Everyone who attended the networking event 100vibes last week had been asked to consider the following question when they RSVPed: "How will virtual reality revolutionize the way we experience the world?"
Virtual reality is still young technology, and what its impact will look like isn't entirely clear.
It is safe to say, though, that VR did end up revolutionizing Assan Bayo's night.
"Oh my god, that was awesome," said Bayo, taking off an HTC Vive VR headset — the event's main attraction — with a wide-eyed grin. "Have you tried this, man?"
Bayo had just spent the last two minutes in a small office at the coworking space 100state. But thanks to VR, Bayo had also just spent the last two minutes exploring a virtual dojo, slashing fruit with a samurai sword (think Fruit Ninja, except in 3D).
"You feel everything," Bayo said afterward. "I felt like I was a samurai."
Bayo was among about 120 people who attended the 100vibes event at 100state, a gala organized by both the coworking space itself and the tech company 5nines. According to 5nines marketing specialist Jessica Witt, the idea was to have a "networking event that didn't really feel like a networking event." One of the ways the event tried to do that was by offering demos of the Vive.
HTC released the product just over a month ago, making it one of the first major pieces of VR hardware in decades to hit the consumer market. The promise of the technology is that you can strap on a ski goggle-like headset and grab onto handheld controllers, and immerse yourself into an entirely new virtual world.
Users can do things like take tours of college campuses, paint a room, perform surgery in the back of an ambulance, or get stalked by the Xenomorph from the Alien film series.
One 100vibes attendee, Victoria Clemens, said she was excited by the prospect of literally entering a painting.
"Sometimes you see something in an art museum that's so amazing," she said. "And you just wish you could be part of that world."
As a DJ mixed club bangers and a small crowd milled about a beer keg on the 100state floor, a long line of people waited to try out either of two VR demos. In terms of experience with VR, the group was a mix: Some, like Bayo, were completely new to it. Others, like Ross Larson, were VR junkies.
Larson said that through things like the Madison VR Meetup group, he's been taking advantage of every opportunity to use the equipment.
"Oh, you'll give me the opportunity to play around with VR on a $2,000 piece of equipment? Sure, I'll do that," he said.
5nines' own chief technology officer Tony Kapela said that he personally isn't excited by the prospect of immersing himself into virtual realities. However, he said he was excited by the prospect of someone else getting excited. He said there's the potential for someone to get that spark to find new applications or do new things for the platform.
"Who's the least experienced person? Who's new to this?" he said. "They're going to do something."
Which brings things back to Assan Bayo. It's not clear whether he'll do something with VR in the future, but for what it's worth, Bayo does think VR is going to revolutionize the world. In particular, he said he thinks the implications for education are considerable.