(ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Virtual reality made headlines earlier this year when Facebook announced its plan to acquire Oculus VR, a company making virtual reality headsets. Industry experts say there could be an affordable headset on the market as early as next year. We’ll examine the current developments in VR, and what this technology can achieve beyond gaming and entertainment. We’ll also discuss potential drawbacks of this deeply immersive technology.

Michael Krasny Delves Into the World of Virtual Reality for the First Time

Guests:
Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University
Peter Rubin, senior editor for Wired and author of a June cover story about virtual reality and Oculus
Scott Broock, vice president of content for Jaunt VR, the company developing the hardware, software, and tools to enable cinematic virtual reality

  • Rekha Pai

    Really excited for this technology. I am a dancer and am excited at the possibility that I may be able to dance at my level with my current abiliities and performance level using Virtual reality in another 20 years when my physical body doesn’t keep up at this level. Wondering what kind of world that may be and how soon will such applications be available?

    • pastramiboy

      you should be excited about adapting how you dance to how your body feels and actually works instead of some synthesized reality of it-and i say this sincerely, with no malice. For me it’s great to see an artist or athlete adapt to the chafes wrought by age.

  • Trace Wendell

    Fascinating discussion. The idea that virtual reality could limit the amount of plane travel and reduce carbon pollution is brilliant. Are there other “non-entertainment” uses for VR? For example, would VR be able to be used to experience what it is like for the demonstrating citizens in Ferguson County, MO or the Yezidi Kurdish refugees? This might be a groundbreaking way to teach empathy and raise awareness.

    • Whamadoodle

      It is positive to limit carbon emissions that way, very true. But I hope to God that people get out of their living rooms and visit the parks and other natural places that are within walking distance; that doesn’t increase carbon pollution, and does improve their well-being.

  • Sean Dennehy

    I understand some of the concerns, but if people make a personal choice to not travel, for example, especially if they don’t have the money for many trips, why is that bad? People who want to travel, that’s their choice. But people are already choosing not to travel even without VR. That’s their choice too and we should respect that in my personal opinion. We should be embracing people’s choices as long as they don’t harm others, VR included or not.

    • Whamadoodle

      Well… of course, but sticking a thing on your head instead of traveling? Blecch.

      • Sean Dennehy

        Not all of us have money for many trips. Please be more conscious of those of us who are not as well off as you.

        • Whamadoodle

          Who said anything about how well-off I am? When I’m not well-off, I don’t travel; when I am, I do. But anyone can walk around their hometown, and that costs nothing, and is preferable to fleeing from the outside world at all costs using technology.

          And wait a second–you have enough money to buy one of these things they’re selling, but you’re pleading poverty?

          • Sean Dennehy

            If you listened to the show, you’d see it’s $350. That’s way less than travelling to many places. Also, ‘not well off’ doesn’t equal ‘poverty.’ Get a grip.

          • Whamadoodle

            Same back at you…

      • Watching someone in a box instead of visiting the theater? Bleech.

        Talking to someone on a pocket rectangle instead of meeting them? Bleech.

        Learning the wealth of human knowledge from an internet connected machine in lieu of visiting the greatest libraries, pouring over the book’s delicate pages? Bleech.

        Point being, the later is always preferred. But time, money, and convenience are factors where VR will win.

        • Whamadoodle

          Sure–but I’m not speaking of someone saying “I don’t have time or money to travel.” As I said myself elsewhere on this thread, sometimes _I_ don’t have time or money to travel. There’s no shame in that.

          I don’t even think there’s any shame in HAVING time and money, trying traveling once or twice, and just feeling like “ehh–it’s just not for me. It’s not my passion.”

          But having the money and time, and never once trying travel, because you’re too lazy, or too afraid to try something a tiny bit adventurous, or too afraid you might have to talk to an actual person? VERY shameful.

  • You can’t protect nature and the Earth unless you KNOW it. Putting your head in a box is not KNOWING nature, so please don’t tell us this gizmo is going to do anything for the destruction of habitats, mass extinction of species etc & etc.

    • Daniel

      Well, this should allow you to rope off even more natural areas so people can’t trod them. There you go less weed fields being trampled. 🙂

  • Josh

    This was predicted back in 1983 within a movie called Brainstorm with Christopher walker and Natalie wood and it showed the danger of sexual addiction in it.

