I can see the future... literally

I remember, as a child, helping my mother map the streets of my hometown as she was a very early believer in computer navigation and thought it might be here very soon, especially if she helped. (Believe me, that was a long time ago. She's a great-grandmother today.) Unfortunately, it was almost twenty years before apps like Google Maps, Waze, TomTom, etc. were widely available. And boy, it felt great when we got there.

There's an extensive list of technologies that feel the same to me, and one of them has long been VR & AR. I don't know why I feel so sure, but I truly feel that flat screens will be replaced by some kind of goggle or headset, just like CRTs were displaced by LCDs and OLEDs. But the engineering challenges are immense, and it is already taking longer than enthusiasts predicted. I reckon we'll get there one day in my lifetime, though.

My work as a founder and small-time investor justifies spending a good chunk of my disposable income on tech gadgets, and I have quite a number of different headsets as a result. Until today, every single one of them has disappointed me and/or felt limited in some way: too heavy, too slow, too grainy, too difficult to use, etc. Even the Vario Aero, Valve's Index and Meta's Quest 2 all had something that made me put them down and unlikely to pick them back up again.

What has kept me going is there has always been another one just around the corner that, this time, may well have what it takes. I'm completely fine if active steering starts on an F-1 car and makes it to the consumer market on an S-500, so long as it ends up on my daily driver at some point.

Despite having seen so many of these products fall short, I was cautiously optimistic that maybe Apple's upcoming Vision Pro would demonstrate enough of the right stuff to convince most people that, yes, this will be a thing one day. Watching sports or a concert from almost any angle, in an immersive high-def experience with other virtual audience members, could even be a better experience than the live one in some ways: no queuing, going anywhere, see everything, etc.

I was mightily surprised to try out Meta's Quest 3 and find it has solved many of these problems. I'm a fully paid-up tech geek, so this doesn't mean it's ready for the mass market. But for those of you who owned a cellphone early and loved that you could take a call in any country or send a text, you'll relate to my review.

Briefly, the headset was relatively easy to set up and use and wasn't too hot, uncomfortable or heavy. The color pass-through cameras are grainy and laggy, but they deal with the constant pulling off of the headset to find things and stubbed toes. Setting up things like boundaries was much smarter. And most of all, when I watched many English Premier League football highlights, I settled in much as I would in a decent media room. For the first time with a headset, I was totally absorbed for more than a few minutes. An hour later, when I took the headset off, the time had just flown past.

In short, it kinda sorta worked.

Frankly, I'm amazed. I have used all the prior Oculus headsets and have been disappointed to the level where I wondered what Meta has been spending so much money on. The content was not compelling either.

Now, I'm cursing the folks who own the TV rights for not publishing feeds higher than 1080p, and when are you going to bring me the virtual on-court experience, goddammit??

This leads to one of the next barriers to making this stuff work: if you think Ticketmaster, the Rolling Stones, Disney, the EPL, the NFL and other multi-billion dollar entities that own the rights will just hand it over, you've not been paying much attention lately.

Interestingly, Apple is the one technology company that seems to be able to parlay with these big companies through a mix of market dominance, strategic leverage and huge piles of cash. I sure hope they manage to get some high-def VR broadcast rights, even if they are exclusive and expensive. It'll be a hoot.

If you're into gadgets, I recommend getting a Quest 3. Meta offers a no-hassle 30-day return policy. Let me know how it goes for you.