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Virtual Reality: More Real Than Real?

What would you do if you could do absolutely anything?
Seriously, stop for a second and picture it. 

Imagine yourself there. Feel yourself there.

Soon, Virtually Reality (VR) will provide this option, according to an article by Jason Ganz, posted on How Virtual Reality Can Unleash the Greatest Wave of Creativity in Human History
“By combining the radical discoveries in psychology’s understanding of happiness with the astounding advances in virtual reality technology, we will finally have the ability to create peak emotional experiences on demand.”
Virtual Reality Presence is “the phenomenon that occurs when your brain believes, on a fundamental level, that a virtual reality experience is really happening. This doesn’t mean that you forget about real life. Rather, it means that when a virtual T. Rex attacks you, your brain feels an instant pang of terror. It means that your subconscious believes you are there.”

There are countless stunningly innovative ways that VR could be used for art, science, education, and just about every other discipline: The artist, for example, who can create his sculptures with no regard to the laws of physics, or the genetic researcher who can fly over her datasets viewing big data expressed in such a way as to drastically improve her insight.
Virtual reality has near limitless potential for creation.

The next generation of Virtual Reality will take us beyond dinosaurs.

  • True telepresence conferencing, without the screens or speakers, anywhere and anytime, with the "sense" that you are "present."
  • Virtual beating hearts in the hands of cardiac surgeons in training - and robotic VR surgery itself.
  • Virtual classrooms, labs, and training sessions, realistic and fantastic, and beyond anything you’ve imagined. Study botany on Pandora. Fly a jet in the world's best simulator. 
  • VR News coverage that puts you on site, in real time.
  • And, undoubtedly, the next wave of pornography.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” - Arthur C. Clarke

This is not a game. There is real money in Virtual Reality.

  • Facebook: $2 billion acquisition of Oculus Prime.
  • Google: $500 million capital investment in Magic Leap.
  • DARPA (unknown spending for the US Military).
  • Microsoft (HoloLens)
  • IBM, and others.
With Magic Leap, (click the link for a great demo), a tiny elephant frolics in someone’s hands; children clap their hands together in joy at seahorses floating in their classroom; dragons flap across a purple sky. And a particularly vivid patent illustration shows the world into a touchscreen—without the screen.

Microsoft shows how HoloLens could use data from the Mars rover to make it seem as if you were actually standing on the red planet. NASA plans to work with HoloLens to control its Mars rovers. 

Henry, the star of Oculus VR’s first animated virtual reality short, is an amiable hedgehog. A 10-minute Virtual Reality short film "Henry" features narration by Elijah Wood.

Henry the hedgehog is aware that you’re standing inside his living room watching his story unfold. He makes eye contact during moments of high emotion—sadness, despair, elation— sharing in those feelings with the user in an perplexingly intimate, real-time way that can at first feel intensely unsettling, then wondrous.  - The Daily Beast

“Oculus Rift is only one of several remarkable advances in hardware that are going to dramatically change our ability to immerse ourselves in a 3-D world. The others include 3-D or 2-D cameras that can capture facial expressions and head movements, and several types of motion controllers that can accurately capture the movements of our arms, legs, and hands," shares Philip Rosedale in the MIT Technology Review.

Companies like Sixense and PrioVR have amazing devices in the works that will follow the motion of the body... We won’t just be able to see these worlds—we’ll be able to touch them.

We’ll also be able to communicate with others while we’re inside these worlds: the Internet is now fast enough to allow us to be in a virtual environment with other people who are accessing it from elsewhere, even halfway across the world.

For many of the everyday things we do—talking face-to-face, working together, or designing and building things—"the real world will suddenly have real competition.”

VR is "not a video game peripheral. It connects humans to other humans in a profound way that I've never seen before in any other form of media. And it can change people's perception of each other... Virtual reality has the potential to actually change the world.  - Chris Milk, in his TED  Talk.

The Red Pill vs. The Blue Pill:

I think therefore I am: "Cogito ergo sum." According to Descartes, thinking equates to being, being equates to your own reality; virtual or physical is not a defining factor.

Cypher (A character in the Film "The Matrix"): You know, I know this steak doesn't exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize?  

[Takes a bite of steak

Cypher: Ignorance is bliss.

The term "take the red pill" has been popularized in science fiction, it is most associated with the 1999 film The Matrix. Neo is offered the choice between a blue pill that would allow him to remain in the virtual reality of the Matrix, living the ignorance, and bliss, of illusion, or the red pill that would lead to his escape from the Matrix and into the real world, and a harsher, more difficult life. 

"Take the red pill” actually dates back to “Total Recall," a film built around virtual "implanted" memories vs. "real" memories. The theme is similar.

“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.” - Arthur C. Clarke 

The internet has induced many people to feel less alone and more connected,  just as it creates new distractions and increased loneliness. 

Today, Virtual Reality is about entertainment, training and communications. Tomorrow...

Virtual experiences have the potential to take our consciousness beyond the “reality-based” Internet - who ever thought the Internet would be considered “real”? - by allowing access to experiences that are currently not possible. 

Some philosophers, theologians and social scientists think of virtual reality as a human right, perhaps even the ultimate destination for humanity. VR promises humans a path to transcend the Earth and shed corporeal limitations.

What is the consequence of spending our lives in virtual worlds that deliver our deepest desires and fulfill our most fabulous fantasies ? Must we draw a line between a reality that is too virtual and one that is too limited? 

Which pill will you take?

(c) David J. Katz, New York City

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