Currently at my friend Brendan’s home, and playing with his Oculus Rift– some of my personal thoughts on Virtual Reality:
Here are some initial thoughts:
1-To see depth in the virtual/digital world is fascinating. After using Oculus, using a 2-d visual device (phone, tablet, laptop screen) is quite boring. However the pain of putting on a virtual reality headset is a pain; I think the next big shift in technology will be ‘holographic’ phones/tablets (I think Microsoft is doing this a lot with Jaron Lanier, and the ‘holodeck’). Also similar to the augmented reality (AR) that Apple is doing. Essentially– for future digital media to be more interactive and interesting, we need to go beyond the flat screen.
2-To engage/play games/apps in Virtual Reality is actually quite good. You must stand up, move your body– kind of like ‘DDR’ (dance dance revolution). For example the game Beat Saber is pretty awesome (you are transported into this neon-drenched world, you hear good music, you dance your body, and you use your light-sabers to ‘cut’ the music to the beat. Also every time you cut a beat, there is haptic feedback in your hands (something that I also feel is really essential– haptic feedback in our digital/physical tools).
3-There is a brave new world of interactive user-interface/user-experience in virtual reality. For example when playing Robo Recall, to access my pistols I grab at my waist. To access my shotgun, I grab at my shoulders. Which makes me wonder– how can we innovate with the keyboard and other digital tools to make OTHER forms of art-creation more interactive? For example, new ways to type on a keyboard– besides just on a physical keyboard, on a phone, or the ‘swype’ function on the phone. What new User-Interfaces can empower writers, visual artists, and photographers?
Beyond video games/3d videos/media
I think the future of virtual reality can be very promising in the domain of mental health/zen/meditation/relaxation.
The interesting thing with virtual reality which I really like is this:
You can focus.
You have a panoramic-full immersion into the screen/virtual world, which means– no distractions from the outside world.
1-Imagine zen meditation apps/games, where you can just put on your virtual reality helmet/glasses, and just ‘zen out’ to the tranquil sounds of birds chirping, animals running around, sunsets, and epic vistas.
2-Imagine writing apps, with virtual environments which stimulate your creative ideas and thoughts. For example, I am a lot more productive writing and producing artwork when I am at coffee shops, or public places. What if there could be a virtual app which can simulate the experience of being at a coffee shop? And what if there are other ‘virtual co-working’ spaces (with other real-life people in virtual reality) surrounding you to keep you motivated?
3-Imagine a virtual-reality photography game, kind of like Pokemon snap. Some people who might be mobility-impaired can experience photography more interactively! Perhaps we can have photography training games. Imagine a virtual reality street photography game– wouldn’t that be fun/interesting?
4-Light therapy: For those suffering ‘SAD’ — when you feel depressed without sunlight– what if there was an app which simulated sunlight– and improved your mood/energy levels?
What if virtual reality is more fun/interesting than real reality?
This is the fear a lot of people have:
What if virtual reality becomes MORE fun and interesting than real reality?
The sad truth:
If we think about ‘virtual reality’ as video games, netflix shows, TV, YouTube, etc — we have already BEEN fucked.
Most of us interact more with the virtual/digital world more than the physical world.
For example, consider:
1-The amount of time we engage with people over Facebook/Instagram/messaging apps, compared to face-to-face.
2-The frequency we watch pornography, compared to having ‘real’ sex.
3-The hours we spend watching sports, UFC, and video games– compared to working out at the gym or engaging in physical sports/activities.
Fantasy > Reality
Generally speaking, it is hard to get a good meal in virtual reality (Ryan Haliday, from the film ‘Ready Player One’). Screenshot from the Matrix.
Truth be told– I think we PREFER the fantasy world compared to the real world:
1-Our fascination with celebrities
2-Our fun playing fantasy sports and managing other virtual players/statistics, instead of playing the sports ourselves (there is a HUGE difference between playing football with a helmet on and blind spots, versus spectating on television with a ‘birds eye/gods view’ of everything).
3-Our fantasy owning these fancy cars, driving through some fantastic mountains, and exploring all these exotic places in the world.
For many of us, our everyday reality involves commuting, sitting in an office, answering emails, putting together powerpoint presentations, sitting in boring meetings, driving back home (worse traffic), feeding yourself and cleaning yourself, ‘Netflix and chill’, then sleep– and repeat.
Real life looks probably more like this (although not this bad). From the Matrix 1.
I think the sad truth is this:
For many of us, the virtual world is actually more fun, interesting, and entertaining than the ‘real’ world.
Even our ‘real life’ communities are being substituted for online/virtual communities (consider Reddit sub-forums, instead of actually meeting strangers in a physical location, in a coffee shop, etc).
Modern life, for many of us– sucks. We want an escape, we want a new reality– and to essentially dull away the monotony of everyday life (consider the prevalent use of alcohol, weed, and other hallucinogens in modern life).
We are hungry for challenge/difficulty!
Truth be told — modern day living isn’t very scary/risky. Modern-day living is tedious, stressful, and enslaving.
For the most part, you can succeed in the corporate environment if:
1-You obey rules
2-You show up on time, and leave on time
3-You work diligently
4-You take little vacation days
5-You don’t act unpredictably.
This to me is modern-day slavery.
Perhaps in the past, life was a little more interesting– because of the constant bombardment of real fears– fear of death, fear of war, or the fear of illness. In modern-day life, all of our fears are mostly ‘metaphysical’ (relating to modern notions of ‘success’ like “prestige”). Nobody in modern-day life (for the most part) worries about physical harms. We are mostly afraid of “losing face”, embarrassing ourselves, being seen by others as ‘unsuccessful’, and perhaps not having enough money to buy all the toys/gadgets we desire.
Virtual reality (perhaps) isn’t the future
Truth be told, as much as I like virtual reality– I don’t know if virtual reality will ever become mainstream.
First of all, the headset is a pain in the ass. I wear glasses, and having to fidget around to put on the helmet is annoying and too much friction. Far easier to pull out your phone.
Unfortunately, as lame as I think smartphones are– it seems we will be stuck with that form factor for at least the next decade. There is nothing more convenient than a piece of glass that can fit in your front pocket– which can make phone calls, which you can use to listen to music, which you can shoot photos with, which you can check your emails with, Google Maps your way around, share your photos, interact with friends/family, etc. With technology it is my belief that convenience/ease of use will always triumph over ‘technological superiority’.
So if VR developers and companies really want VR to become more mainstream– we gotta go back into that ‘google glass’ direction (putting on a pair of glasses is far easier than putting on a bulky headset).
Virtual reality as a supplement to real reality
There is no spoon! It isn’t the spoon which bends; but you who bend!
Don’t worry– virtual reality ain’t taking over real reality anytime soon.
But this is my thought:
Perhaps we can take a hybrid approach to virtual reality/real reality to augment our human experiences on a deeper/more profound level.
Perhaps the purpose of virtual reality/media isn’t to imitate reality, but to be something totally different– something totally surreal.
For example, when I watch John Wick, I’m not looking for a ‘realistic’ depiction of real life. I want to be entertained! I want to feel badass, I want to feel pumped up, and I want to see some nonsensical killing from my hero Keanu Reeves.
Virtual reality is fun, interesting, and engaging. And if virtual reality can be a positive stimulus to motivate you to do MORE things in the real world, or to create artwork, it is good!