Is Virtual Reality Ready for Its Close-up? by Adam Lashinsky @FortuneMagazine December 1, 2015, 8:10 AM EDT E-mail Tweet Facebook Linkedin Share icons I remember when digital cameras were the perennial next hot product. Any day now they were going to be big. They weren’t and weren’t and weren’t—until they were. Now, come to think of it, they aren’t anymore—defenestrated by the smartphone—but I digress. Virtual reality feels that way now. When Facebook FB spent $2 billion to buy virtual-reality headset maker Oculus VR in 2014, the purchase seemed a little kooky. Google’s cheeky response a year later, a cardboard VR viewer called Cardboard that sells for around $20, suggested something was up. It just wasn’t clear what. There is anecdotal evidence that in fact virtual reality is closer than ever to becoming something. The New York Times recently conducted an impressive experiment by filming short documentaries in virtual reality and distributing Google viewers to more than a million subscribers. The business case isn’t even complicated: General Electric sponsored the effort, slapping its logo on the viewers and producing a brand-burnishing VR ad of its own. On Monday, the stub of Nokia NOK , the part that remained independent from Microsoft, introduced a $60,000 professional-quality VR camera, the Ozo. Its target market is Hollywood, which Nokia figures will pay for the latest technology if it means attracting and retaining audiences. That seems like a fair bet. Hollywood, much maligned for its Luddite ways, always has invested heavily on the latest storytelling devices. If investment momentum alone were the measure, VR certainly would be on the cusp. A new report says investors have plowed nearly $4 billion into aspiring VR companies since 2010. Predictably, these will be volatile investments. A “lifestyle medicine” company called Alphaeon recently bought a laser manufacturer called Lensar for $59 million. (Surgeons hope to use VR to visualize unseen parts of the body.) That wasn’t a great outcome for Lensar’s investors, who had sunk $191 million into the company over a decade. That’s how exciting new technologies often work: Hype, excitement, progress, disappointment, repeat. That will likely be the reality of virtual reality for at least the foreseeable future. It’s a reality that won’t be dull. This article first appeared in the daily Fortune newsletter Data Sheet. Subscribe here for a daily dose of analysis from Adam Lashinsky and a curation of the day’s technology news from Heather Clancy.