Some Speculation on The Future of Payments in Virtual Reality

Update: Coincidentally, the day after I published this, London-based software engineer Julius Sweetland published Optikey, which uses iris tracking to let users type and use their computer’s “mouse” hands free. This could be great for those people who don’t have good dexterity. Check out the Optikey wiki on Github.

“The ideal payments experience would be an invisible one,” said a friend of mine while we were driving through the Tenderloin in San Francisco. We’d had a drink at a spot where to gain access you have to mention something about a library. Apart from the price (stratospheric, but passable because it was quite tasty, and in San Francisco) the process of cashing out was fraught with unnecessary friction which drew my attention. There was waiting for the bartender to print our tabs, still more waiting while he gathered our cards, or taking time to pay cash and get change, etc. In all, it took probably 4-5 minutes, a full 7% of our total time at the establishment.

This post is an exploration of payments, virtual reality, and the use of biometric data to make payments in a virtual reality environment. Not so much a technical paper as a meandering survey of various technologies and their intersection, this post can be broken into three parts: first, an overview of the payments space and investor interest in financial technology; second, analyzing the current trends in virtual reality headset technology; and finally, I hope to lay out a couple plausible paths toward building a seamless payment experience in immersive VR based on current hardware trends and industry forecasts.

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