Meet one of the early (pre-JavaScript) VR pioneers

“It’s 2025…” says Tony Parisi repeating a future gazing story he told in a Medium post. “My son hops into an Uber headed for university. A car that was designed completely in virtual reality; that was manufactured in a factory designed in virtual reality, and assembled using processes visualised in VR, by workers trained in VR simulations. A car that lives in a network of millions of self-driving vehicles, monitored by operators using augmented reality dashboards.”

Parisi is global head of AR and VR at development platform, Unity — and was co-creator of Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) way back in 1994 before JavaScript even existed. The VR revolution is one that has been tipped to hit for some time and Parisi concedes that his 2025 prediction may still be a little premature. Yet all this is definitely coming and all the building blocks are already in place today. 

I’m meeting him at London ExCel (where we’re both attending Microsoft Future Decoded) to talk about where immersive experiences are heading. “Now is an echo from the 1990s,” he says. Except back then the hardware was not available, there was a lack of available people to create content and, of course, a total lack of consumer readiness. 

Back in 1994 he tells me he teamed up with Mark Pesce, founder of Ono-Sendai a first-generation virtual reality startup which looked to create inexpensive, home-based networked VR systems. A “refugee form the last attempt to do consumer VR”, Pesce was inspired by the Metaverse in Neal Stephenson’s sci-fi novel Snow Crash, which showed a collective virtual shared space.

“There was a lot of buzz,” says Parisi, but nothing was ready. Now 20 years later, although the hardware is still quite expensive, there are millions of 3D content creators and a couple of generations of consumers. Most important of all, though, there is a trajectory and amongst the industry players — “nobody is daunted”.

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