I fear this guy’s right about VR

As everyone knows, ever since experiencing the Vive VR headset I have gone nuts over virtual reality and its potential. However there is one potential of VR that worries me, and worries me greatly, one that nobody seems to be discussing in any meaningful way, and that is its potential to isolate.

VR is a singularly individual experience, one that – as for now – can’t be shared with anyone else. People can watch you play a game on a TV, or even play with you making for a fun social experience. With VR, it’s all you. To be fair, there’s potential here as well, and some are already working on it in the form of a VR arcade where you and your friends, regardless of where they are, could be walking around in the same arcade, or you could all be watching a movie in the same virtual movie theater. That would be nice, but in my opinion it’s also mandatory that VR present social experiences that don’t restrict us to isolationist experiences. I’ve heard again and again that VR is better than real life, and that, coupled with its isolating nature, could, I believe, lead to some real problems.

(This picture is from the Futurama episode I Dated A Robot, and while only tangentially related it was the first thing that popped into my head when thinking about this post. I couldn’t let it go to waste!)

Don't date robots!

Don’t date robots!

If social capabilities can be incorporated, then it could be a real savior both for the technology and humanity. Being able to visit far off locations or ride rollercoasters with friends would quite fun, I assume. On the other hand, if we all end up alone and isolated, off in a virtual world, the implications could be staggering.

So why, after trumpeting the greatness of VR and how I can’t wait to detach from humanity am I offering this ominous warning? This whole post was predicated on a comment made regarding an Engadget story about VR and how it will change the world, and it struck me as perhaps one of the most insightful comments I’ve ever read, which in the sewer of online commentary is really saying something. Commenter GrangerFX viscerally voiced a concern that I would like to think we all have, at least in the backs of our minds, and reading what he wrote brought it to the forefront of mine. Frankly, the fact it received but a single upvote and no replies considering the immediate truth of its content is troubling. So without further ado, I will quit rabbiting on and let you soak in the wisdom, and fear, of the comment. His concern is a real possibility; let’s hope it doesn’t happen.

I own the second generation Oculus Rift dev kit but I hardly ever use it. There are some minor reasons for this like the lack of support for users with glasses, the soft highly scratch prone plastic lenses and the fact that I must reboot into Windows from my Mac to use it. There is also one major reason:

VR is too good. It is way too good. It is life changingly good. It is the type of thing that could suck away all your free time and shut you off from the world while you immerse yourself in the most realistic gaming experience of your life. I knew right away that if I did not stop immediately my productivity would be cut in half. We are talking full on tech addiction here.

One of the few times I used the Rift was as a demo when a friend of mine and his family came over. I ran a few of the most common demos like the rollercoaster. There was a line of people waiting to try it . These were not tech newbies. These were a tech industry executive and a drone builder and they stood in line to be blown away by the Oculus Rift. Their kids complained when they did not get to play it long enough.

Is VR the next big thing? Yes and you should be very afraid. When this technology hits the market, the GDP will drop noticeably.

Don't let this happen, humanity

Don’t let this happen, humanity

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