To Understand Virtual Reality, First Try To Understand Reality

Looking through the content available to VR as well as what has been available in earlier forms, much of it can only be described as tropes. A flying person above a landscape or walking near natural wonders. Users in weird costumes interacting in a wide, open street, perhaps watching something happen together. Weirdly beautiful architecture.

Where did this come from? And will it succeed in captivating people day-to-day? Will it go beyond spectacle?

Instead of reading Howard Rheingold perhaps we ought to have been reading Jane Jacobs. Cathedrals and natural wonders are truly uplifting places, but most human activity occurs in the bazaar and all other areas more directly reflecting the daily needs of people.

And yes, those places are messy.

The street is a highly evolved environment and put to the test every day. Even the numerous (but less useful) “grand projects” built by powerful individuals will, given enough time, be modified to be more immediately useful. The most controlled, austere spaces will all come to allow a guy to set up a hot dog stand.

So why not accommodate normal human activity from the get-go?

The more I think about it, the more I see that narrow streets for shops, cafes, galleries, and street stands will be key components of the VR future.