Technology evangelist, author, and blogger Robert Scoble is leaving Rackspace to pursue an entrepreneur-in-residence role with UploadVR. He says that he’ll do the same kinds of videos and blogging he’s always done but now with a specific focus on startups and technology in the augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) space.
His last day at Rackspace will be April 4, at which point Scoble will start working out of UploadVR’s offices in San Francisco, where he will continue reporting on the work of those building games, applications, and hardware in this space. Scoble doesn’t know what his long-term plans are or whether he’ll eventually start his own publication or company.
For the last seven years, Scoble has been an evangelist for the managed-cloud and hosting provider, where he sought out the next big tech ideas as part of the company’s community site Building 43. In 2014, his travels took him to Dublin, Ireland to attend the annual Web Summit, and that’s where his eye was drawn to the Oculus demo room. He said that the expressions of people walking out of the demo made him think, “Holy shit, this is an amazing product to have on your face.”
“It was mind-blowing,” he told VentureBeat. “I thought that this was going to be significant, and I wanted to be involved in it.”
He attributes his departure from Rackspace to a difference of interests: The company wanted him to be fanatical about the Cloud, but Scoble was more interested in consumer technology and societal shifts that he believed were about to happen. The two grew apart.
He has now found an opportunity to focus on both the AR and VR communities, which he believes are going to become “real and huge” and produce a “deeper set of products, bigger than 3D TV or Google Glass.” Scoble said that he’s interested in looking at Microsoft’s Hololens, Magic Leap, Meta, and many other companies.
The coming waves of mixed reality
There are two technology waves coming, according to the tech evangelist. The first one is all about VR — the technology is just starting to work — while the second one, AR, won’t be hitting us for a few more years. In fact, he says, AR will be built off of VR. “Every time I get a headset on my face, visit places like Rothenberg Ventures, and hang out with developers, I become really passionate about this space. It’s getting the most amount of investments and we’re seeing new content ideas that can’t be done on a flat piece of glass,” Scoble explained.
In the coming decade, he believes a cultural shift will take place, something that hasn’t happened since the 1960s. Activities we do normally, like watching television and playing games, are going to be disrupted to make you feel like you’re in the “front row experiencing it.” Mobile devices won’t be affected by VR and AR technologies right away, but Scoble thinks our experience with them will change. He said he can imagine a time in the future when phones no longer exist.
Will Mason, UploadVR’s cofounder and editor-in-chief, agrees with Scoble:
Virtual and augmented reality represent the next stage in human interaction. For the last decade, we have grown up as a society in a world with mobile internet, and constant connectedness. That has had plenty of major advantages in increasing our access to knowledge and our ability to communicate globally. But it also has taken some of the humanity out of communication. When 92 percent of our communication is non-verbal, you tend to lose a lot when chatting over text, email, and Facebook. In the near future with VR and AR, you will have all the advantages of online communication with all of the advantages of face-to-face communication; it is the best of both worlds. And that paradigm shift could lead to some majorly impactful things on a societal scale, it could lead to a greater sense of empathy.
For Scoble, it’s about paying attention to the innovation happening in this space and understanding its potential. He understands that VR and AR are “very compelling” and says that when you’re immersed in it, you’ll “be lost for a while.” This disruption is something Scoble claims will be dangerous for the television and entertainment industry and even for technology companies in Silicon Valley. But amid all of this, he’s looking at one main thing: How does this change the human experience? How will it impact what it means to be human?
A genre of epic proportions
It’s understandable if you’re skeptical about Scoble’s vision, and he has apologized for things he was bullish about that didn’t pan out, such as Google+ and Google Glass. However, although many of the things he sees are important, he believes that the genre around VR and AR will be one of the most important and feels that there’s room for him to grow with the ecosystem. “The bleeding edge is coming,” he predicted.
This thinking has brought him to UploadVR, which was founded in 2014. Mason met his cofounder, Taylor Freeman, while he was looking for his next project. The two spent time talking about the future of tech and discovered that they had similar thoughts around the VR and AR space. Their first endeavor together was a self-titled publication they put together before receiving a $1.5 million seed round from Shanda Group and others to grow the community and fund new efforts in the space. One such initiative included the formation of a collective, which is based in San Francisco.
Upload Collective, as it’s known, serves as a coworking space for those working on VR and AR. Selected companies have access to the latest hardware and also to mentors, talent, and capital. “Our goal is to bring in companies that showcase the inspirational nature of AR and VR through top quality content and game-changing platforms,” Mason explained. Eventually the collective’s coworking model will evolve into an incubator and accelerator.
Scoble is eager to research more and play with different devices, games, and applications. He said he understands why Oculus was purchased by Facebook and also why it’s located in the center of the company’s Menlo Park headquarters — “It’s all about social.”
Although he’s leaving Rackspace, the company will continue to support him in some way, Scoble said, though it hasn’t been determined what form that will take.
Freeman is thrilled to have Scoble on board: “We couldn’t be more excited to be working with a visionary like Robert Scoble to build a future of inspiration, creativity, and progress, in addition to helping the community really connect with the things they need to succeed.” His partner agrees: “Robert joining us is a great fit because he is such a tireless evangelist for the technology he believes in, and, like us, he views VR and AR as the key technologies of our future. I think that with the platforms we both bring to the table it will be a match made in heaven.”