Virtual reality: leading life in a computer simulation

Computer simulation (Photo: Negative space)

In recent years, the release of new generation of VR technology, such as Google cardboard, VR headsets from Sony, Samsung, HTC and Facebook-owned Oculus VR, are in widespread use. These VR implications offer a 360-degree vision when playing games and watching videos. VR technology has gained large popularity in today’s market, and it enables people to explore a new virtual and computer-generated world.

(Video: Betty Qin)

It seems that VR technology starts to have a big breakthrough as the next mass medium. The rapid growth of virtual reality gradually replace the traditional forms of screen channels. We are experiencing the VR era. Virtual reality helps  people to break out of the physical world and enter a world of  large-scale simulation. The Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom wrote an article ‘Are you living in a computer simulation?’, and voiced his concern that virtual reality starts to challenge our basic foundations of perception. If the development continues in the future, the physical reality and virtual reality may become indistinguishable after a hundred years.

VR implications in the market

Zuckerberg’s Oculus (Photo: Mark Zuckerberg)

Virtual reality creates a virtual environment and augmented reality. VR technology can be utilised to showcase a new home you may want to buy or sell, a virtual exhibition in museum can be built and a virtual drive test can be monitored by utilising VR. VR allows users to experience things without risks, or things that cannot be access to. For example, through a virtual reality tour of a Tesco store which hasn’t yet been built, customers can see it directly.

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, announced that Facebook is going to invest $3 billion in virtual reality technology in the next five years. This decision means Facebook is making a huge bet on this advanced technology.

The popular video game Pokemon Go adopted virtual reality technology to attract players’ attention. While a new VR technology hits the market, it brings tremendous influence. Pokemon Go achieved huge market success, making Nintendo in a win-win situation.

Life in computer simulation?

Virtual reality has been accessible for plenty industries such as video games, movies, TVs and sciences. It seems that the rise of virtual reality technology starts to dominate our life as the next mainstream platform. VR takes screen media to a new level. Most people’s first impression of virtual reality may come from a classic film The Matrix. In the film The Matrix, made in 1999 by the Wachowski sisters, human beings have been enslaved and controlled by advanced technology. What humans face is a virtual reality – an indistinguishable simulation. This giant simulation was created to paralyse and subdue human beings. The Matrix is a classic science fiction film. It is not real, but logical and possible.

The Matrix film poster (Movie poster: Warners Bros.)

The film undertakes the philosopher Hilary Putnam’s scenario ‘brain in a vat’. The idea ‘brain in a vat’ predicts that the humans brain is subject to computer stimulation and false reality. Diego Bezares, the creator of Presence Camera, defined virtual reality as a ‘machine that teleports people’. Indeed, virtual reality offers presence. This kind of presence may hack people’s senses, and trick the brain to believe everything surrounding it is real. The virtual world is free from physical limitations; it is a world that can be under control by others.

Other opinions

Elon Musk (Photo: Elon Musk’s Facebook)

Elon Musk, co-founder of online payments Paypal, chief executive of electronic car manufacturers and founder of private space flight pioneers spaceX, claims the idea of realistic simulation will be widely spread.

“If the situation becomes true, people will be cast into an indistinguishable reality,” Mr Musk argues.

“We are ‘almost definitely living in a Matrix-style simulation.”

Nicole Yang, a college student which majors in Digital Communication, is concerned that the wide spread of virtual reality will remain uncontrolled. She thinks Elon Musk’s opinion is reasonable.

Dr Helena Robinson, the unit coordinator of Museums and the Digital, she thinks virtual reality is technology that has not been completely developed yet. It got lots of potentials to develop more. There are still problems with the immersive quality of experience.

(Video: Betty Qin)

Master Liu, a high school teacher from Melbourne who dedicates herself to digital studies, claims that the development of VR can lead our lives in a good way.

(Audio: Betty Qin)

Ms Liu thinks simulation can be adopted to explore more learning possibilities, such as virtual driving test and pilot training. She is pretty optimistic about the future of virtual reality and believes more potentials can be developed and utilised in good ways . She thinks Elon Musk’s idea that people will completely live in Matrix-style simulation in the future is exaggerated.

Today’s virtual reality mainly involved in individual experience. There is still potential for technology development. It may allow us to experience environment which we cannot access, or go back to a simulate environment in past. It might help people understand how people lived in the past. Both opportunities and challenges were existed in the development of VR technology. Virtual reality is created by human beings, this advanced technology may bring huge impact on people’s daily life. Humans should be capable of handling their invention and make this technology under control.

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