[It could be my luddite leanings, but, after spending time exploring virtual reality, here’s what follows…]
IMAGERY, VR, Part 1
I will attempt to explain the internal conflicts within myself as it relates to Virtual Reality (VR).
There is a two-edged sword to all tools we use. There is the positive side of construction and instruction, then there is the negative side of distraction and destruction. Perhaps it is the distraction of VR that frightens me the most.
As I began constructing various worlds in VR, it began bothering me that I could fairly easily create a world of endless horizons and visualizations- worlds that could cause endless distraction, furthering a diminished populace’s efficiency. This is not a new topic, yet it has caused me to reflect on other forms of entertainment that have had similar effects: TV, movies, video games, and the internet. If I were to scale these from least to most distractive, perhaps: movies, TV, internet, then video games. I am wondering if VR may not up the ante significantly.
Many developers are looking to include haptic interfaces in VR which would further engage the participant. For those not familiar with “haptic devices”, engineers have made devices that allow you to interact with objects in a virtual world. Imagine you are seeing a ball on a computer screen but now you can hold a device that allows you to push on the ball you see on the screen. The device allows you to feel the ball’s surface or how inflated the ball may be. A practical application of this is for practicing laparoscopic surgery in which feel is an important component. On the distractive side, imagine a remodeling of the prototypical Pong game in which you can swing and hit the ball, as found in several current video games already extant. Including VR in that Pong game, you would be looking around you- the crowd, the court, the opponent who may be another similarly equipped player. On the destructive side of VR, imagine the haptic device in your hand is a knife with which you can stab your enemies, or a club, or, of course, a firearm. There is already good evidence that first-person shooter games may desensitize participants to the actual commission of such activities. Again, in the VR realm I believe that danger would increase.
But my main hesitation in the VR world is the effect it can have on the larger population, that being the issue of distraction.