Part One of a Series
True and pure virtual reality would, by necessity, be completely artificial and have only our mind to give it direction.
An artificial environment which is experienced through sensory stimuli (as sights and sounds) provided by a computer and in which one’s actions partially determine what happens in the environment.
Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.
Today, we are far away from anything even close to that idea. The closest we can come now is an immersive artificial environment using head-mounted visors like the Oculus Rift (direct link) and a movement controlling platform, like the competing Cyberith Virtualizer (direct link) and Virtuix Omni (direct link) systems. These platforms, while not yet commercially available, could be the first step towards breaking the limitations of the gamepad and mouse/keyboard combination.
Perhaps more important is that the ideal and truly virtual reality begs the question: “what is it good for?” (apologies to Edwin Starr). The question is not “what could it be used for?”, but rather what is it’s purpose. There are the two obvious answers: training simulations for conditions that would be too hazardous (or expensive) to create in the real world (firemen, soldiers and the like) and gaming. I suppose that if the technology became routinely available, then there might be additional uses as life experiences (both real and fictional) could be shared or re-experienced from a completely first-person perspective. There might be medical uses other than training our future physicians, perhaps in allowing patients with memory loss or brain damage to re-learn not just skills, but their own lives.
Want to know what else isn’t real? Augmented Reality… at least how you think. That’s what is coming next in this series — we would love to hear your thoughts, please leave them in the comments.