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Silicon Valley finally went in on tech’s ‘new’ obsession — virtual reality

It’s all just vaporware

Jimmy O. Yang (L) and T.J. Miller.
John P. Johnson/HBO

Silicon Valley has always been apt at spotting the latest trends in the tech world and satirizing them, but the show finally took on one of the hotter trends over the past few years: Virtual reality.

[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the the second episode of Silicon Valley’s fourth season.]

Last night’s episode found the Valley’s worst business owner, Erlich Bachman (T.J. Miller), working with one of the members of his incubator to sell what he believed to be an app developed for the Oculus Rift. Bachman, a man previously unconvinced that he could sell anything created by his incubator student, Jian Yang (Jimmy O. Yang), becomes immediately intrigued by the potential millions they could secure.

“It’s a VR play,” Bachman says. “That’s the frothiest space in the Valley right now. Nobody understands it but everyone wants in. Any idiot could walk into a fucking room, utter the letters ‘v’ and ‘r’, and VC’s would hurl bricks of cash at them.

“By the time they find out it’s vaporware, it’s too late. I’ve got to get into this.”

Bachman’s comments may not seem as hard hitting as some of the other digs Silicon Valley has taken in the past — bringing to light the many issues the tech world faces including gender inclusivity and hostile takeover — but it’s been a longtime coming. Last year, showrunner Mike Judge spoke about how he was worried they may have been too late to the series. At the pace that Silicon Valley moves, new trends are old within minutes.

“When we were doing Silicon Valley I thought, man, we might be five years too late,” Judge told the Daily Beast. “So maybe that’s how I should operate from now on — do it if I think it’s 5-10 years too late. It is nice to have something be a hit right away.”

It feels like Silicon Valley has been slowly building to virtual reality for quite some time. Judge has been poking fun at the industry — and the different uses people have come up with for the new technology — since the third season. Judge and the team made it apparent that the fourth season would tackle the industry head on ahead of its premiere.

Like the current rise in augmented reality, Judge credits Pokèmon Go with finally giving their team the push they needed to go ahead with tackling the industry. Judge told the Daily Beast his daughter became obsessed with the game and, noticing that everyone had their nose to their phone trying to catch Pokèmon, realized it wasn’t just a trend anymore — it was a craze.

“It’s the very beginning of something that will get much bigger,” Judge said. “We explored invented reality and visited some AR and VR companies, and yeah, there’s a whole new wave coming of this stuff. And we might do some of it on the show.

“Just the whole VR world that’s blowing up right now. We’ll explore that.”

The episode ends with Bachman discovering that Yang hasn’t developed a VR app at all. It’s unclear how the rest of the season will incorporate a virtual reality angle. But Judge has made it very clear that will be one of the many plots the series will explore.

Silicon Valley airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.