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Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-simulated environment that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world or imagined worlds. Most current virtual reality environments are primarily visual experiences, displayed either on a computer screen or through special stereoscopic displays, but some simulations include additional sensory information, such as sound through speakers or headphones. Some advanced, haptic systems now include tactile information, generally known as force feedback. ~Wikipedia


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Opinion

We Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

David L. Heiserman

Sometime in the late 1950s or 60s, I outfitted a small round washtub with a crude, mechanical image scanning device. Slipping the tub over my head and resting the rim on my shoulders, I tried projecting an images all the way around the inside of the tub, thus giving the impression of being immersed in the subject of the image. It was a crude device that didn't really work. But it was my idea of virtual-reality imaging about a half century before someone really got a commercial version working.

You probably aware that one of the hottest items in today's consumer high-tech world is the virtual-reality gadget. No doubt, there is a lot of military, and hush-hush commercial VR research going on. But when you get down to the core of present-day VR, it is simply an application of current imaging technology with touch, motion, and audio transducers thrown in for good measure. VR technology, as it exists today is, in principle, no different from my crude experiment in the past century.

The technology that defines VR of the future will not be digital imaging, etc.. It will evolve from research now underway in cognitive psychology. Nerve impulses traveling from our sensory organs to the brain are merely data ... they have no inherent meaning. It is the brain that attempts to interpret and organize the signals, creating a conscious impression of "reality." VR of the future--perhaps a rather near future--will hack the sensory nervous system and feed virtual data directly to the brain. The user will not be able to distinguish this kind of VR from actual reality--more like something we see in some science-fiction films such as:

Informally presented, the classic Turing Test for artificial intelligence says that we know we've arrived when it's impossible to tell the difference between conversing with a person and an AI machine. The parallel version of the Turing Test for virtual reality says that we know we have arrived when it's impossible to tell the difference between the artificial reality and the real world. Until that time arrives, we should respect the higher definition of AI for a time when it passes the test. The experience of today's imagining technology might be breathtaking at first, but it isn't the level of reality that carries us into another plane of existence.

Let's set the bar much higher on the definition of VR. We must not limit our imagination and technical creativity to something that is little more than high-tech View-Master.

 

 

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David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015