Seeing really is believing
For something that feels so modern, virtual reality has actually been around for a surprisingly long time. Even as early as the 1990s companies like Sega and Nintendo were trying to sell them as gaming devices – but the sets were expensive and clunky, and the experience rarely lived up to the promise of the hype.
Back then, VR was an idea before its time. Today, the technology has caught up with the philosophy. Since the launch of the Oculus Rift headset in 2016, the immersive possibilities of VR have become ever more apparent. And one of the key people in turning the dream of mass VR participation into reality happens to be Rikard.
Behind the wheel of an XC90, we leave San Francisco and head south to meet Rikard at the company’s offices in Silicon Valley. He explains what his company does. “The idea is you’re probably going to access VR and AR [augmented reality] across multiple platforms and devices,” says Rikard. “So we want this to be the one place where the consumer goes to find these experiences.”
‘Experiences’ is the key word here. With devices like the Rift and HTC’s Vive (hence ‘Viveport’), virtual reality has the chance to offer a new way of playing, learning and exploring, though sometimes it’s hard to define it without trying it.
Like thousands of forward-thinking workers from around the globe, Rikard finds California the perfect base to achieve his ambitions. And plenty of those workers includes his fellow Swedes. “Swedes love technology and what you can do with it – that’s why they fit really well in California,” he says. “Here, you have people from all countries, all religions, all races coming together – they share a common purpose to change the world. And I think that’s something we will increasingly do more of in Sweden. To think more globally.”
“I have two young girls, so if they’re studying the dinosaur age they can walk around Jurassic Park and see a stegosaurus eating plants or hear the roar of a T-Rex. That only takes 20 seconds to experience, but then the kid will know how big the dinosaurs are, what they eat, what they’re afraid of. They’ll never forget it and will come back for more. That won’t happen with a textbook."
“When you take an arrow and you draw the bow,” says Rikard, “it actually vibrates so that you feel the resistance. There is no actual resistance but your brain fills in the gap.”
Rikard has long been fascinated by space, having tried to buy a spacecraft from Richard Branson with the aim of launching from Spaceport in northern Sweden in 2014. He’s also been in training for the ride he’s booked with Virgin Galactic. “I’ve been doing zero-g training,” he says. “They have a big aeroplane and empty it of everything inside. They go up and then they drop down and speed up so that you become weightless. You do that 15 times – it’s super-fun! You’re completely helpless because your body thinks it’s in water and you can swim but you can’t. There’s no friction so you have no control.”
Away from space, back on his adopted home turf, Rikard is every inch the optimistic Californian, always thinking about how we can use technology to further humankind. Yet despite this, Rikard represents the best of modern Swedish culture: enthusiastic, outward looking and never satisfied with the status quo.
He’s going to go a long way – and if we’ve got any sense, we’ll be going with him, headsets at the ready.
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