The UX Fair Series: Station 2 - The Past, Present, and Future of VR

UXOctober 6th, 2016

Hero image

This is the third of our four-part UX Fair series, where we look back at the event and share some of the ideas generated around our three areas of exploration.

In The Past, Present, and Future of VR, we engaged guests with a physical VR timeline. Starting in 1700, it showcased early headsets such as the Brewster Stereoscope and Holmes Stereoscope from 1862 (on site), to the Sword of Damocles, then moved through VR technology from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. Guests learned about the history of VR and played with some of our historical and vintage gear. The biggest draw for guests was the Virtual Boy, which led one guest to prop up his plate of corn dogs and taquitos, balance his drink on the edge of the timeline, and hunker down as he experienced 1994 for a while.

Related content

We time traveled from 1700 to the present day as we dug into both virtual reality and augmented reality with the HTC Vive and the Microsoft HoloLens. We first wanted guests to understand the origins, and then experiment with the differences between VR and AR.

It is probably important to point out that Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are not the same thing. AR mixes the real world and the digital world together, whereas VR completely immerses you into the experience, and in a sense removes you from reality. This is actually a distinction that we wanted to make, mostly because we believe there are different use cases for both scenarios. In the mixed reality scenario, one immediately understands the benefits and applications of mixed reality and virtual reality.

Related content

With this new technology frontier we offered just one thought starter to energize participants minds at the forefront of this modern experience design.

How could VR disrupt or improve our industries?

We collaborated with guests in a workshop style that brought out several interesting themes. Our top three included:


Overwhelmingly, guests mentioned a variety of uses when it comes to relationships, from dating, to spending time with in-laws remotely, to having a jam session with friends. What was so provocative about some of the ideas around relationships is that while many would use VR to become closer to people, others would use it to keep their distance. This poses what will no doubt prove to be a chaotic exploration of what VR and AR will do to our relationships and social interactions in the future.

Training & Education

Training, education, and how-to themes were also among the most popular responses. Guests discussed using VR in an immersive setting to train for military assignments, sports, or surgeries, and how the use of AR or mixed reality could help users imagine the workspace, layer information, or augment a space or product.

Travel & Tourism

No surprise, travel and tourism were in our top most mentioned themes. From planning trips to staycations, travel and ways of experiencing nature were threaded throughout the wall. The impact to travel will undoubtedly be huge, users will be immersing themselves in hotels, travel options, and nature sites before they even leave for vacation, if they even need to leave the comforts of their home.

With a hands-on demo of VR and AR we urged our guests to experiment with the Vive and HoloLens’ navigational models.

Related content

The HoloLens experience features three key types of navigation: gaze, gesture, and voice commands. At times your field of vision may be disorienting and it is clear a new form of “browser” should be the first thing we tackle as innovators. What will the next browser look like, and how will we wireframe an AR experience? We were hungry to explore, and our guests were equally intrigued.

The Vive is navigated with a wand, and this can take some getting used to depending on what you’re navigating. It’s great for creating a full room virtual reality experience. With the Vive, you can walk, bend down, and turn around in VR, all in real time. Tilt Brush was a favorite at the UX Fair. It unleashed guests’ creativity with three-dimensional brush strokes and their surroundings became their canvas.

Related content