There is a new phenomenon from the world of virtual reality (VR) that is unspeakably exciting.
It’s called ‘presence’ — the visceral feeling that what you’re seeing is REAL (even though you know it’s not)
This effect is accomplished by new VR visors that produce an 100+ degree field of vision with such high resolution and frame rate that they completely fool the brain.
This is tremendously exciting to me, and not for the reason you would think.
Yes, it will allow us to be immersed in our movies and video games, to re-live concerts and to create in new and unimaginable ways. But I’m most excited for its use as a tool for empathy.
I believe the chief problem in our world today is our inability to truly put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. It’s easy to ignore a commercial about starving children, but much harder if that emaciated child is standing right in front of you…
Let’s use our imagination for 30 seconds..
A devastating tsunami hit the Philippines 30 minutes ago. You run a quick YouTube and find a live video shot for VR. You strap on your headset and suddenly you’re IN the chaos.
You turn around and see the waves crashing towards you, bringing with them unconscious figures and entire houses. You hear the screams, the destruction. Your heart begins to race. For a moment, you forget that you are safe and sound, many miles away. For a moment you are someone else.
After that experience I think you would be much more likely to donate to the tsunami relief fund.
Let’s examine that for a moment.
That would mean you are giving away part of your own well-being to support people whom you have never met and likely never will meet.
You might say this type of behavior is normal, that empathy is innately human. But that is not the case today. We collectively turn a blind eye to human despair every day.
VR will bring us closer to the spiritual sense of one-ness than ever before. It will be increasingly natural and easy to act outside of self-interest as we become accustomed to stepping into the lives of others.
…And these experiences will only become more convincing as technology emerges that fools our sense of touch, taste and smell. It will continue to advance until the virtual world is indistinguishable from the ‘real’ world.
We have a crazy and exciting future ☺