With Periscope & Meerkat, We’re Already Living In Virtual Reality

Have you ever been walking on the street behind someone and all of a sudden they just stop short to use their phone with no warning?

I recently went to a concert at Madison Square Garden where they had live shots of the crowd up on the big screen. You could see everyone having a great time singing along, but there was always at least one person looking at their phone, void of expression, like a zombie completely oblivious to the joy happening all around them.

I’ve never used Oculus Rift, but I imagine it sort of like in The Matrix: you plug in and suddenly your physical body doesn’t matter as your mind enters a new world. Doesn’t sound that different than those people at the concert, and we can all admit at some point we’ve been that zombie.

I have become acutely aware of how in order to use your phone, you have to leave the moment you’re in. You exit the real world temporarily to engage in the virtual world. And that is not to understate how great or important the virtual world is — there are real connections and real experiences happening there too. You just can’t be in both simultaneously. So we switch off between the two.

A few days into the onslaught that is Periscope push notifications, I have seen some video broadcasts like “Walking home” “We’re eating dinner” “At a party” “Awesome show” and the like.

That amazing sunset on your walk home, seeing your favorite band live– those are moments that you want to broadcast, so we are willing to trade some “being present” in order to capture and share them with a quick photo or video clip.

With Periscope and Meerkat, I am seeing this behavior evolving to a new level: to share your entire experience as you are experiencing it. I’m not unappreciative of all the societal benefits of democratizing video broadcasting, and ultimately I’m bullish about it, especially as technology continues to improve (wearables!) allowing us to truly merge the here and now with our digital lives with less and less friction.

But I find something profoundly sad about being somewhere in physical reality with physical friends, and spending that time holding your phone up to see what others, who are not there, have to say about it.

My fear is that we end up in a sort of limbo where we are no longer just switching back and forth between the real world and the virtual world, but where we are just no where at all.