The Virtual Reality Race for Escapism

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In the wake of the official release of the Oculus Rift and new controllers (still no price announced), both Oculus and Sony’s Project Morpheus are leading the pack of new virtual reality gizmos that are going to start flooding the marketplace of entertainment.  E3 is just around the corner, and you can be sure virtual reality will be a major discussion point next week.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 9.00.45 PM   Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 9.01.10 PM

Oculus has stated that they will be contributing around $10 million toward gaming.  Facebook bought Oculus a few years back for a cool $2 billion.  “B”…not “M”…Facebook sees Oculus as the technology to take social networking to the next level.  How ironic that virtual reality is a singular experience.

Let’s talk a bit about escapism…

We have some confusion in the entertainment market as to what the “next big thing” is going to be.  As of right now, we’re pushing virtual reality forward, making it lighter, sexier, and faster.  But is an isolated experience really what we need right now?  Do we need to escape into a singular, albeit immersive, experience?  Am I being overly weary of the implications this isolated experience can have on a generation of consumers?  Am I overthinking the counterproductive aspects of virtual reality in a society needing social immersion and inspiring educational experiences now more than ever?

…probably…

Arnold

Do I think virtual reality is going to destroy a generation of media consumers and further drive them into isolation?  In short answer…no….

Virtual Reality is a stepping stone into figuring out highly engaging and immersive spaces.  What do we really want?….the Holodeck….

Holodeck

We’re actually looking at augmenting reality.  What’s the difference from virtual reality, you might ask?  In virtual reality, we are isolated from the real world.  We have left the world we inhabit to completely occupy a space.  In augmented reality, we blend the virtual with the real world.  Microsoft is calling it “Dyadic Projected Spatial Augmented Reality”.  The benefits of an augmented reality is that it is inclusive of more than one human occupying a space with real interaction between the two.  You just need space.

(Here’s a link to their documentation about it)

Although I present counterpoints to the benefits of virtual reality, I am personally excited about it.  We are all focused on what these new devices are capable of, and that’ exciting.  It’s another tool for innovation and exploration.  We can use these tools to create experiences unlike any other.  It’s another medium of communication.  Gaming is the gateway to these devices because it encourages play.  It encourages us to test things out in a safe and fun environment, while figuring out what new innovations can be had with immersive technologies.

I don’t foresee a future of constant saturation of escapism from a bleak and dystopic future like “The Matrix” (at least if robots don’t force it upon us).  I am hopeful that, with all of the technological progressions the brilliant innovators of the world are creating, we will use these devices to do amazing things and have amazing experiences.  So, maybe escapism can connote a positive influence on our way to becoming better.

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Andrew Bliss is an award winning film maker and photographer with experience in writing, directing, producing, editing, and visual effects. He has lived all over the world including Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Italy. He is a first generation Indonesian and a second generation Fin. He has over six years experience as a US Navy broadcast journalist. While in the Navy, he graduated top of his class, won several awards for his work in Europe and Africa, managed Marines at Combat Camera at the Pentagon, and produced a feature film. The film was produced in Italy while on active duty.

Prior to serving in the Navy, Andrew was a professional martial artist with numerous awards including Athlete of the Year (1999), International Champion (two years in a row), and was the first competitor to place first in seven events in international competition (two years in a row). He trained with the prestigious Beijing Wushu team and has over ten years experience as a coach and mentor.

After serving in the Navy, he taught for Apple, made several award winning short films, and earned a degree in Interactive Design. He is also an alumnus of the USC School of Cinematic Arts.