The biggest event of the year in San Diego—at least until we get the Super Bowl back (LOL)—is Comic-Con.
It's evolved to become the pop culture entertainment zeitgeist's biggest coming-attractions event showcase—movies, television, video gaming—and the hottest collection of fetish cosplay in the all-American mainstream. It also provides good insight into where the entertainment business sees the biggest chunk of change (literal and cash-wise) taking place in technology.
That pretty much makes it geek Christmas plus SXSW in San Diego for a week, and it was easy to glean from the convention's gizmos and gadgets just what we can expect to see more of in the year to come.
I noticed three specific tech trends pop up, again and again, through this year's Comic-Con extravaganza. Expect to see more and more of all of them in your daily life in the next year.
Low-rent Virtual Reality. And Expensive Virtual Reality Porn. With an Oculus Rift VR device running about $300-350, you're going to see a lot of people trying to turn your phone into a Virtual Reality device. A lot of big companies tried it at Comic-Con.
Legendary Pictures, SyFy Channel and Conan O'Brien all offered cardboard VR headsets that, when partnered with a smartphone that had downloaded an iOS or Android application, became rudimentary virtual reality screens. Legendary took you on a tour inside scenes from two upcoming big budget movies, the adaptation of the computer game Warcraft, and the haunted house horror Crimson Peak. The Syfy version took you on a tour of the spaceships in the new science-fiction soap opera The Expanse , which debuts in December. The Conan version put viewers in a POV position onstage (here in San Diego, where O'Brien did his show for the week) with Conan and his guests.
The Syfy and Legendary apps can still be downloaded today, and you can buy a cardboard VR helmet for yourself for about $12. The cheap-o VR works okay. It's interesting, but it's not all-enveloping like the real headsets; they can offer up to 180-degree stereo-scoping head tracking perspective, which makes it completely overwhelming.
That's why the biggest debut in Virtual Reality at Comic-Con was the one that will ultimately probably prove the most lucrative. If virtual reality spaceships and quirky talk show hosts sound a little too pedestrian for you, adult entertainment company Naughty America launched America's first virtual reality porn film at Comic-Con (hey, you knew it was... coming). The film took the premise of one of the company's most popular series, 2 Chicks Same Time and put the wearer at the center of a threesome with "actresses" Nikki Benz and Jaclyn Taylor. Benz and Taylor actually showed up at Tivoli Bar & Grill, where they were showcasing the film, for three days and let badge holders (21 and over) check it out. I thought maybe I would give it a shot—all for the sake of journalism, of course—but I attended with my girlfriend and kids every day and it seemed poor form.
An Experience is Remembered, Not the Device(s). As more and more technology is integrated as custom in our daily lives, it is the experience of the technology that we remember and brings us joy, not the technology itself.
At Comic-Con, there was an abundance of experiences for people, and less passive sitting (or standing in line). NBC had a "4D Heroes Reborn Experience" that offered a multi-sensory interactive house full of visual and kinetic effects that made participants feel like they were emulating the superpowers of the series' stars. Game-maker Ubisoft set up a maze-like obstacle course that recreated the London-based setting of the latest entry in its blockbuster Assassin's Creed series. MTV rocked into Comic-Con with a slow motion filming booth that made people part of its new Scream TV series, fleeing the iconic masked ghoul while having body parts thrown at them.
3D Printing. There were a lot more 3D printers this year, so don't be surprised if you've got one in a year or two, as prices have begun to fall (you can get a pretty good one for under $500). But a lot of Batman masks got made this year to fascinated crowds, and the technology was better than ever. The machines are faster, print with better fidelity and definitely make you imagine a world where you can make just about any object you want in a few minutes. Adobe Photoshop's booth showcased some of the thinnest 3D printing available, as well as tried-and-true software for creating 3D models.
All of these things are going to be in your homes, or an accepted part of your leisure life, in the next few years: Virtual reality headsets that will replace the television as the number one passive-entertainment device; entertainment experiences that integrate technology to expand the broader pleasure; and 3D printers that will put a whole lot more businesses out of business. VR is coming on the fastest—once they start making movies for it that are any good (and I'm not talking porn), it'll be Game Over. You'll have one in two years.