  • sheryl

    What about sense of smell. Isn’t this one of the most long lasting memory senses?
    And, for some, there will be no substitute for really going somewhere real.

  • Robert Thomas

    Twenty years ago at SGI, I was pleased to experience a comparatively mundane but still fascinating VR world with a headset connected to about twenty million dollars worth of Reality Engines.

    It was fun!

    I wonder now what I wondered then, when my coworkers said it would one day be cheap and portable.

    Will running over someone wearing one of these things while jay walking be prohibited?

    • Daniel

      Ah, you assume these will ONLY have virtual reality in them, when in fact they will likely have synthesized reality. As in live mapping of the world around you and then synthesizing it together WITH the virtual world. It is no companies best interest to have their customers dieing.

  • pmsfo

    Would it be possible to create a VR experience that was so life-like and terrifying that the user would be scared to death?

    • Robert Thomas

      You mean, like, simulating attendance at the Republican National Convention?

      Or rather, like actually attending the Republican National Convention?

  • Niketana

    As usual, I hear both wonderful benefits AND unhealthy refusals of physical, face-to-face, feet on the ground-here-&-now reality. As a teacher I recognize the good uses of technology but also the very frustrating distractions that take away from “real” learning and retard a student’s capacity for, again, face-to-face interaction. Escape feels good, and virtual reality devices reward that. War, for example, should not be made a virtual entertainment or vicarious experience. Simulation is seductive.

    More needs to be said about how consumer culture and marketing are driving this technology by manufacturing what are essentially sophisticated toys. As the rate of obsolescence for these appliances accelerates even more rapidly, we will watch the new creations being stacked on the sidewalk, where they will be taken out of sight, out of mind (i.e. shipped to a developing country). Google and other manufacturers (if that is still an appropriate term) need to be more forthcoming about the dystopian side of these escapist toys. Meanwhile, the planet is in crisis. Let’s plant real trees, not virtual ones.

    • Robert Thomas

      War, for example will utterly without doubt be among the first things to be simulated.

      What more can be said about “how consumer culture and marketing are driving this technology” than to admit that it is the case? None involved, either in its development, marketing or purchase would deny it.

      WHAT OBLIGATION ON EARTH does ANY developer or manufacturer of ANY product have to “be forthcoming about the dystopian side” of their products?

      Read what you wrote back to yourself and listen to yourself. How does one force one’s fingers to press the buttons required to write such a thing?

      • Niketana

        Mr. Robert Thomas (PhD??):
        My responses:
        (a) War is already simulated. I am thinking of vicarious participation (without, of course, being there) while, “like,” walking down the sidewalk or maundering obliviously against the Don’t Walk sign.
        (b) Consumers don’t fully realize how their choices are made for them and how those little drops of dopamine keep them engaged in meaningless alternate realities, distracted by chimes that say a text has arrived, listening to their own headphones when the cafĂ© is already playing a good music stream, or pretending to be someone they’re not (and then going to a therapist to sort the virtual from the real lover–“LOL”).
        (c) Developers and manufacturers have an ethical “obligation.” Finally the Supreme Court made cigarette manufacturers more ethically responsible. Video games don’t impart nicotine (OBVIOUSLY), but they are addicting, according to the latest DSM. 4million years of human evolution can’t be undone or side railed by the wonders of Google glasses, not without problems (see addiction above; also, studies showing that people can’t multi-task and that students don’t learn as well with all of their favorite distractions plugged in).
        (d) Your arrogance and pomposity betray your inner lack. Don’t worry, though; I’m sure there’s an app for it. If not, take up a hobby like figure drawing. You can make virtual 3-D drawings using the latest software (none of that yucky charcoal for you!) of a model who can’t hold still because her/his IPhone is beeping–and, well, like b/c twenty minutes is sooooo OMG long.
        (e) As a career college instructor, I’ve seen too many millennials who can’t function in class without a lap top to hide behind, who can’t interact with other students WITHOUT a device in their hands or wired to their ears. who think Google is part of their brain, who don’t grasp the concept (and value) of honest scholarship, and who see college as an entitlement that must be entertaining. Just go to a sporting event to see how fans are pandered to with nonstop entertainment and the narcissistic allure of seeing themselves on the arena’s big video screen. All while they are texting their friend across the way or taking a photograph of themselves.
        (f) If, by virtue of the blogosphere and digital cameras, everyone is a journalist, then no one is; and if everyone is a photographer, then we’ve lost any aesthetic standards for a once wonderful art form and source of journalistic information.
        (g) It’s all good, bra’.
        (h) On second thought, it’s not.

