When I say to someone “Virtual Reality”, people will think of the Vive, or the PS4 VR headset, or even the Oculus Rift! And people also think “video games” rather than anything else. We have all seen those YouTube videos of people playing with the Vive, headset on and controllers in hand, able to “move” around the virtual environment like you are really there. There are even some hilarious ones where the virtual environment moves in such a way that the person actual falls over, brain convinced that the actual world is moving around them. Cool stuff, in my opinion! The fact that visual stimuli can make your brain think it’s actually happening to you. Very cool. I even have a few VR headsets myself, ones I can put my phone into, and I enjoy using them (except that horrible horror game called “Sisters”. No thank you, sir!).
In summary: Virtual Reality? Very cool. Everyone should try it.
Confused as to the blog title? Allow me exaplin.
Virutal Reality is great… as it currently is. The first step was, of course, headphones. They allowed you to close your eyes and imagine yourself elsewhere. People might disagree with this being the first step, but in my mind there is nothing else. Sure, it’s probably not what it was designed for (let’s face it, we all just used them to listen to music!) but I consider them the first step towards VR. Next, we designed a headset to see a virtual reality. Combine the two? A very immersive experience that can make you feel like you are on a beach in the Bahamas when in reality you are sitting on your sofa. Pretty cool!
We then invented controllers to allow you to interact with the virtual environment. Enter technology such as the Vive. I have never used a Vive, but it is definitely on my To-Do list! And using these controllers, you can point and click to places to want to move to in the Virtual Reality. But this isn’t exactly immersive is it? It isn’t as natural as walking. Which brings in the next step of this technology.
Companies such as Virtuix Omni are working on platforms that you stand on with your VR headset which will enable you to walk, and your avatar in the virtual reality will walk around. Now that is pretty damned cool! I saw Markiplier use on a few years back, and have seen him use another experiemental one that looked even better in the recent years. When I get myself a bigger place, you can believe that there will be a room with one of those bad boys in it!
There are other improvements to be made to the current setup, granted. I guarentee someone will do away with those weirdly shaped Vive controllers and invent some cool gloves for you to slip on so you can actually feel the environment. If I’m honest, I don’t think that technological leap is that far away.
So that’s it. VR done and dusted, right? Nothing else to add. You have sight, sound, touch and movement. Nothing else, right?
I fear not.
While all this technology is great, let’s face it: it’s not perfect. Yes, you can walk around in this Virtual enviroment, but you can feel the weight of the headset on your, feel the cables as they tangle in your arms and legs. And the movement rig? There will always be some resistance felt when you try and move. It’s, like, 90% there, but still missing that 10% that will make VR just like the real thing. So, it may surprise some to think that the way to do that is to strip everything away and just have one piece of equipment: the headset.
“But Chris, what about the controllers? How can you interact with the environment? How can you move around? That doesn’t make sense!” I hear you say. Well, the answer for me is clear. We won’t be moving. Not our physical bodies anyway. No, the best of way of immersing ourselves in the virtual world will be to sit or lie down and let the headset do all the work. The headset will paralyze our body, and interact directly with our brains.
Imagine it: I lie down on my bed, place my stylish headset on my head, start it up and be instantly transported to a virtual reality, where I can run, jump, touch, see, smell, and interact with other players. But my body hasn’t moved an inch.
It’s not that unbelievable. Given the right electrical signals, we can fool our brain into thinking something is real when it isn’t.
But that sounds cool, right? Being totally immersed in a virtual reality sounds amazing! You could do anything! You could fly! You could wield a sword, or spear, fight monsters and save virtual princesses. Hell, it could be better than the real world!
There. Right there. There lies my concerns.
If we create a true virtual reality, it will undoubtly, somehow, be better than actual reality. Who hasn’t wanted to know what it’s like to fly? I know I have, I think it would be a fantastic experience, and one I know I will probably never experience, unless this virtual reality is created. Will I do it? Unsure.
I hear some of you doubting from here, and yes it would be tempting. But what if I do it? Log into this virtual world, give my avatar some wings and fly around and find it the best thing I have ever experienced? I will want to do it again. And again. And again! What if I prefer to fly around this virtual world rather than do things in the real world?
There is already video game addiction now, people not coming out of their rooms because they just want to play “one more level of Call of Duty”. I think VR, true VR, will make this far, far worse.
For me, there is no doubt that this VR will be better than the real world. People would program it that way. Why program a VR that emulates the real world? You can just go outside. This VR will be everything we can’t get from the real world, and it will be dangerously addictive.
Having said that… I still think we should do it. And no, I haven’t done a complete U-turn on my opinion here, I still think it’s bloody dangerous but just hear me out.
We should definitely design this piece of gear, but not for video gaming. We should make this for therapeutic reasons, to help people overcome trauma. I think as a therapeutic tool, this technology would be so useful, if used in moderation. However, this still poses a risk. What if a someone who is paralyzed from the neck down used it so they could experience walking again? They might never want to come out. Maybe not even to eat/drink. The sensation of walking again could be too much to give up.
Think I am chatting rubbish? Or not sure what I am getting at? Well then, you should check out this short on Futurism, it shows very nicely my concerns about VR. Although, I don’t think the ending will happen, but the general premise highlights my concerns very well.
Do you think I am talking rubbish? Or that my views are valid? Let me know your opinion down in the comments below!
Until next time 🙂