I've had over 40 years to think about this and I’m still not prepared. My father was involved in artificial intelligence and I grew up knowing someday we would be playing games with holograms and experiencing a world that wasn’t real. This wasn’t like a science fiction movie, it was real life. My dad, my hero, was telling me what was going to happen so it was very real to me and I couldn’t wait to experience it!
Still not sure what I’m talking about…… Virtual Reality.
My father, along with many others, saw the direction the world was moving in. Even so, I’ve never really prepared for what is happening today.
New technology has always intrigued me, but this time, it also scares me. Not in the way that I’m scared of change, I’ve always loved to learn new things. In fact, I’m probably not happy unless I am learning something new.
No, what scares me are the implications of technology. Why do I say that? It comes down to two personal experiences I had with virtual technology that make me question how far all of this will go.
The first time I tried it, I almost fell down. Literally.
I was at a friend’s house and they had Virtual Reality (VR) goggles that you could use to play games, go on rides, etc. I was outside, standing on their deck on a beautiful sunny day and I thought it would be fun.
Of course, I chose the roller coaster ride. When I was younger, I loved rollercoasters and just about any ride out there. Nothing was too scary. As I’ve gotten older, my stomach started disagreeing with my brain, and that was the end of the rides.
However, I thought, somewhat naively that with the VR googles, I’m not actually on the rollercoaster. I’m just watching it on a screen, right? How realistic could it actually be? I learned very quickly- a little too real.
Standing in the middle of their deck, my friend handed me the glasses and I started on this “fake” roller coaster ride. About 5 seconds into the virtual ride, I found myself holding on to the chair (the actual chair next to me) for dear life. Although my brain knew it wasn’t real, I wasn’t actually tumbling down a rickety track at 60 mph, my eyes and body didn’t. Had I not been able to hold on to the chair next to me, I would’ve literally ended up on the ground.
The second time was recently, and it brought it to my attention even more. EZ Micro is throwing a party for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley at a VR café. We are hoping to host a time where the kids and their families could come in and escape their tough realities for a little while.
As I was planning for the party, one of the employees at the café let me try one of the games, just to see what it was like. He had me try a kid’s game called Office Jobs, or something like that. You felt like you were in an office, playing grown up with a copy machine, a computer, a desk, etc. It didn’t look real at all. In fact, it’s somewhat cartoonish and kids have a lot of fun with it.
But this is where it got me. Even though I knew I was in a virtual world, it looked like a cartoon, and I was only playing for 2 minutes – listen carefully to what I did.
When I was ready to take off the goggles, I had to put the hand controllers down first. So I tried to put the hand controllers down on the desk. The virtual desk. That’s right, I almost took them out of my hands and laid them down on a non existent desk.
In only 2 minutes’ time, I had already lost perspective, trying to put real controllers down on a virtual desk.
What would have happened if I did? They would’ve fallen to the floor, of course!
It may sound silly but it brings up a bigger point. How long until our virtual world and our real world are so intertwined that we forget the difference? How many people will use this new “reality” as their daily life because it’s more exciting?
Don’t have any friends? Let’s make up some fake friends and hang out with them.
Don’t have a nice house? Go home and escape into your dream home while your real one falls apart.
Will jobs be lost? Will this be the new drug of choice?
Don’t get me wrong, working for an IT company, I am fascinated with all the good that this technology is going to do. How many people are in wheel chairs will experience walking again? What other improvements will be made? Will blind people even be able to see again?
But, if we don’t start preparing and asking the tough questions now, we are going to get lost in virtual reality very quickly.
I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences where you think VR will effect the future. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.