What is real? How do you define real? If you’re talking about what you can hear, what you can smell, taste and feel, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.
– Morpheus (The Matrix)
Everything we experience in life can be reduced to electrical activity stimulating our brains as our sensory organs deliver information about the external world. This interpretation is what we consider to be “reality”. In this sense, the brain is reality. Everything you see, hear, feel, taste and smell is an interpretation of what’s outside, and created entirely inside your head. We tend to believe that this interpretation matches very closely to the external world. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It is the brain that “sees”, and reflects the information it derives from sensory input. For this reason, we are all living in our own reality simulations – abstractions – that we construct as a result of both what we perceive with our senses and how our brains modify this perception. Such things as color, smell and taste, for example are not properties of the outside world itself, but rather a category created by the process of perception.
Virtual Reality holds out the promise of allowing us to literally show one another what we mean rather than merely describing it with crude verbal approximations. The limitation of words is that the meaning they convey is only as detailed as the definitions the reader or listener attaches to them. For this reason Virtual Reality offers the possibility of evolving our communication into a kind of telepathy, ultimately bridging the gap between our discrete imaginations.
Having a physical body in a reality constrained by the limitations of the physical laws has many drawbacks. Our bodies are extremely fragile and can be damaged or killed in an instant if we are not careful, or are just plain unlucky. If anything goes wrong with a critical body part, the entire body could die. Our physical bodies are also deteriorated by aging. Either way, for now, if your body dies, your brain dies right along with it. Every human brain contains an immense wealth of information, memories, experiences and relationships. Every time a human brain dies, that incredible, unique wealth of knowledge dies with it, and is forever lost. The world is a dangerous place to inhabit in a fragile human body, and there are a lot of other problems that come with having a physical presence in a physical world. Using the bathroom, body odor, difficulty traveling, limitation of possibilities, just to name a few. Up to this point, we have had no alternative to life, besides death. Due to nanotechnology, there may come a time when people will actually have a choice between life in the “real world,” an existence inside a computer generated simulation, or death.
Reality has certain limitations which virtual reality will be able to circumvent. For instance, moving from one location to another in the real world requires moving your physical body, which is constrained by the laws of physics. The human body is a very delicate thing, subject to damage extremely easily from many influences. Transportation can also take up a lot of time. What if these dangers and constraints could be entirely eliminated?
Many of our technologies have in common the attempt to remove the limitations of our physicality. For example, telephones (a type of VR) enable us to talk to people who are too far from us in 3D space to talk to without using technology. The Internet allows us to meet and interact in a common (usually 2D, so far) virtual environment, regardless of where we are physically. The Internet, in its current form is a mostly two-dimensional virtual environment that allows people to meet and exchange ideas and information. For now, this remains a very flat experience, involving only 2D sight, and sound. The future Internet will gain a 3rd dimension and begin involving more of the senses. It will also gain realism as bandwidth increases without end.
In 2016 it is already possible to create a 100% realistic simulation of sound and vision, albeit on a very limited scale. The main limiting factor at the moment in the way of full-immersion visual-auditory VR is computer processing speed. VR requires real-time processing of a large amount of data to construct a dynamic simulated representation of an environment on the fly.
The goal we have been steadily heading towards for a very long time is the complete dissolution of all the restrictions we were born with. Virtual reality is the ultimate tool to remove all of the restrictions imposed by being made of matter in a universe bound by laws. It is the only way we will ever escape these laws, it is an all-round more attractive option than living in a real body, over time it will become the norm, and ultimately the destiny of “humanity”. Acceptance occurs gradually, and so will the development of a technological replacement for reality itself.
Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones. The future is coming.
– MARK ZUCKERBERG
Author – Shiva Prasad Patro, Design Engineer at CoreEL