New VR, Old VR

Humans have always been dreaming. It’s a way of escaping into a world of our imagination.

storytelling

Image by Zhao! (CC-BY SA)

When people tell good stories, fiction or non-fiction, it pulls people in a world created without limits except those made by the story creator. This has been done over different mediums through the ages, most notably through books, radio, television, movies, internet, etc. These different mediums provide different levels of immersion of escape into these fantasy worlds.

When I was younger, novels and comics were my way of escaping into different worlds more interesting than mine. I explored sci-fi, fantasy, and medieval worlds from my couch whenever I had free time. Using words to describe emotions and scenes can help the reader understand the story better sometimes. And it is also not limited to budget of the production. In fact many book to movie adaptations has been criticized about being worse than the books as books provide a richer experience of the worlds it is depicting.

Audio and visual has been a reckoning in the last century as film and audio technology improves and are more capable of visualising our imagination. Reading of the war of the worlds on radio was capable of causing panic on the streets. Movies with CGI like star wars and lord of the rings made it easier or faster to tell any type of stories to a large audience compared to traditional mediums like books and theatre.

Video games made it possible for players to play a leading role in the story. The interactive nature of participating in the story or going on quests with your friends online helps drive the popularity of the games industry in recent years.

But the best is yet to come with the advent of virtual reality. It attempts to manipulate your senses, especially your sight and hearing and maybe your sense of touch in the future, to the extreme that real life and virtual life may be confused with each other. Whether this is good or bad for society is a question, but it is a reality that humans are moving towards.

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Image by Sharksden 

For an idea of how this is like, read the book Ready Player One for a fun story set in the future where virtual reality is pervasive in our society, and you can attend school, find work, explore and build worlds by just lying down and wearing a VR headset. The only thing you need to do in the real world is to stay alive by eating, sleeping and perhaps a little exercise.