How to keep up with virtual reality (and other emerging technology)
Updated: Jun 25, 2020
I’ve been working with virtual reality (VR) since 2015. That’s a fairly long time in this field (though VR has been around for much longer than that), and the tech moves so fast that I feel like it’s hard to keep up with new developments. I try to keep up with the state of VR so I know what’s possible now, and also what is coming up next. I think it makes me better at my job, and I feel like I can contribute more to my field. Still, it’s hard to know what’s happening when the tech is evolving so quickly.
know what’s possible now, and also what is coming up next
The VR systems that exist now are so different than what was available just a year ago. For example, the Oculus Quest was released about a year ago. The Oculus Quest is an all-in-one headset that offers 6 DOF (degrees of freedom), which suddenly made interactive VR possible without having an expensive gaming computer. All-in-one headsets are a user-friendly breakthrough that immersive technology needed to be useful to diverse users.
I use VR as an example because it’s my wheelhouse, but this same fast pace of development is also true of other immersive technology, including augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), or any other type of XR. Even though the tech is moving quickly in VR/AR/XR, there are several ways I attempt to keep up. I hope that having some variety of methods helps me to be well-rounded in this field, but of course there is always more information. This list is definitely not exhaustive. In fact, I’m keeping the list purposely short because these are daily/weekly ways of keep up without getting overwhelmed. Some of these seem pretty obvious, but I talked with my colleagues recently and each of us used different means to get this info. If you have other ways of staying up to date, please feel free to share.
Easy methods to follow tech updates (and not be overwhelmed)
1. Subscribe to a daily newsletter
I get headlines for what’s going on in my area of tech from a daily newsletter and/or weekly link roundup. If I do nothing else each day, reading a newsletter helps me feel informed. I usually read one in the morning while I drink my coffee and get mentally prepped for the day, which has the bonus of kickstarting my motivation.
For XR news, I subscribe to Inside XR, which I’ve been following for many months now. There are other great websites that do extensive link curation for different areas of tech, like Science Daily. I also check in with VR Scout quite often for their weekly news roundup.
2. Follow social media groups or forums
Other than reading a daily newsletter, most of the tech news I get is from the social media groups/forums I follow.
Facebook groups tend to be most active. I particularly like the Women in VR/AR group and the 360 VR Video Professionals group (I’m not in 360 VR, but this group posts a lot of great tech resources).
I also follow hashtags on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, but I don’t check these daily because it’s stimulation overload for me.
3. Follow diverse individuals
I try to curate my social media feeds with individuals in my field because often they share interesting things they’re working on that don’t make it to the headlines. This is true for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. (Twitter is especially active in my field, where people tend to post really interesting personal projects).
I think following diverse of individuals is also important for getting a well-rounded picture of what is going on. I mean diverse not just in demographics (e.g., gender, ethnicity), but also following a mix of sectors (e.g., industry, academia) and backgrounds (e.g., computer science, engineering, cognitive psychology).
For example, I think it’s important that researchers communicate with industry to solve problems, and that doesn’t happen if these groups don’t follow what’s happening on each side. I’ve seen this lead to problems, such as industry making VR system for training that aren’t actually good training – that’s a waste of time and money, and hurts the simulation training field as a whole.
It’s also important to know who is active in your field, not just mainstream presenters. I’ve seen conference panels without any women or people of color, and the organizers blamed the lack of diversity on not being able to find those individuals. This shouldn’t be happening still. Being aware of others in your field is just beneficial all around.
4. Read 1 journal article a week
I’m a researcher by training, and a scientist at heart, so keeping up to date on the peer-reviewed literature is important to me. Even if you’re not an academic, though, I think it’s incredibly useful to see what research is coming out each month to understand this space on a deeper level. Journal articles allow you to understand a topic in more depth than a popular press article.
Reading a journal article each week also helps me keep a critical eye on the state of the field, so it’s easier to pick out what information is accurate versus what is overstated or taken out of context in news headlines. If I see something that seems unbelievable in the news, I turn to the peer-reviewed lit to see where that info actually came from and if the claims are overstated.
Google Scholar is a great resource for seeing recent publications. Just filter by keyword and year. If access to an article is behind a paywall, you should be able to get access through your local library or being on a university campus.
5. Listen to tech podcasts or Youtubers
I’ll admit, I haven’t been keeping up with podcasts as much since I’ve been working from home. Usually I just listen to tech podcasts on my way to work, but since I haven’t been commuting, I’ll listen to podcasts while doing the dishes or laundry. It’s a win-win because I feel like I’m learning something, and also chores aren’t as boring.
There are so many VR podcasts, I’m not going to suggest just one. Honestly, just listen to the first 2 minutes of a bunch and see which host has a voice that doesn’t annoy you. I feel like the best podcasts are those that have an interesting host because that’s the one I will actually listen to without tuning out or getting annoyed. I find this is a personal taste.
As I was thinking about writing this post, one of my coworkers brought up how she stays up to date on tech developments by watching Youtube. She suggested checking out Linus Media Group for their channels (like Short Circuit, TechLinked). I typically like looking up reviews on new products or comparisons on Youtube, like comparisons of stereoscopic cameras. I also like ThrillSeeker's weekly updates on VR news.
I definitely do the following less frequently than daily or weekly, but these are also super helpful to check out on a monthly basis.
6. Watch or attend Conferences / Panels / Industry talks
If you want to hear from industry or academic experts, conferences and panels are the way to go. I try to attend at least one academic conference a year and really absorb as much info as I can. Unfortunately, travel to conferences has been cancelled for much of this year, so I’ve been attending online conferences/summits/panels to get this info. Additionally, search for big industry talks to stay up to date. For example, I watch nearly all of the Oculus Connect videos posted each year.
7. Go play with new tech that comes out
I somehow overlook this frequently, but it’s important to go out and play with new hardware or software updates. To understand what else is happening in my field, I download new VR apps that come out regularly. Another way is going to expos or events where I can demo new systems.
What are your go-to resources for technology updates?