Real Virtual Reality (VR) is a technology that allows us to immerse ourselves in simulated environments that can be as realistic or fantastical as we want. VR has been around for decades, but it has gained more popularity and attention in recent years thanks to advances in hardware, software, and content creation. VR enthusiasts and developers dream of creating VR experiences that are indistinguishable from reality, where we can interact with virtual worlds and characters as naturally and seamlessly as we do with the physical world. And what are the challenges and implications of creating and living in real virtual reality?
The State of VR Technology
One of the main factors that determine how realistic and immersive VR can be is the quality and performance of the VR devices we use. These include headsets, controllers, trackers, haptic feedback systems, and audio devices. The current generation of VR headsets, such as the Oculus Quest 2, the Valve Index, and the HTC Vive Pro, offer high-resolution displays, wide fields of view, low latency, and accurate head and hand tracking. However, they still have limitations that prevent them from delivering a truly realistic VR experience. For example, they are often bulky, heavy, and uncomfortable, and require external sensors or wires to function. They also have limited battery life, limited storage space, and limited processing power. Moreover, they cannot fully simulate the depth perception, eye movements, facial expressions, and body language that are essential for natural human communication and interaction.
To overcome these limitations, VR researchers and developers are working on new technologies that could enable more realistic and immersive VR in the future. Some of these technologies include:
- Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs): These are devices that can read and write signals from and to the brain, allowing direct communication between the user and the VR system. BCIs could potentially bypass the need for physical devices and create VR experiences that are controlled by thoughts and emotions. BCIs could also stimulate the brain to create sensations of touch, smell, taste, pain, and even emotions that are not possible with current haptic feedback systems.
- Light field displays: These are displays that can project light rays in different directions and distances, creating a 3D image that can be viewed from any angle without the need for glasses or lenses. Light field displays could potentially create VR images that are more realistic and natural than current stereoscopic displays, as they can reproduce the way light behaves in the real world. Light field displays could also eliminate the vergence-accommodation conflict, which is a mismatch between the focus of the eyes and the distance of the objects in VR that causes eye strain and discomfort.
- Artificial intelligence (AI): This is a branch of computer science that aims to create machines or software that can perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as learning, reasoning, problem-solving, decision-making, and creativity. AI could potentially enhance VR by creating more realistic and dynamic virtual worlds and characters that can adapt to the user’s actions and preferences. AI could also enable more natural and intuitive user interfaces that can understand speech, gestures, emotions, and context.
The Challenges of Real Virtual Reality
While these technologies are promising and exciting, they also pose significant challenges and risks that need to be addressed before they can be widely adopted and used for real virtual reality.
- Ethical issues: Creating and living in real virtual reality raises many ethical questions and dilemmas that need to be carefully considered and regulated. For example, who owns and controls the virtual worlds and data? What are the rights and responsibilities of the users and creators? How do we ensure privacy, security, consent, accountability, transparency, fairness, diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and quality? How do we prevent misuse, abuse, addiction, manipulation, deception, violence, harassment, discrimination, and exploitation? How do we balance freedom of expression with social norms and values? How do we deal with moral conflicts between virtual and physical realities?
- Psychological issues: Experiencing real virtual reality could have profound psychological effects on the users’ perception of themselves, others, and reality. For example, how do we cope with the cognitive dissonance between virtual and physical realities? How do we maintain a sense of identity, agency, and authenticity? How do we avoid losing touch with reality or developing false memories or beliefs? How do we manage our emotions, motivations, and expectations? How do we foster empathy, compassion, and social skills? How do we prevent isolation, alienation, and depression?
- Physical issues: Exposing ourselves to real virtual reality could also have significant physical effects on our health and well-being. For example, how do we ensure the safety and comfort of our bodies and senses? How do we avoid motion sickness, eye strain, headaches, fatigue, and injuries? How do we maintain a healthy balance between virtual and physical activities? How do we avoid negative effects on our sleep, nutrition, hygiene, and immune system?
The Future of Real Virtual Reality
Despite these challenges and risks, real virtual reality also offers many opportunities and benefits that could enhance our lives and society in positive ways. Some of these opportunities and benefits include:
- Education: Real virtual reality could provide more engaging, interactive, and personalized learning experiences that could improve the quality and accessibility of education. VR could enable learners to explore different subjects, environments, cultures, and perspectives in immersive and realistic ways. VR could also facilitate collaboration, communication, feedback, and assessment among learners and educators.
- Entertainment: Real virtual reality could provide more diverse, creative, and immersive entertainment experiences that could satisfy our needs and desires for fun, adventure, thrill, fantasy, and escapism. VR could enable us to enjoy various forms of media, art, games, sports, and hobbies in new and exciting ways. VR could also allow us to create and share our own content and stories with others.
- Health: Real virtual reality could provide more effective, affordable, and accessible healthcare services that could improve our physical and mental health and well-being. VR could enable us to diagnose, treat, prevent, and manage various health conditions and disorders in safe and comfortable ways. VR could also help us to cope with pain, stress, trauma, phobias, addiction, and other psychological issues.
- Social: Real virtual reality could provide more meaningful, fulfilling, and diverse social interactions that could improve our relationships and connections with others. VR could enable us to communicate, collaborate, and cooperate with people from different backgrounds, locations, and interests in authentic and empathetic ways. VR could also help us to express ourselves, discover ourselves, and explore our identity, sexuality, and spirituality.
Real virtual reality is not a distant or impossible dream. It is a possible and probable future that we are already moving towards. As VR technology advances and becomes more accessible and affordable, we will have more opportunities and choices to experience real virtual reality. However, we will also face more challenges and risks that need to be carefully considered and addressed. Ultimately, the future of real virtual reality depends on how we use it, why we use it, and what we make of it.
Real virtual reality is a fascinating and complex topic that raises many questions and challenges for us as individuals and as a society. It is not a simple matter of choosing between virtual and physical realities, but rather of finding a balance and harmony between them. Real virtual reality could offer us many benefits and opportunities, but it could also pose many risks and threats. Therefore, we need to be aware, informed, responsible, and ethical when creating and using real virtual reality. We also need to be open, curious, creative, and respectful when exploring and experiencing real virtual reality. Real virtual reality is not just a technology, but a culture, a philosophy, and a way of life. It is up to us to shape it and make it our own.