Entering the Virtual World

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My youngest son enters the virtual world under the tutelage of my oldest son (in background).

I spent the weekend in a virtual world. Well, okay, it was just a few hours this weekend, but it was a cool few hours. My oldest son, who is a computer science graduate student, used his tax refund money to buy an HTC Vive. He treated me and my youngest son to a demonstration of this virtual reality system at his house.

The easiest way to describe it is to say it’s like stepping inside a video game. You put on the virtual reality goggles and **bam** you’re in another place.

Now, I am a mom, so I think of safety-related messages like these: Be sure to only try virtual reality with people you trust. You can hear the people around you, but you can’t see them once you put the goggles on. Others in the room could easily trip you if they are the mischievous sort, and you’d never see it coming. Likewise, remove all pets from the area that could wander into your virtual space and make you fall flat on your face.

I tried several demos from a program called “The Lab.” I entered a cave, complete with dripping water and piles of snow. Using one of the hand controllers, I found I had the ability to blow up balloons, which quickly rose to the cave’s ceiling and popped. It might not sound that exciting, but when you’re surrounded by the world, and you see the balloons you create actually rise like real balloons, it’s pretty darn cool. Then I was off to a secret shop that felt like a wizard’s lair come to life.

When it was my youngest son’s turn, he started out at Vesper Peak, throwing sticks on a mountain top for his slinky robot dog companion. He also tried Longbow, which had him defending his fort with a bow and arrow against rabid gingerbread men-like raiders. He also got to try his hand at being a line cook in one of the job-related games.

I am a real-world nature-lover, so my knee-jerk reaction to virtual reality games is negative. But after trying it, I can see how it’s certainly better than watching television because it gets you up and moving. Also, I can see how it can be a powerful storytelling tool because it immerses you in the experience more fully than a flat screen ever could.

In short, the virtual world’s not so bad. It might even be useful.

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9 thoughts on “Entering the Virtual World

  1. Ah, yes, but the gut-wrenching reality of reality is just on the other side of the curtain.

    Dorothy: [has just arrived in Oz, looking around and awed at the beauty and splendor] Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.
    Dorothy: [after a pause] We must be over the rainbow!
    [a bubble appears in the sky and gets closer and closer. It finally lands, then turns into Glinda the Good Witch wearing a spectacular white dress and crown, holding a wand]
    Dorothy: [to Toto] Now I… I know we’re not in Kansas!

  2. I really want the system, but I am only 13, and don’t have the money to get it. Want to really play Job Simulator, after watching jacksepticeye do it. Suggestions on getting it cheaper?

    • Hmmm. Good question. Maybe you could join together with some friends to buy a system and share the cost. Or maybe you could talk to a counselor at your school about getting the system and the job-simulator game for school and you could use it that way. That’s my best suggestions. I’ve also asked my son. I’ll post his response later if he has any better ideas. Thanks for asking.

    • My virtual reality son had this to say about getting the system cheaper and the job simulator: You also have to keep in mind the cost of a $900+ computer to even run the thing. I think their best bet would be to either find someone who has it and is willing to demo, or save up and wait for the next generation, which will be higher quality and hopefully cheaper. Or also wait until the second generation and get this one used. I don’t recommend dropping $1700 just to play Job Simulator, as cool as it is.

  3. I am simultaneously both intrigued and repelled by the promise of virtual reality. I have a deep-seated, somewhat justified fear of forgoing the “real world” for an imaginary one, and this seems to feed into that in a way no other media experience could. But based on Ivan’s interest in the emergence of VR, I’m sure it will be in my future!

    • Hi Lacey! I feel your fear and share(d) it somewhat. But I think if you ever have a chance to try out virtual reality, you’ll find that it’s easy not to mistake it for “real” reality. The programs (at least the ones I experienced) are computer drawn, so they are rather cartoonish. But I suppose people could get addicted to it as much as they get addicted to computer games, etc.

      However, as a fellow storyteller, I urge you to consider what this technology could mean for storytelling. It offers a whole new world to getting a viewpoint across. You should listen to this recent TED talk by Chris Milk, a videographer. It might crank open your mind a bit. https://www.ted.com/talks/chris_milk_how_virtual_reality_can_create_the_ultimate_empathy_machine?language=en

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