How do we really feel about the future of virtual reality?

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I have always been sceptical about the prospects of our lives being completely digitalised and controlled by artificial intelligence. I cannot help but think of all the movies I’ve watched with narratives that show the doom of the human race as technology becomes a more central aspect of our daily lives. The growth of disparities between the rich and the poor, the growth in isolation as people interact less with each other and the growth of people hiding behind masks or avatars. I am really not excited at the prospect of having a screen infront of my face the whole day (ironically coming from a designer who sits behind a 27 inch monitor for 80% of the day).

However, last Friday I tested out two different types of virtual reality headsets at the Virtually Reality store (www.virtuallyreality.co) and was very surprised by my reaction.

The first was the Oculus Rift headset, where I had to step onto a platform with a very slippery floor to move within the virtual environment. The purpose of the game was to find coins in a maze. To my disappointment I only found 3 out of 30, embarrassing! But it was so much fun and it felt so real, to the point where I hit a wall in the virtual game and physically fell in the real world.

Next I tried the Samsung Gear VR headset, which was less of a workout. I sat as spectacular scenes appeared before my eyes. From a 360 degree view of the galaxy, a Cirque du Soleil performance to nearly touching an elephant in Africa. It was amazing to experience all these things while sitting on this plain chair in Old Street Underground Station. It felt wonderful and exciting and for the first time made me think, “wow this could be really cool.”

As I looked a little deeper into the world of virtual reality I found some projects which are using this technology for beneficial and exciting reasons. Following are some examples:

A charity using VR to put people in the shoes of those in need: http://tinyurl.com/z2avpmh

Opening the barriers of education: http://tinyurl.com/qdxlde6

Reaching places we’ve never been… http://tinyurl.com/qxvfb43

… and places which are hard to reach, making travel possible to a wider range of people with a lower impact on the environment: http://tinyurl.com/jqnx84d

Finally, how much fun does this look? http://tinyurl.com/hekgym3

Although I felt sceptical, researching more into the world of virtual reality has made me reconsider my thoughts. I believe that this technology will and has already begun to open new and amazing doors to the future of design, gaming and the way we experience things. I am excited to see what happens next.

Please share your thoughts.

Further reading:
http://tinyurl.com/jcflykl, http://tinyurl.com/gl93k6zhttp://tinyurl.com/zx7pjbd