        • Robert Thomas

          What you were thinking, I don’t know. what you wrote was “War, for example, should not be made a virtual entertainment or vicarious experience.” Since something like a third of the $25B video game business is “First Person Shooter” variety, you’ll agree the ship has sailed. In this light, how can your admonition be considered as other than a platitude? Do you propose a plan to stem the tide?

          You warn that “More needs to be said about how consumer culture and marketing are driving this technology by manufacturing what are essentially sophisticated toys.” What more? To whom? You probably don’t want such toys, I understand. They don’t appeal to me, either. But what can you possibly mean by this? Are you saying that people dream up stuff that they imagine other people might want and then try to sell it to them? Do you find this surprising or unusual?

          I don’t kow how quickly these things will become obsolete and have no idea whether they will be worn out or set aside as once-interesting novelties. People have been making things and purchasing things and discarding them for a long time. This cycle didn’t commence with the advent of electronic gadgets. As a manufacturing engineer in Santa Clara Valley for about the last thirty years, I can tell you that many manufacturing operations and associated development teams have taken “end-of-life”, “design for return”, “design for recycle” and similar demands seriously in our industry. A competitor’s public face of their effort, for which I have some envy, is summarized here:

          http://www.cisco.com/web/about/ac227/ac228/ac231/about_cisco_takeback_recycling.html

          On the other hand, you can indulge yourself in the planetary crisis easily enough with far more familiar, homespun consumer culture disasters by Googling “burning pile of tires”. Now, that’s some dystopia.

          “Oh. Oh. You people! You people, who think up stuff and then make it and then sell it! How vulgar.”

          You sling “pomposity”?

      • Whamadoodle

        “WHAT OBLIGATION ON EARTH does ANY developer or manufacturer of ANY product have to “be forthcoming about the dystopian side” of their products?”

        What obligation does any manufacturer have to be forthcoming about the environmental impacts of their products (which what the poster was referring to, with their reference to discarded, quickly obsolete products)?

        Um–a LOT? If not legally (though in many cases it IS legally required), then morally, considering the impact that so much trash is having on the world? But legally, plenty! You’re unaware of manufacturers’ many legally-mandated responsibilities regarding their disposal of hazardous waste, or other environmentally harmful aspects of their manufacturing practices?

        And as far as morally: Do you have any awareness of a little big thing called “The Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch”? Heck YES manufacturers have a responsibility to mitigate waste that comes of their manufacturing practices.

        • Robert Thomas

          As I wrote in response to Niketana, I’ve been a manufacturing engineer working in the computing and communications machinery industry in Santa Clara Valley for more than thirty years. In my earliest days, Design for Recycle wasn’t much of an imperative. but for at least the last twenty years a combination of thriftiness, good public relations and not a small amount of general decency has led myself and colleagues and competitors to be quite concerned about these issues.

          Twenty years ago, I was assigned responsiblity for delivering this

          https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blue_Mountain_Supercomputer.jpg

          to Los Alamos National Laboratory. The device required the use of over five hundred each four hundred pound, purpose built, low shock, impact resistant “delivery modules” in which to convey the hundreds of chassis. Due to peculiar considerations of the customer, they could not be reused. But they couldn’t be discarded, either. They would have overwhelmed Los Alamos’s disposal capabilities.Many hours and interminable discussions were had negotiating with the Laboratory, local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, the Salvation Army and several local agriculture interests, to name a few, to plan for the arrival and re-use of these elaborate crates. In the end, these accommodations and the re-design required to meet the goal of their reduced-environmental impact probably cost the program a quarter of a million dollars.

          This doesn’t include the inauguration of such requirements as those of the RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) Directive that only began to become mandatory five years later, that were among the other environmental considerations that began to become routine in our industry at that time.

