The photo we’d all like to step inside – virtual reality memories!

Summers were much longer than they are today when I was a kid. The sun was always shining and the water in the sea was so warm that you could stay in it all day. There was just so much fun, our summerhouse was like paradise.

Vrgoggles
Michael Björn

Head of Research Agenda and Quality at Consumer & IndustryLab

Do you recognize some of that? Although somewhat distorted and exaggerated, they are nevertheless precious memories. The older you get the more you have of them. And the more distant they become, the more precious they seem to get.

You yearn for them and know they contain the unattainable. Back in those never-ending blue-skied summer days, my parents were still alive.

I have a picture of myself on the patio, aged about three or so, holding a beach ball that was practically bigger than me. In the background you can see a birdhouse where we used to put breadcrumbs and watch squirrels climb the adjacent pines without ever being able to disturb the feeding birds. The birdhouse is of course gone now, and unfortunately so are most of the squirrels. But the pine trees are still very much there, as is the summerhouse, which I bought from my mother in the late 1990s.

The patio is also still there. Just like then, the ants are digging everywhere in the sandy ground so that the flagstones tilt and get angled to one another. I used to run around barefoot everywhere and bump my toes badly on the cracks between those flagstones. I would grimace every day when we went swimming, as the salt in the water attacked my mangled toes.

Now I am spending my summers there with my own family. Although some things are different – my son never injures his toes on the flagstones, for example – it is amazing how much of history on the domestic family level often repeats itself. Such as us running around naked in the warm but heavy summer rains… but that is another story for another time.

Yet I am almost shocked by the profound effect repeating the same patterns of summer life as a grown up is having on me. In essence, my own childhood memories seem to be tugging at me harder than ever as an effect.

I am still trying to come to terms with never being able to recreate my own past. Maybe as part of that effort, I decided to try out freezing a piece of the present instead, so that at least we might be able to peek into our past at some future date.

To this end, last year I bought a software package called 3DF Zephyr that lets you make 3D models by using multiple photos of the same objects from different angles. The model can then be imported into a virtual reality environment so that you can walk around it.

Last summer, I took something like a hundred photos of the house and loaded all of them into my PC. Unfortunately, the model I managed to construct after hours of processing just needed so much cleaning up that I didn’t follow through. There was too much digital debris and I didn’t have the skills or the time.

But since then the software has been substantially upgraded and I have a better camera, so I will try again this summer.

Will it be worthwhile stepping into a frozen moment in time? I don’t know, maybe it will just make those memories hurt with nostalgia even more. But after having visited some places I believe I will never go to physically again in Google Earth VR, I think there is also something to gain.

I am not alone. Our Ericsson ConsumerLab research indicates that a lot of people would like to walk around in their memories. In fact, Your photo is a room is one of our 10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2018.


What we found is that as many as three out of four of those we interviewed believe taking photos at events such as weddings or birthdays and revisiting them in virtual reality will be commonplace in only five years. And what’s more, as many think we will also do this on holidays by then.

So, maybe we could meet up in my summerhouse of the past sometime in the future? I’d be happy to show you around. And I guarantee you that the sun will be shining!


Go deeper inside Ericsson ConsumerLab’s 10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2018 here, and let us know if you would like to have memories that you can walk around in with virtual reality.

In case you missed it: Don’t forget to check out the podcast for our 10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2018 and beyond, with Pernilla Jonsson, Head of Ericsson ConsumerLab and Michael Björn, Head of Research at ConsumerLab.


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
Michael Björn
Michael Björn is Head of Research Agenda and Quality at Consumer & IndustryLab at Ericsson ConsumerLab and has a PhD in data modeling from the University of Tsukuba in Japan.
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