“All you need is love.” The famous lyrics were Cosmo Scharf’s last words explaining to Medium why he gave up a grant from the prestigious Thiel Fellowship. Why did he do it? Scharf saw technology as a means to spread goodness and love, and Peter Thiel’s political views opposed that aim. Scharf paid back what was left of his $100,000 grant, and donated the rest to climate change-related charities. Bold move.
Love isn’t a concept often paired with technology, so hearing it from one of virtual reality’s elite seems a little…odd. Love? Doesn't he just key in code all day? Yet the more you read from this boyish titan of VR, the more the confusion fades away. Scharf has become an apostle for one particular ray of VR’s development—spreading good energy, and not just by wearing fun, purple geometric-patterned shirts, and black-framed glasses.
While some forebode the rise of AI and immersive technology, Scharf daydreams about the new, better realities it makes possible. The tech senator needed a forum to share his ideas, so he made one. It started as a casual meeting at USC, where Scharf and some peers fantasized about the earliest whispers of VR. Then in 2014, everything changed.
Facebook announced its plan to acquire Oculus VR, erasing whatever doubt lingered of VR’s place in the future. Scharf and his VR group wanted to make their gathering more official, so that year, the first Virtual Reality Los Angeles (VRLA) expo was launched. In attendance were a whopping 100 techies.
6 shows later, VRLA has flourished as the world’s #1 VR expo, and the 21-year-old Scharf has adapted well to his new role as a visionary. He now shares his tech-positive world vision with the very moguls creating it. "The potential for VR is not just to escape reality,” he divines in Ad Age, “but to improve the reality we live in. VR experiences help you rethink the nature of reality."
This isn’t just the future of technology, it’s the future of humanity.
In this TEDxTalk, Scharf unveils the groundwork of what would become his next venture: Mindshow VR—a program you can use to plug yourself into the virtual universe and assume a cartoon body. “What could be more fun than sticking a computer into your brain?” he cracks. To Scharf, the future will fuse our shared experiences, personalities, and quirks into a single, final entity—the singularity.
This singularity is the notorious white rabbit chased by physicists for ages, and Scharf believes VR is key to its arrival. Graphics, he says, will become so lifelike that, “VR will be indistinguishable from physical reality.”
New computer realities will let us experience the impossible. It’s humanity’s next phase, and Scharf is not frightened in the least, even if it means dinosaurs will chase you around trying to eat you (another comment from his TEDx Talk).
So, this April 14-15, we await what comes from this optimistic futurist. “The future is going to be fun,” he says, and if the VRLA smiling icon is any indication, it should be. If love is all you need, we look to visionaries like Scharf to program that love into the virtual universe. We'll see you there!