[BRAINS!] Are Humans Ready For Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality gear is “the next big thing,” and it’s already here. Oculus Rift, the most advanced and highly touted VR headset, was officially released on March 28, 2016. More VR headsets are coming from Samsung, Google, Valve and HTC, and others. The hardware and software are finally ready, say the geeks. But is the human brain prepared for the experience? Read on...
"This is Your Brain on VR…"
Virtual Reality (VR) is a highly immersive experience. Users report that it actually feels as if you have left your own body and taken control of another. We can be fooled into believing that we are our avatars, the fictional characters in video games. How do one’s thoughts, values, and behavior change when one believes one is The Incredible Hulk?
We just don’t know. Research into VR’s effects is limited because VR hasn’t been available to study until very recently. Sure, laboratory experiments on enthusiastic volunteers have occurred under controlled conditions. Ominously, that best case scenario has yielded warnings from Oculus and Samsung that users should take a 10 minute break every 30 minutes from VR, and avoid driving or operating heavy equipment soon after a VR session. Yikes.
Samsung’s list of cautions and warnings is uncomfortably lengthy. Here’s a good example: “Ease into the use of the Gear VR to allow your body to adjust; use for only a few minutes at a time at first, and only increase the amount of time using the Gear VR gradually as you become accustomed to virtual reality.” Really? What other consumer product requires such caution but not a doctor’s prescription?
People who are advised to consult a physician before using Samsung’s Gear VR include those who “are pregnant, elderly, have psychiatric disorders, suffer from a heart condition, have pre-existing binocular vision abnormalities or suffer from a heart condition or other serious medical condition.” Wow. The thought of people with certain psychiatric disorders engaging in virtual reality is scary.
All The Cool Kids Are Doing It
Naturally, the (mostly young) geek enthusiasts poo-poo concerns about VR being harmful to the human brain and body. In an online forum, one of these know-it-all kids recently sneered: “Are we going to once again see the same old arguments made about Dungeons & Dragons, Nintendo, the Internet and cell phone used being trotted out as alarmist attitudes towards VR? Why is it always cranky old people who feel a need to do this?”
I replied, “Because we're wiser than you, pipsqueak.” Information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, and understanding is not wisdom. Wisdom comes only after long years of contemplating what you understand.
Palmer Luckey, the inventor of Oculus Rift, is only 23 years old right now. No, I do not trust him to meddle with my brain. And you might want to pore over the Oculus Rift's Terms of Service before you hook yourself up. A Gizmodo article says there are some "devilish details" in there.
The “alarmist attitudes” about D&D, Nintendo, the Internet, and cell phones have all been validated by subsequent research. The Association for Psychological Research has released numerous studies that find strong correlations between heavy cell phone use and a variety of mental illnesses. Even moderate video game use yields increased anxiety, depression, and social phobia. And Internet addiction is such a real thing that there are numerous expensive treatment options for it, along with horror stories about parents who let their kids die while playing on Facebook.
For now, VR is expensive; an Oculus Rift starter kit costs $1500, about the same as the base price of Google Glass. Perhaps VR will die the same well-deserved death that Glass did. But if it takes hold of enough customers, prices will plummet. Then we may see some serious fallout.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 5 Apr 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- [BRAINS!] Are Humans Ready For Virtual Reality? (Posted: 5 Apr 2016)
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