Sony just recently announced Project Morpheus, a virtual reality device being developed for the PlayStation 4 that aims to change the way we play video games in the future. The device can be worn like a pair of goggles and uses inertial sensors and the PlayStation’s camera to track the user’s head movements, so that when the user rotates their head, the image they see within the virtual reality device rotates in a similar likeness to give the impression that the user is inside the video game. The developers said they were inspired by Oculus Rift, another virtual reality device set to be released for the PC later this year, and hoped that the application of these technologies would go beyond video games.
“Morpheus enables developers to create experiences that deliver a sense of presence—where players feel as though they are physically inside the virtual world of a game,” -Sony
Virtual reality is definitely the stuff of the future, but we really need to question its effects on human interaction. What would being able to put on a set of goggles and jump into a perfect fantasy world, that presents with wearer with nothing but enjoyable situations, do to the way humans go about their real lives and the way we interact with others?
Excessive internet usage, has already been linked with the onset of depression and anxiety. The primary reason for which, is that users use the internet as an escape tool to ignore the source of their anxiety and depression, allowing it to grow in the backs of their minds, never being addressed. This creates an addiction because avoiding the underlying causes for concern and escaping into the internet, further decreases the individual’s quality of life, forcing them to return to the internet to fulfill the desires they cannot fulfill in their unstructured and broken life.
Internet addiction can start as early as childhood, when children discover how they can ignore the challenges of school and socializing, skills that they then fail to build for later period in life.
This is a serious problem that faces our evermore demanding society. With children and teens feeling the pressures of social media and school, adults who are overworked and underpaid, and seniors who are crippled by their age and health problems, an easy way out is something that would appeal to a lot of people. And that easy way out at the moment is just a screen that they observe. Taking solace in an observable, interactive, and physical screen that sits in front of them, is how millions, if not billions, of people escape from the troubles of their day-to-day lives and get to enjoy themselves for the short time being.
But let’s step it up a notch and ask what would happen if individuals would interact with a screen that wasn’t bordered by reality? If addiction to the screens we have today already poses such cause for concern, imagine the problem wewould face if while using them we couldn’t tell that they were screens? What if we didn’t have visuals and sounds that are not coming from the screen to remind us that we’re not witnessing reality?
As beautiful and immersive as it may seem, it is still unmistakeably clear to our eyes that reality borders these screens. Imagine if we couldn’t see that.
These are problems that we would face with virtual reality. It is the ultimate form of immersion and the best escape from reality. The only thing the wearer would have to do is feed themselves occassionally, use the restroom, and sleep. But I can bet it wouldn’t take long before developers found a way to integrate those functions into virtual reality.
And so what is the result? We can’t say for sure, but based on the causes of internet addiction today, and the afflictions they impose on the addicts today can give us a hint of what we can expect. Today, those disconnected from other people for long periods of time may find face to face interaction difficult because they have so little of that experience. It is not unreasonable that a similar condition could arise among those who use virtual reality regularly, where they have been away from reality for so long that interacting with it becomes difficult. Imagine living in a world where things go your way all the time and then being exposed to a world where they don’t? It wouldn’t even be a matter of liking virtual reality so much as it is a matter of being unable to cope with reality, that would keep individuals using it.
It would be like growing up spoiled and then being told that you can in fact expect everything to go your way all the time.
In your secluded virtual world you can be as selfish as you want, always get your way, while still being considerate of others.
But the goggles have to come off sometime, if only to achieve the bare minimum of what is necessary to jump back into their virtual world. Working just enough to have money for food and a small room for a bed and bathroom that you can sustain you while you waste away the rest of your hours in paradise. Working might not even become necessary in the future if we as a society become sustainable enough to provide that bare minimum. If we mass produce that bare minimum as a capsule that handles our intake and outtake, and robots that keep our environment safe, then we get something like the picture below.
In the movie trilogy The Matrix we were enslaved by robots in capsules while we went ahead with our fictitious lives. In the movie, we struggled to get free from them. However it seems that in reality, our most coveted end goal of technology would be to find a way to keep us in the capsules.