Virtual reality and video were topics of discussion that got hundreds of technology CEOs, attending an executive forum at Stanford University Wednesday night, slavering over the possible growth potential. The event kicked off Imagination Technologies global summit series and featured Sree Kotay, Comcast’s Chief Software Architect, and Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus VR, the latest Silicon Valley uber-rich technonerd thanks to the purchase of his company by Facebook. Iribe kicked off the excitement with a 10-minute talk about the history of computing breakthroughs (see video) and why virtual reality will be a niche as big as the personal computer. His description of the possibilities for personal communication made heads pop up around the room with a buzz of excitement at each table. The Oculus vision will call for a massive dedication to new product development, which means investment and another boom within a few decades.
The Oculus headset, still in development, is promoted as 3D gaming platform and resembles a massively bulky set of ski goggles. The Facebook acquisition of Oculus stirred up both anger and confusion when it was announced. Originally a crowd-source funded project, the gamers that provided the first investment felt betrayed and some demanded some sort of monetary reimbursement. Both the acolytes of the technology and observers in the tech world did not see the connection between what Facebook does and what the platform is currently.
In a short interview with New Tech Press, Iribe explained Facebook’s reason for the purchase of a seemingly tangential technology. He said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg immediately saw the potential for creating not just a state-of-the-art gaming platform, but a next-generation communications paradigm, which is the social media giant’s next step. Iribe described a world, several decades into the future, where people can attend events like a trade show by simply putting on a pair of sunglasses and finding themselves in a 3D world.
Kotay’s talk about the growth of Comcast into a major media company, and their plans for growing their network, opened the prospect of even more technology development and expansion. He riffed off Iribe’s talk about the need to expand not just bandwidth but data flows as well.
Kotay would not talk on the record regarding the net neutrality debate, but in a short conversation with New Tech Press he pointed out that even with an efficient backbone and an extensive fibre network, much of the last mile is made up of multiple wireless channels, all of which have significant limits that need to be addressed with new technology. Comcast, he said, is investigating and supporting efforts to that end as well. That reality, along with Iribe’s vision for his technology, have got the electronics industry scrambling to find a way to cash in on the demand.