, to the Planet, and to All Aspects of Reality.

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality