2016 has been a banner year for consumer Virtual Reality technology. The Oculus Rift (arguably the first successful VR platform) was released earlier this year and the well-reviewed Oculus Touch controller arrived this month just in time for the holiday season. Microsoft, Playstation, Google, and other big names have also released VR products. While VR technology has largely captured the public imagination in the context of gaming, there are many innovative possibilities for its use and development in the near future.
What can innovative minds learn from the long history of efforts to develop effective virtual reality technology, and what new possibilities does it create?
I write often about the seeds of innovation – where ideas come from and how those ideas are developed into revolutionary products and services. I am drawn to these examinations because I believe that true innovation has a measurable impact. It solves an existing problem in the marketplace or opens up new possibilities for growth and success.
However, innovation doesn’t always mean creating new technology from the ground up. Often, innovative minds match existing technology with real-world problems to create an unexpected outcome and an impact that positively affects real people.
In this holiday season, I want to explore how technology can meet needs that allow us to flourish.
Two years ago, Elon Musk’s SpaceX received a $2.6 billion contract from NASA to develop commercial spaceflight and manned launch capabilities. After the 2011 conclusion of its Shuttle program, NASA looked to SpaceX and Boeing, two private companies, to return manned launches to American soil. This public-private partnership signaled the beginning of an exciting new time in space innovation and exploration.
After several years of decline, it seems that private companies like SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origins are now successfully reinvigorating the American space industry. As an aerospace enthusiast and industry consultant, these developments are tremendously exciting. As an entrepreneur and startup coach, they prompt me to consider the lessons that innovators can learn and apply from an examination of SpaceX’s success.
Of the many incredible innovations that have impacted our lives over the past few decades, one in particular stands out to me as an example of how technology can change the way we relate to each other on a fundamental level – social networking. Whether you take an optimistic or pessimistic view of this evolution, the change is undeniable. Technology and social networking have given us the ability to connect with friends or strangers (both near and far) for business or for recreation, all at the touch of a button.
The story of innovation behind social networking and the internet is a complex one, full of give and take. At times, social networking drove the development of the online experience, at other times it struggled to keep up with technological advances. This is a look at the innovators who changed our lives by connecting us (and our data) online.
I recently read an inspirational, deeply honest commencement address that has really stuck with me in a way that few such speeches do. It was delivered at the graduation ceremony at the University of Illinois in May by a man named Jeff Huber, a lifelong entrepreneur who previously worked at eBay and Google and is now the CEO of a company called GRAIL. I believe it contains an important message of hope and also a challenge for those of us who consider ourselves to be innovators.
Huber uses stories from his own life to reveal a larger experience and exhort these young graduates (and, by extension, all of us who hear or read his words) to “find a better way.” His speech still resonates with me weeks later, and I’d like to share some of the thoughts it has stirred with you.