The Grass Is Greener on The Virtual Side: The Implications of VR

Written on 14 May 2019 by Sara Da Silva

“Why shouldn’t people be able to teleport wherever they want?”

Palmer Luckey, Founder of Oculus VR

Virtual reality allows the user to interact with a computer-generated simulation in a seemingly real or physical way, making it possible to experience the impossible. There are a few key questions that surround the virtual reality realm:

  1. “What will it become?”
  2. “How beneficial or damaging could it become?”

The VR Takeover?

The first virtual reality head-mounted display was patented in 1960, and by 2016, a mere 56 years later, there were at least 230 companies developing VR-related products.

VR is most commonly known for its applications within the entertainment industry, such as gaming and 3D cinema. However, the application of VR is widespread amongst a number different fields: education, architecture, therapy, sports, and training (military / aerospace / vehicular).

Is the grass greener on the other virtual side?

  • VR allows for the redefinition of communication. It extends your interpersonal connections from people you know in “real life” to anyone with an Internet connection. 
  • The opportunity for creativity that VR offers is mind-blowing. Mark Zuckerberg stated, during the release of the Oculus Go, that “saying that VR is isolating because it is immersive is a really narrow view of the world that you’re all building. The reality is, we all have limits to our reality – places we can’t go, people we can’t see, things we can’t do. And opening up more of those experiences to all of us, that’s not isolating. That’s freeing.”
  • Individuals can be trained through VR simulations in ways that would pose potential risk in reality, namely within medicine, aviation and law enforcement. VR can be highly cost effective for business in regards to training resources and can go a long way towards preparing employees for real life situations.
  • Despite being a niche world, VR therapy has had positive results when being used to deal with a number of conditions, including phobias, depression, and PTSD. 
  • Offers life-changing possibilities to those with disabilities, from allowing an individual with a physical disability to try out-of-reach experiences to helping an individual with Asperger’s practise social skills in non-threatening environments. 

Should we be worried? Criticism or genuine concern?

  • Video game developers are under constant scrutiny about the ethical implications of violence in games, and now, violence in virtual reality. There is an on-going debate on the impact that playing violent video games could have on an individual and their behaviour. Could virtual killing sprees lead you to a life of crime?
  • It is no secret that the use of VR headsets can cause physical side effects, such as nausea and strained eyes. Many devices themselves include warnings to see a doctor if you are “pregnant, elderly, or have pre-existing conditions that may affect your virtual reality experience such as vision abnormalities, psychiatric disorders, heart conditions, or other serious medical conditions.” However, many things come hand in hand with side effects, e.g. transport and travel sickness. Should these side effects effect the further development of VR? 
  • “When VR is done well, the brain believes it is real” stated Jeremy Bailenson, author of Experience on Demand. Thus leading to the argument: Can VR result in prolonged psychological effects? Google’s Daydream View Health and Safety Information honestly states that the use of their headset “can also, in some individuals, cause psychological reactions, including anxiety, fear, or even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD).”
  • Palmer Luckey, the founder of the Oculus Rift, claims that “it has the potential to be the most social technology of all time”. However, many continually argue that VR could result in the next level of physical isolation. Sounds like something straight out of Black Mirror. 
  • The cost of VR could result in the further separation of social classes within the Digital Age generation, isolating those who do not have access or cannot afford this technology.

Despite the potential negative implications that VR may possess, the fast-paced development of VR continues. With progression, comes criticism. 

If you have any opinions on the implications of VR, please get in touch! 

[Hero Image by stephan sorkin on Unsplash]


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About the Author


Sara Da Silva

Sara Da Silva

Digital Experience Analyst

Sara has a passion for exploring new UX paradigms, keeping up to date on technological advances, and is a firm believer in the power of a positive mentality.

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