You strap on a slim, comfortable headset, pick up your controls and press a button. A drone takes off, whizzing down flooded city streets. Through the goggles, you see what the drone sees—a crisp, live, 360-degree view of battered houses and uprooted trees. When you look down, you see what’s below the drone. The full-color picture doesn’t seize up; there’s no latency. You are, essentially, digitally teleporting into the aftermath of a natural disaster.
At least, that’s the goal. “Digital teleportation,” as the field is fancifully known, doesn’t exist yet. But proponents of the technology, which some call “live delivery,” believe that in the coming years, a mix of virtual reality, fast wireless networks and machines like drones and rovers will allow people to immerse themselves in actual, far-flung environments—in real time. “Live delivery is a new type of tool that will reinvent the way we experience the world, that will allow us to be on the spot when things are happening,” said Marc Carrel-Billiard, senior managing director at Accenture Labs, who advises businesses on VR and augmented reality.
While VR shows prerecorded scenes, live VR, which is starting to show up in classrooms and operating rooms, allows users to experience what is happening in situ. Companies are already starting to pair simplified versions of live VR with drones to give users a sense of being in another place.