Could Virtual Reality Blur Distinctions Between Reality and Imagination?
When personal computers and CAD technology began to emerge in the 1980s, it is doubtful that anyone could see that these two technologies will lead to VR (Virtual Reality) that is impacting the world as we see it today. Even from an unscientific or anecdotal viewpoint, it appears that VR is capable of creating experiences, things, and situations that are only limited by human imagination. VR uses high-performance computers and sensory equipment (such as gloves and headsets) to simulate a significant amount of the world in which we live. VR is so sophisticated that it could make simulated events appear to be real. Fantasies such as walking on another planet in our galaxy, being present at a gunfight in a Western movie, conducting a philharmonic orchestra, or fighting a virtual war may become difficult to distinguish from reality.
Because VR is co-mingling physical and virtual reality, distinctions between what is real or virtual are becoming blurred. The term ‘hyper-reality’ has been coined to study the tendency to seek virtual stimulation instead of relying on real events and experiences.
How Much Attention Is VR Gaining Among Leading Tech Companies?
To understand how rapidly VR is merging real and virtual objects, it is worthwhile to find out the extent to which leading tech companies are getting involved in VR.
Facebook wants to:
- Use drones and satellites to connect everyone on the planet,
- Use artificial intelligence to make objects and data readily available,
- Use VR to ‘teleport’ people to places, and to immerse them in virtual experiences that seem real. For this purpose, Facebook purchased the company Oculus, the leader in studying how the human brain and the body’s sensory system perceive the world.
Samsung, Sony, Google are also involved in using VR for gaming, and for social and mobile platforms. Because the VR industry appears to be lucrative, its marketplace is heating up for fierce competition between many tech companies.
Special high-performance computers are being built to handle the computational demands of VR, and sophisticated and powerful headsets, with well over 30 sensors, have been constructed.
With the introduction of HoloLens, Microsoft has introduced holography into the VR space. HoloLens will revolutionize VR in the sense that users can move and interact with untethered objects that can move around in the environment.
Are Distinctions Between Real and Virtual Worlds Becoming Blurred?
In order to answer the question “Are distinctions between the real and virtual worlds becoming blurred?” it will be helpful to answer these related questions:
- To what extent has VR influenced the gaming technology?
- Is human perception of real versus virtual reality changing?
- What are the dangers of integrating VR into human experience?
To What Extent Has VR Influenced The Gaming Technology?
Extremely sophisticated virtual worlds are portrayed in online browser-hosted computer games. The term MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) has been coined to describe the various types of computer games. Currently, many players participate in computer games and interact with one another worldwide.
In RPGs (Role-Playing Games), players assume the role of a character in a VR-managed fantasy world. MMORPGs are played throughout the world, and revenues have grown from a half billion dollars in 2005 to probably over 2 billion in 2015. A popular game, “World of Warcraft” has over 10 million subscribers. Another game, “Star Wars,” amassed over 1 million subscribers within the first three days of its launch.
Not surprisingly, computer addiction is rapidly becoming a problem for the younger generation. Many kids are spending unreasonably large amounts of time on computer games and are living in VR-created fantasy worlds. Consequently, some kids have developed behavioral disorders which are manifested as (a) staying away from school, (b) playing games instead of studying or doing homework, and(c) neglecting their health.
Is Human Perception Of Real Versus Virtual Reality Changing?
Transformations that VR is adding to the real world are creating a different world which could be described as mixed reality because the lines of demarcation between real and virtual objects are either vanishing or becoming blurred.
People who lived about 100 years ago would have no difficulty distinguishing between fantasies and dreams, versus real objects and events in their world.
Today, VR has created augmented or mixed reality in which virtual objects or people are dynamically integrated into the physical world, in real time. For example, streaming of videos from webcams has become commonplace. If holography becomes as common as video streaming, the mixed reality space will widen so much that human perception of real versus virtual objects could be drastically altered.
Suppose a holographic image of an innocent person is viewed by many witnesses at a crime scene. How could the innocent person defend himself/herself and convince the witnesses that they did not see the real person?
What Are The Dangers Of Integrating VR Into Human Experience?
Unquestionably, VR has introduced many benefits that have lifted the previous, less sophisticated world into the mixed-reality world in which we now live. It is not the purpose of this article to discuss the benefits that VR has provided.
Rather, the purpose of this article is to examine the supposition that VR is blurring distinctions between reality and imagination. The following list suggests that the supposition could be true.
- VR has redefined communication because of the internet and mobile phones. Many relationships are being formed and developed over the web that lack human closeness and sensitivity. Those who do not have access to the internet are being left out of the information age.
- VR is utilized for training in law enforcement, aviation, medicine, and in many other fields. In real world situations, VR-based training poses risks that could be life-threatening, when real world situations and events do not match simulated virtual events.
- VR creates environments (such as in computer games and chat rooms) that reduce inhibitions that control the behaviors of an average person. For this reason, many people believe that they can anonymously say and do things over the web that is not socially acceptable.
- VR is creating addictive behaviors, especially among the youth. Many recent teenage crimes appear to have their origins in computer games, and the inability of children to draw the line between reality and fiction.