VR Revolution: Am I the Only One With Serious Concerns?

We should be a little more worried about how extended exposure to VR will affect us...
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Oculus Rift. Sony’s new “Project Morpheus” VR tech for the new generation. The gaming world is all atwitter with talk of a brave new world.

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Sony R&D boss Dr. Richard Marks says virtual reality will eventually become the “preferred medium” in the gaming industry, and the supporters claim an all new level of immersion and absorption.

I have no doubt that all of that is true. Unfortunately, I have serious reservations about the potential impact of VR on humans. There’s no knowing what could happen, especially to individuals who may have other problems (both mental and physical). Games have seizure warnings now; what will VR games have…?

The risk is unknowable and therefore terrifying

Mankind has never seen anything like this before. Virtual reality has been around for a while, of course, but the technology was extremely limited compared to what we see in Oculus Rift and the upcoming Project Morpheus. I mean, Virtual Boy was mostly a joke. These new units, however, are something very different and in truth, I believe a lot of research needs to be conducted before these things go on sale.

Remember when 3D movies were coming back into vogue (again, new technology creating a very new experience), and experts were issuing warnings all over the place? Many recommended that nobody under the age of seven should even see 3D because it can mess with the still-developing eyes. They also said everyone should limit their 3D viewing to no more than an hour and a half at once, and even that can cause problems. For instance, I always got a headache when watching a 3D movie.

What will a VR headset do? Migraine? Worse?

Not sure we should be screwing around with the brain

Despite all the advancements we’ve made, we still have no idea what certain portions of the brain even do. We’re not even sure what our current tech does; I’m convinced that prolonged exposure to certain forms of video-related entertainment, especially for youngsters, can and does have some sort of impact on the brain. It’ll vary widely depending on the individual but I feel it’s unavoidable. We just don’t notice it.

Virtual reality is attempting to trick our senses. Of course, we’re not about to lose touch with reality. We’ll know what we’re seeing is fictional. At the same time, the technology is doing its damnedest to convince every last one of our senses that in fact, what we’re seeing is solid and tangible. This means eventually, if VR goes far enough, the brain will be the only thing left that keeps us grounded in reality. …and I’m just not sure a brain that confused – and yes, I think you can confuse it – will always be able to tell the difference.

Think we’re jaded and desensitized now? … look the hell out

They say that due to increasingly violent and visceral imagery, complemented by better and better technology that makes all of it seem more real than ever before, we are a jaded society. We have desensitized individuals that don’t fully understand the sanctity of human life. We have people growing up whose first reaction is to laugh or simply shrug their shoulders at the most extreme depiction of violence possible.

Yeah, I say it’s obvious that we’re like this because of our entertainment. That’s clear. So, what happens when that entertainment makes it look just as real as anything around us? Will we be shocked by anything anymore? The harder developers have to work to shock us, the more insane that imagery will get, and it’s a slippery slope, as we’ve already seen.

I know people will say, “Oh, but we’ll use virtual reality for enlightening, educational, and empowering things, too.” Yes, all of that exists in all forms of entertainment now. But that’s not what’s causing the problems; what’s causing the problems resides at the other end of the spectrum, and it’s only getting worse.

I’ll abstain, thank you

I’m sure I’ll be called a dinosaur. I imagine people will scoff at my fears. However, when I look around at the world today, and I see an increasingly unstable, unintelligent, less emotional populous than humanity has ever seen, I know what to avoid. I feel it deep down, like a gut feeling. I know that in many ways, highly advanced technology is turning us into robots, but not the smart, omnipotent robots of science-fiction; rather, the dull, stupid, can-barely-move-a-broom-around-a-floor sort of robot. When reality can’t provide us with sensations that have any impact, and we have to rely on virtual reality to arouse us, it’s all over.

I’m not saying that will happen. I’m not trying to be an alarmist. That said, I choose to avoid VR like the plague and in fact, in the future, I may avoid those who use VR on a frequent basis. If you happen to be one of them, let me apologize in advance and say: “Nothing personal. …if you even know what ‘personal’ means, anymore.”

If you need me, I’ll be outside.

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A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.