​TED talks on the future of virtual reality

2016 was VR's breakout year - but what does the future hold?
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TED is where the world's greatest mind gather to offer their insights into the biggest and most futuristic ideas – so where better than to get a picture of where the world of virtual reality is heading?

Essential reading: Best wearable tech TED talks

VR enjoyed its breakout year in 2016 with Oculus, PlayStation VR and HTC's Vive headsets all launching to critical acclaim. But what's the bigger picture? Are there uses beyond gaming? And does VR have the change to be more than a vehicle for shoot 'em ups and branding gimmicks?

Here's what TED's best minds had to say:

Chris Milk

Virtual reality can create the ultimate empathy machine

Chris Milk has worked with some of the world's most famous musicians including Kanye and Arcade Fire, but in this TED talk he shows why there's more to VR than just eye-popping music videos. His exploration of life in a Syrian refuge camp helps the viewer "to feel the humanity" and explains how virtual reality can "change minds."

Ana Serrano

Life inside the bubble of a virtual reality world

In her TED talk Ana Serrano explains why data will drive the way we consume entertainment in a similar way to the way advertising works today. Her argument is that the way data has been collected through the growth of the internet reveals the future of virtual reality.

"Technology will be so good it will be very hard for people to watch something that's not been tailored for them," she says. But there is a darker side. Serrano believes that VR will subvert what psychologists call the "zero moment of truth" – aka the moment we're "uniquely out of control of any sentient decision moment and more susceptible to manipulation." In other works, VR will make us more commercially pliable.

George Bloom

Virtual reality : how the 'metaverse' will change filmmaking

Bloom is an executive producer at CBS Digital and introduces the concept of the "metaverse" and how it will change film creation for sets, crew, actors and the story. He reveals how filmmakers, marketers and even people at home can create million dollar sets at a fraction of the cost by using laser scanners.

David Sackman

Real change through virtual reality

"Today we're going to talk about how to use VR to change human behaviour to make the world a better place" is the opening promise of David Sackman's talk on using virtual reality to change emotions. Sackman's background is from the world of marketing and knows a thing or two about convincing humans to make decisions. In this TED talk he explains the forces for good it can be used for.

Jim Blascovich

Virtual reality, avatars and multiple identities

The final talk of our round up looks on from how VR will be adopted to what happens when it's part of our daily lives. Jim is a professor of psychological and brain sciences and asks whether our brains will be able to distinguish between realities when the virtual ones become so immersive.

"Years ago multiple reality disorder suffers were treated as freaks," he says. But what happens when we're "having virtual sex, have virtual abs of steel or make ourselves virtually taller"? Watch to find out.


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James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and T3.com and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

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