Virtual Reality or Solitary Confinement?

Although it may seem like the newest wave of technology, virtual reality (VR) dates back to the 1920’s, when the first flight simulator was designed as a training device for pilots. Flash-forward to today and users can simply put on goggles to learn how to surf, experience life in space, or even watch NBA basketball games from front row seats.

VR technology is powerful. It allows us to switch in and out of reality – and it is that very power that causes isolation. From a social aspect, the VR experience can be very lonely. Only the user sees what is happening. Users are unable to share the experience with those around them. This leaves others watching awkwardly as the user ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at whatever is happening on screen.

VR is replacing social activities and outings, such as playing sports, visiting a theme park or even going for a bike ride – because we can do it from the comfort of our living room. Like social media, it takes away the unique, rich experience of having a face-to-face interaction with someone and replaces it with goggles and a screen.

What makes gaming so popular is the interactivity – completing quests or battling against your friends. VR technology does not provide the collaborative aspect of gaming, yet.

Unlike video games, watching TV or listening to music, the VR experience is limited to you and only you, making it no different from books or headphones where users are also willingly isolating themselves.

An individual experience can be beneficial. For example, it could improve the public speaking skills of introverts and other shy speakers. Presenting a pitch to a room full of people staring can be extremely intimidating. With VR, presenters have the chance to practice in front of a virtual room full of people before their big moment.

Secondly, VR may also help those who are lonely. Recent initiatives have been made aiming to virtually transport long-term patients out of the hospital bed, potentially alleviating loneliness.

The VR experience we know today is only the beginning.  It won’t be long before the introduction of shared virtual spaces. As for right now, allow virtual reality to take you above and beyond.

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