          The record is by no means perfect. But if you seek an industry to scold for thoughtless impact on the environment, especially if one uses a quotient of productivity, wealth creation and repayment of trade imbalance to environmental burden, you’ll have to look elsewhere. As I suggested to Niketana, Google “burning pile of tires”.

          • Whamadoodle

            “But if you seek an industry to scold for thoughtless impact on the environment, especially if one uses a quotient of productivity, wealth creation and repayment of trade imbalance to environmental burden, you’ll have to look elsewhere.”

            Well–yes, sure! I don’t even have any argument with that. But that’s quite a different statement from “WHAT OBLIGATION ON EARTH does ANY developer or manufacturer of ANY product have to “be forthcoming about the dystopian side” of their products?”!!

            If you re-read your statement, I think that my response to it is perfectly understandable; I also don’t feel that there’s much in my post that YOU could argue with, either.

          • Robert Thomas

            Whamadoodle, my agitated tone with Niketana’s post was a response to its cliched platitudes: children are inconveniently distracted by fun things; war should not be a subject of entertainment [a startling admonition, considering the history of art and literature since the Gilgamesh epic or the Iliad]; consumer culture exists; people are attracted to novel things; people are shallow and thoughtless; environmental disaster looms.

            How, I wondered, do people think these invocations of the bleeding obvious contribute anything to any conversation? At least my nastigram provoked an effort at writing something with a trace of content – a rebuke for me, along with a tumble of frustration with the behavior of his / her millennial students and their generation. Even so, we get

            “Just go to a sporting event to see how fans are pandered to with nonstop entertainment…”

            Imagine!

            ”If … everyone is a journalist, then no one is…”

            I don’t actually see this…

            ”…if everyone is a photographer, then we’ve lost any aesthetic standards…”

            Oh, good grief.

            I agree that manufacturers have a responsibility (and are required by society) to mitigate environmental risks of the mishandling of their products. While the record is imperfect, I insist that our industry is not guilty of ignoring this obligation.

            But you wrote, quoting me,

            ’What obligation does any manufacturer have to be forthcoming about the environmental impacts of their products…’ (which what the poster was referring to…)

            I didn’t get that at all. Niketana invoked “retarding students’ capacities” and “escapism [rewarded by] virtual reality devices” as well as the obvious fact that people sometimes discard things. Since “dystopia” generally refers to a speculative condition of inescapable oppression and moral and psychological degradation, not just an undesirable environmental situation, that’s what lead to my response.

            You may insist that manufacturers of any goods or service should be “forthcoming about the dystopian” aspect of their products. Many products sold have amounted to reckless endangerment and been condemned and some of these have been prosecuted. Society obviously must examine the effect of product waste and place controls on manufacturers to ensure environmental protection. I don’t ever recall anyone arguing that the mere fact that a product may be discarded – from a cathode-ray tube to the soldered steel can in which beans are packed – is reason for a manufacturer to be “forthcoming about dystopia”. If we want to use products, we’re all responsible for the consequences, not just manufacturers.

            While the “e-waste” stream has drawn attention in recent years and presents particular challenges, it still represents a tiny fraction of the waste burden. And as I wrote, manufacturers in our industry have been taking the subject seriously for a long time.

          • Whamadoodle

            OK Robert, well (especially considering that perhaps I’ve gotten in the middle of a conversation that should really be between you and Niketana), in the words of Professor Krasny: “OK! I will let your comment stand as an editorial comment.” Thanks much, WD

  • Dee Relyea

    All I can say is that I did a demo at the JauntVR office and found it to be riveting. I can see applications for this technology to enable people to go and experience places they may not be able to ever visit. Imagine how wonderful a gift it would be for a disabled person to get the sense of climbing up or down the Grand Canyon or skiing the bumps in the CO Rockies, going to a live concert at Carnegie or scuba diving on the Yucatan peninsula. This technology offers huge potential to many people, many sectors.

    • pastramiboy

      i just don’t really get this-it’s nice to think of people being able to “experience” the grand canyon or skiing the bumps but that isn’t experiencing it. You have to do something to experience it, otherwise it’s just a simulacrum.

  • Katherine Tinder

    Ohh no we are going to end up just like Mildred from Fahrenheit 451!!

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