Virtual Reality has been presumed as the next big thing in tech for some time. I’ve followed this for a few years now, and continue to be an advocate and enthusiast of its production, success and use as an artistic medium. However, I understand the problems that it faces. Firstly, I still dont have my own headset at home, but I did buy a suitable PC. That purchase alone will continue to haunt me for the foreseeable future, and I’m only half way to being able to truly consume the technology…. It’s too expensive. When you essentially need a mortgage to enjoy a new technology, maybe its not quite there yet as a commercial endeavour.
The next foul issue is the importance of social interaction in industry leading games and experiences. VR is immersive yet lonely. Most indie developers aren’t yet comfortable enough to produce realistic or believable people in VR. This means that most of the experimental experiences you can see are desolate. Some of the bigger productions, and 360 films do have this element, however, as talked about in a previous post, there is not yet a possibility of interaction. This interaction, that we experience from social media has the potential to bring a new lease of life to an industry that has seemed as if its going to explode for a few years now. Hopefully VRs failure from the 80s isn’t about to reproduce itself.
Antipossible that we can be selectively aware of those around us in a space such as a tube carriage? Really, we only need to know, when to get off, out the way, if someone is pick pocketing or groping us, or god forbid, there is a rampant killer on the loose (by this, I really mean any significant emergency). Other than that I’d be happy to watch a bit of Netflix or read a few articles on my commute into the city on a virtual beach, on a screen the size of a bus without having to bend my neck for prolonged periods of time.
Automated cars hope to feed off each others data. Potentially allowing a car to think again before taking a turn, as a message has passed through the cars, that a serious road accident ahead has just occurred that will create significant congestion. Another potential use of this information sharing, is keeping each car on the road aware of cyclists. Can our smartphones use such a system? Information sharing and Cybersecurity is a terrifying and sobering truth of the Digital age. Its prevalence could threaten the growth of our internet and technology use. For this sort of everyday information / awareness sharing to take place, we need to be more comfortable with the security that’s in place, and the horror stories of hacking will need to be fairy-tales of the past. Unfortunately the likelihood is that they’ll get worse the more we rely on the tech. Hypothetically, if everyday VR headsets were to become a thing, with a reactive system that pokes the user to avoid collision or other interactions in reality, we’re all one step further to becoming lonely cyborgs…
Part of me (the tech enthusiast) says bring on the everyday headset, the other part (an actual human being) wants to restore my old Nokia and move to mid Wales. Realistically, VR may be too immersive and its use may be kept for very specific applications, experiences and industries. However, Augmented and Mixed Reality systems could provide the digital use we crave and the social IRL interaction we need as well as giving our necks a break. As mentioned from Portland, augmented reality isn’t even close yet but lets give its progression a chance. We might all be lonely otherwise. Happy Valentines Day +1.
VR/AR and 360 video are in their early commercial stages. One of the first obvious applications is to put the viewer in the shoes of another person or animal. This will naturally allow the user to develop a greater empathy for the experience shown, however, in its infancy, VR/AR is a spectacle. Similar to the explosion of consumer content on the
Smartphone or the commercial release of television sets, applications and content, for the
most part, revolve around entertainment and gimmick. For the medium to generate impactful sympathy in its users, to the point where a change in characteristics and behaviour take place, the content has to be readily available on a day to day basis. This is clear in daily TV news, charity advertising and radio broadcasting.
Experiencing 360 footage taken by a homeless person or a refugee is impactful and begins a cycle whereby the user can relate to the everyday surroundings of that person. In order for change to take place, this cycle needs to come around to help or aid the people in need. At the moment, it’s clear that 360 footage is giving an insight into these surroundings, but isn’t necessarily generating any more impact from the empathy experienced than was done so before with sound, photography, film and live information updates.
This is not a completely pessimistic outlook. There is a definite possibility that Virtual Reality will trigger sympathetic gestures and actions, or perhaps alter behaviours in the near future.
There’s no doubt that it will be similar to previous broadcasting technologies, and potentially more significant in achieving sympathetic reactions. Examples so far are from living in Gaza, to life in the Ebola crisis or Chris Milk’s Clouds over Sidra. All of these are intense struggles for those involved and the 360 content certainly gives an insight into the everyday life of the subject, however I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable by my lack of ability to do anything other than view these terrible and tragic scenarios. Then again, maybe expressing that feeling is the impact that it has. At what point does voyeurism in this capacity become too life-like? And after experiencing such a life-like tragedy at what point is it wrong not to act to help those involved or those in similar situations?
There is an element of sympathetic thought whilst engaging in these experiences, but at the same time, like the consumers of photography and film, it is much farther from sympathetic interaction than is needed to make a difference in these crises. New users are understandably hung up in the spectacle of Virtual Reality or 360 videos but to push this forward, the documentary content needs to play to a continuation of media and an ability to interact with the people concerned. This is for me the main problem with television, but also the beauty of Twitter and other interactive platforms. I hope that 360 video can find a balance between voyeurism and positive interaction / charitable giving if it continues to focus on such mammoth crises of our time. I also wonder whether 360 broadcasting will become a centrepiece for news broadcasting. There are a number of ethical questions that arise if this was to be. In the heat of the moment, the camera can’t be turned away, only turned off!