The virtual world and the physical world go hand-in-hand

With the revolution in the personal computer in the 80s we all expected a shift from the physical world to the online virtual world. But it did not happen?

Then in the 90s we once again saw the Dot Com boom and once again looked to the inevitable shift from the physical world to the virtual world.  But once again it did not happen?

Then in 00s we saw the evolution of virtual worlds and we all agreed that this was it, the dawn of the virtual age.  And, one more time it did not happen?

Therefore, it is fascinating to hear some people, even now, still preaching that the physical interaction world, particularly for consumers, time is up and the end is near.  Have we all not learnt from the past, or is this more the opinion of the few trying to convince the quiet majority.

Personally, I believe it to be the latter.  Why do I think this?  Well, it is quite simple.  Human interaction with other humans is more than just a “want”, it is a “need”.  You see it in the fact that shopping centres are not getting any smaller, organisations such as Apple that had no physical stores now pride themselves on opening a new one almost every month, and people of all ages and demographics visit post offices and bank branches.  You also see people still visit the local video store and yet they can download movies direct to their digital set-top box!  We must recognise here though that with the advancement of technology to blu-ray, downloading a HD quality movie or TV show would eat a fair chunk out of anyone’s broadband download limit!

However, this does not mean that the virtual world is not the preferred place for some people, and nor does it mean the physical world is the only option for others.  I believe we need to look at the two as inter-dependent and complementary to each other.  People wish to choose, and not only choose, but choose to switch between each environment with ease.

The logical support of this argument is the embracing of mobile smart-phones which take the internet to the street.  People wish to have their technology option with them, but to also take it with them to the physical environments.  That is why Apple’s stores have been so successful, this exact behavior is encouraged through the in-store offerings they have.

The second supported of this is the burgeoning appetite for augmented reality applications.  Information is now at your fingertips whilst you interact in the physical environment.

So, the next time you hear someone talking down the physical store or shop, or talking up the online environment as a means to an end; take time to consider the flaws in these arguments.  Think through whether this is an innovative direction you wish to go and consider the most valuable option, being a combination of both virtual and physical.


Scott North has extensive experience in enterprise risk management, internal audit, operational risk and compliance, risk strategy, scenario planning, technology risk, technology business analysis, systems design, financial accounting, and management accounting. Scott is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Chartered Accountants with a Masters Degree from the University of Melbourne in Business and Information Technology. Scott is also a Fellow of the University of Melbourne.

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