True Virtual Reality: The Future
VR is in its early stages right now. Simply used for gaming and some immersive experiences. However, that is not what true virtual reality is.
First, let me explain what true virtual reality is and how we will come to make use of it in the future. True virtual reality is exactly what it sounds like. A virtual reality. A simulated reality. Eventually, you will be able to escape this world and enter a world as yourself (or someone else) and it will feel completely real. All the senses, emotions and feelings will be simulated and fed directly to you. If there is a light breeze in your simulated world, you would feel it. If you punch a wall in your virtual reality, you will feel it. All this is most likely going to work by tapping into your nervous system allowing technology to make you feel things that you shouldn’t really be feeling. Making the ‘virtual’ feel real.
This kind of technology will allow anyone to live the life that they want. Without any ramifications. Should you want to, you could go into a virtual world where dinosaurs are still a thing. Having to run from a T-rex all the while feeling yourself become exhausted would really put you in the world and give you the real experience. Think of the technology used in the 2009 Avatar film. Lay in a sun bed thing and be transported elsewhere.
True VR technology would fundamentally change the way we experience things. This would be the biggest change in human history. More so than the internet. This is because the uses of true VR would be almost endless. Films could have actual immersion in them. Literally involving you in the story rather than simply telling you the story would be much more effective and engaging. Games could allow you to experience things you wouldn’t normally be able to experience. Putting you in the body of an Alien. Having you climb walls etc. The experiences you would be able to create with true VR would be nearly limitless.
Now that we have established the basics of it let us dive into a little more of the specifics.
I want to talk about the current state of virtual reality and why it isn’t what was promised to us.
Currently, VR is not what was promised to us back when companies such as Oculus started off. The reason for this is simply because for VR to be a success it needs many years to mature and even more years for developers to develop content for it. As of right now, VR is not accessible to everyone. The kit’s required are expensive and not very user friendly. Furthermore, the computing power needed to run any decent VR game is well over the average computer specifications. Not everyone can afford to splash out around £1500 just to be able to play VR games at the low end. At the high-end prices can go even higher.
Technology issues aside, the content required for VR to be fleshed out is simply not present. There are nowhere near enough people making enough VR games, and even less of them support it. Every now and again there are games that support VR but those games are really just games developed normally but have VR support, allowing you to look around with a headset and interact with objects. These games are not built from the start with VR in mind and are therefore not really worth playing with VR on as it takes from the experience more so than gives.
With that said there are lot games that if you play them in VR it adds to the experience. The genre that dominates this field is of course the horror genre. Seeing nothing but the game and being immersed in the eerie atmosphere of a horror game makes it that much scarier but I don’t see the point in paying a lot for a VR kit so you can enjoy only one genre of games at a higher standard.
Let me elaborate on how I think the technology would work for true VR. Obviously, the technology that was used in 2009 Avatar film isn’t really going to come around anytime soon. However, computers are getting much better and we are getting better at reading our own brains signals. Mixing the two together would allow us to tap into the brain and force emotions and experiences where there aren’t any. Having your nerves in your hand triggered when touching a piece of wood in a VR world would fake the feeling of you actually holding and touching that piece of wood rather than just imagining it. Currently, we are pretty good at reading our brain, but we are not very good at telling it what to do. This is a field in neuroscience that needs to see massive development and advancements before we can even think about developing this kind of technology.
There are a lot of challenges that need to be tackled and solved before we get even close to this kind of tech but this is the direction that we would need to go in order to develop true VR.
Health and safety
With this kind of technology, a huge talk point is the health and safety aspect. How much fear can you allow someone to experience in a VR world? What is the safety net for experiences? How would someone quit from an experience without damaging their brain? I do not have the answers to these questions, but as with any new technology there are questions that we cannot answer right now but when it eventually comes around and we start figuring options we can resolve these issues.
Since true VR will be almost everywhere there is the need for a platform where people can go to get their VR experiences from. The same way you would go to the App Store or Play Store today to download apps and other items for your smartphone you would have a platform that you would go to download experiences.
This kind of platform would of course be immensely useful. Having a go to place where you could download a film to experience, a game to play, a simulation to feel and etc. would be useful but more so convenient.
Of course, VR will not take over every part of our daily lives. However, it will take over almost every part of our entertainment. There are more uses for true VR than entertainment. For example, VR could be used to test a building, a car, a plane, a weapon, a piece of technology. All of this because, technically, VR is just a large-scale simulation that is interactable. This bears many uses.
True VR is a long way off. We may not even be alive by the time it comes around but it is good fun to imagine the things you could do with true VR. There are a lot of challenges that need to be conquered before we get even close to true VR. Some of them are minor and some are major. Let me highlight two of the major challenges and why they are challenges that relate to true VR.
True VR is supposed to feel real. Hence its name. It cannot feel real if the characters in the VR world do stupid stuff that people would not do. You can’t be in a firefight and have the enemy simply run toward you. If doesn’t feel real. Because of this, large advancements in AI need to be made before we can get a truly real experience.
I said above that true VR would ideally work with our brains and fool it to believing something, a bit like the 2009 film Avatar. However, in this segment I explore true VR if it were just like a headset or contact lens.
VR, even in its current stage, is hard to handle for the average PC and sometimes even for the high-end PC. This is even taking into consideration that we are not even throwing a lot at our computers. There isn’t very smart AI, rich graphics or anything of the ‘realistic calibre.’ For us to be even to handle photorealistic generated worlds we will need to see vast improvement in computing technologies. Ideally, the visual and sounds of a true VR world would need to be on the same level as triple A films today to even fool someone into thinking its real. This is a long way off. Maybe something that quantum computers could help us achieve in the future.
We have a long way to go for VR. A lot of challenges stand in our way. Challenges that require us to think of clever ways of working around them. True VR will change our culture the same way the internet did and for that we need to prepare so that we handle it. I am looking forward to the future, however far it may be.
Let me know what you guys think about the future of virtual reality in the comments section below!