In the 2020s, we reside in a translucent reality. It is a streamlined model of the real world — the individual occupies a neat little box, unable to crawl outside of the imaginary rectangle. Everyone is meticulously woven into a patchwork quilt of characters, and the Internet is our stage. Yet, we assume we’ll press “play” on our paused reality, and we’ll resume the show Life Before the ‘Rona.
Except, we don’t need to watch others mimic life on camera. We have ourselves, reflected in a digital mirror, perfectly edited in an online incarnation, and the monitor’s glass displays your reversed image — it is your ideal self.
Now, real-world experience is outmoded by virtual reality, and in-person interactions aren’t conducive to our health. Diseases will run amok as overpopulation worsens (COVID is merely the beginning), and increasing natural disasters demand sheltering-in-place. For example, in California, blazing wildfires produce smoke that can blockade our oxygen supply for up to several weeks.
So, here’s the question: How far can virtual reality go?
Halting progress is akin to leveling a body of water. Without an upward propelling motion, the water slides backward. Liquid demands downward movement, and it will seek the lowest point available (without the obstruction of an object). If we decide to hinder technological development, our society would topple counterclockwise.
Therefore, forward is upward, and regardless of political encouragements and constraints, VR will plod along an untrodden pathway. Mystery enshrouds our brave new world, and we’re tentatively treading upon the blue-lit walkway of our current electronic devices, forging a path into the technological unknown.
At present, VR headsets are bulky, nauseating, and (for lack of a better word), dorky. It’s a futuristic but unpleasurable user experience. Presently, Augmented Reality is the superior alternative. In 2016, Pokemon Go, an IOS app that utilized AR, became a worldwide phenomenon. It was an enriched viewing experience, and Pokemon Go enthralled the user’s senses and enhanced reality without providing total escapism.
Currently, tech companies should invest primarily in AR. Indeed, VR was hastily introduced to the public, and it was prematurely thrust into the shopping carts of futurist customers. The development of sophisticated VR shouldn’t be available for widespread usage for roughly a decade. In the meantime, improving AR is vital for the propulsion of technology. Despite the reliance on electronics increasing exponentially since the introduction of social media (and further by the Coronavirus pandemic), innovation has reached a deadlock since the invention of iPhones. Actually, I’d pinpoint the exact standstill moment: Steve Job’s death.
Apple was once considered an indomitable force in the tech industry and has rested on its laurels, and nearly shattering its pristine reputation by stagnation. Alternative producers, like Samsung, are quickly surpassing Apple’s high standard.
You know Apple’s struggling when its killer app was Animojis.
The next comprehensive tech invention will be a more immersive VR. The manufacturing company Oculus Rift (owned by Facebook) primarily distributes beta versions and prototypes, instead of the finalized product (not expected to emerge for years, at best). Notwithstanding the present, Oculus Rift possesses a promising future and could rival mainstays of the current Internet, like its parent company, Facebook.
Let’s fast-forward several decades, and let’s observe what VR appears like in twenty-nine years (most experts pinpoint 2050 as the earliest implementation of mature VR). Indeed, CGI will be nearly indecipherable from reality, but human avatars could be slightly robotic, and this is due to an aesthetic concept named the Uncanny Valley. Evidently, people are deeply unnerved by humanoid imitations, or AI Doppelgängers, that bear a human resemblance, yet are unmistakably inhuman. Hence, why in current animation movies the humans appear less realistic than the hyper-real backgrounds.
Furthering the immersive experience, the inclusion of taste, smell, and touch in VR could produce a more three-dimensional atmosphere. Moreover, the invention of the Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) would allow the user to have a telekinetic relationship with a computer. Thus, maintaining a complete synthesis between the human and machine (the stirring consciousness of AI deserves an entire article).
The humanistic ramifications of VR remain uncertain but considering how well we’ve adjusted to an almost wholly online society in less than a year proves our species’ adaptability. But, by 2050 (and most certainly by 2090), cyberspace will become more vivid than the real world