This time it’s different. This was the underlying message from industry OG and Unity VR/AR-lead Tony Parisi when looking back at the VR industry cycles that each fell somewhat flat over the past few decades.

Joined by Vueforia President Jay Wright and Gartner’s Brian Blau at a panel at AWE 17 (video below), Parisi set the tone with historical perspective. And his sense of validation about VR’s sustainability in the current cycle starts with infrastructure and underlying tech.

When Parisi started working with VRML in 1993, infrastructure included desktop machines whose processing power was in terms of megahertz, not gigahertz. And meaningful 3d graphics (20-30 fps) required $1k graphics cards manually plugged into these hulking systems.

“That has changed radically in the last 20 years,” he said. “We have supercomputing powers in our pockets, we have fast networks, we have all kinds of infrastructure on the web to push the content, and deliver apps. We had none of that back then.”

The other major difference today is the market’s collective 3D animation prowess. This wave of VR emerges at a time when there’s ample 3D animation capability, which enables the content layer to sit on top of — and further fuel investment in —  that more capable infrastructure.

“We now have millions of people who can create 3d content, thanks to what’s happening in gaming and VFX and design software,” said Parisi. “We have kids coming out of school and we have 10 year old kids using modeling packages.”

Lastly it’s about the audience. The digital natives that now comprise a vast majority of the media consumption public are receptive to, if not salivating for, immersive content. And the digital savvy that drives that receptivity will only grow as the upcoming Gen Z gains purchasing power.

“We have a whole generation of people now who expect this,” said Parisi. “They’ve grown up on video games, they’ve grown up on CG movies. They expect fully interactive and mobile content.”

See the rest of the session below as this week’s featured video. It includes lots of additive commentary from Blau and Wright on the theme inspired from Gartner’s Hype Cycle. We’ve coded the embed to start about 6 minutes into the panel to skip intros & housekeeping.