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Ever since Morton Heilig invented the “Sensorama” in 1957 as the first type of multimedia device in the form of an interactive theatre experience, we’ve been enamoured with the possibility of “virtual reality.”

Virtual Reality:

“The computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly near to real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.”

The term didn’t come into fashion until pioneering computer scientist Jaron Lanier introduced it back in 1987. In other words, this phenomenon has only come into existence in our life time.

Matthew Schnipper writes:

“The promise of virtual reality [VR] has always been enormous. Put on these goggles, go nowhere, and be transported anywhere. It’s the same escapism peddled by drugs, alcohol, sex, and art — throw off the shackles of the mundane through a metaphysical transportation to an altered state. Born of technology, virtual reality at its core is an organic experience. Yes, it’s man meets machine, but what happens is strictly within the mind.

It had its crude beginnings… But the concept was worth pursuing, and others did (especially the military, who have used virtual reality technology for war simulation for years). The utopian ideals of a VR universe were revisited by a small crew of inventors in the late ’80s and early ’90s. At the time the personal computer was exploding, and VR acolytes found a curious population eager to see what the technology had to offer…

VR at its best shouldn’t replace real life, just modify it, giving us access to so much just out of reach physically, economically. If you can dream it, VR can make it.”

There appears to be no irony in Schnipper’s rather hopeful “promise” of the “utopian ideals of virtual reality.”

Virtual Insanity

Meanwhile, The Verge has emerged as an ambitious multimedia effort founded in 2011 to examine how technology will change life in the future for a massive mainstream audience.

Their original editorial insight was that “technology had migrated from the far fringes of the culture to the absolute centre as mobile technology created a new generation of digital consumers. Now, we live in a dazzling world of screens that has ushered in revolutions in media, transportation, and science. The future is arriving faster than ever.”

See their take on popular culture’s portrayal of VR in their post titled, “Virtual Insanity: The peculiar portrayals of VR through pop culture history.”

How Virtual is Your Reality?

Do you “put on goggles, go nowhere, and get transported anywhere.”

  • Is this the escapism you want in order to “throw off the shackles of the mundane through a metaphysical transportation to an altered state”?
  • Is this what G. K Chesterton was hinting at when he quipped, “Every man who knocks on the brothel door is looking for God”?

With technology migrating to the absolute centre of our culture, the true centre of our souls is being displaced. It was only a matter of time before advances in virtual reality meant that artificial intelligence would make intimate advances that are as artificial as the trend in relationships today. This will be the subject of the next instalment titled “Artificial Intelligence ~ Artificial Intimacy“.

How Real is Your Virtuality?