5 Mundane Things Virtual Reality Is About To Make Awesome
Virtual reality is finally here, and surprisingly we've been doing a pretty good job of not (yet) using it for evil. Jacking off will always be the first thing people revolutionize when a new tech rolls into town, of course, but even though VR was created about eight minutes ago, people are already using it to vastly improve other big things like education and medical care, along with small, everyday things you didn't realize could be a lot better in virtual reality. You can thank the VR engineers who diverted their attention away from the virtual tits bouncing against their corneas long enough to innovate the following areas.
VR Turns Roller Coasters Into Alien Dogfight Simulators
Gaming is the driving force of the VR economy, for now. At the same time, every other area of entertainment is pumping their R&D departments with cash and Adderall until they manage to jam this sexy new technology into their own forms of fun. And theme parks are going to jump all over it so they can use it as an excuse to increase ticket prices from astronomical to just a picture of Mickey Mouse giving you the finger.
Inscription: "Your destitute children will never know our wonders,
and it's your fault. Love, Walt. P.S. Suck it, Jews!"
Six Flags was the first theme park to show off the new way tourists would be vomiting all over each other's neon fanny packs when they unveiled their partnership with Samsung to create a virtual reality experience combined with preexisting roller coasters. You simply strap in and put on a VR headset, which projects a movie that syncs with the movements of the roller coaster, because apparently 55 mph upside-down loop-the-loops on a runaway train car were boring us jaded bastards to tears.
The New Revolution VR-coaster is basically an on-rails first-person shooter like House Of The Dead or Time Crisis. Riders dive and careen through a city being invaded by aliens. By tapping on the side of their VR goggles they can shoot the aliens out of the sky, or, more likely, punch themselves in the head with the force of a roller coaster as they try. And while you no longer have to worry about communal plastic gun handles giving you chlamydia, be prepared for what we can only assume will be a huge pink-eye outbreak.
Meanwhile, Acer is working on a VR helmet specifically for theme parks and arcades, and there's a company based in Utah that runs a VR laser-tag park called "The Void" that's going to have an outpost in Times Square by this summer. And that's just the beginning. Since by all accounts this new generation of VR is legit, the tech is probably destined to quickly become a staple of overpriced roadside tourist traps run by sketchy guys with NASCAR-branded sunglasses.
VR Will Make You Feel The News
Even if you regularly make an effort read and watch the news, it can still be difficult to fully empathize with the people featured in it. Without firsthand experience all you can do is use the information to paint as vivid a mental image as you can as you imagine their struggles. Virtual reality is already changing that by making the news more impactful and more emotionally resonant. If VR can convince people they're falling off a building when they absolutely know they're walking on solid ground, just think of how tangible and, frankly, painful it would be to experience the struggle of someone thousands of miles away.
The New York Times is experimenting with that kind of storytelling right now. Anyone with a VR headset, even the simple ones that are just a smartphone in a cardboard box, can experience the unsettling sense of physical presence within the stories they report in virtual reality. The sight of people praying and crying at a vigil honoring the lives lost in the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris is made so much more powerful in VR than as a picture on the front page of a newspaper or a 2D video on a website.
Same goes for this VR report titled "The Displaced," about three refugee children who fled their homelands to escape war and certain death.
Now, the question is, would this make people more empathetic to the struggles of strangers, or would it go the other way and harden the resolve of people who couldn't give a shit about other people's problems? I assume it'd be a mix of the two, with one set becoming hyper-empathetic and another growing ever more callous. And it would have to be an almost super-villainous level of callousness, since they'd be looking the plight and pain in the eyes, to the point where even the Grinch's heart would grow three sizes and still wouldn't be satisfied with the degree of closeness because the goggles don't allow them to tell those people to stop being little bitches and that a little genocide never hurt anyone.
VR Will Make Seat Previews For Live Events Amazing
My brain got its ass kicked the first time I saw an online ticket vendor offer a computer-generated approximation of the view from the seat I'd selected. I guess I'll be soaring to the basketball game in my flying car and eating my $14 hot dog in pill form, because the future is now, I thought. Little did I know that only a few years later virtual reality would render that convenience as obsolete as a Polaroid dick pic.
This irrelevant garbage might as well be an oil painting.
StubHub is developing a virtual reality version of seat previews. Meaning, you won't just get the painfully antiquated picture preview you used to get back in the ancient times (last week). You'll get a fully immersive, cutting-edge, almost-real sense of what it would be like to actually sit in the specific seat you've chosen. It'll be like you're there, in the arena, rubbing your butt on every empty seat. You'll be able to perceive the tangible differences between a $90 seat and the $80 seat a few rows behind it. Now all it needs to do is sit you behind a 6-foot-11 behemoth of a man who has a head the width of an IMAX screen.
"If I wanted to see this I would have stayed home and stared at my dick."
Even more exciting is the obvious next step for this idea. Imagine a seat in a stadium or arena specifically for people at home who want to watch a live event through their VR rig. The NBA has already experimented with that idea, and there's a company out there trying to do something similar with live concerts. Who knows? Fifteen years from now we might all be virtually sitting on the 50-yard-line at the Super Bowl, while in reality we're eating nachos naked on a toilet.
VR Will Allow Jurors To Visit Virtual Crime Scenes
Even the data gathered from the best documented crime scene can be diluted when all the information gets flattened out onto sheets of paper presented to a jury that needs this information to render a fair verdict. Things like bullet trajectories and blood spatters are all vital to understanding a crime, and they can be accidentally misinterpreted simply because the medium used to present them has inherent drawbacks that prevent the whole story from being told. This is one of the areas where virtual reality excels. Every detail of a crime scene can be re-created exactly in a virtual space that a jury can explore.
"Goddammit, Juror Number 6! For the last time: There are
no hadoukens in crime scene re-creations!"
And it works. The people behind the technology gathered data from an actual shooting wherein police officers were fired upon and re-created every detail in virtual reality. When they presented their re-creation to the police officers who were involved in the shooting, they couldn't believe how accurate it was.
Since the crime scene re-creation tech is basically the same as the software used to make video games, crime scene re-creators can accurately replicate tiny details like height, distance, and the physical relation between objects and people -- all things needed to obtain a more complete understanding of events. If you've played Batman: Arkham Knight, you've already experienced something like this every time Batman analyzes a crime scene; now you can be happy our real-world justice system has finally caught up to a fictional vigilante.
*Batman enters women's dressing room and virtually re-creates them undressing*
The tech is still young and isn't yet considered admissible evidence. It's got a lot to prove before it can be used to decide innocence or guilt. I say, why the wait? I mean, truth, justice, and accuracy are important and all, but there's no selling point better than, "This shit makes you Batman."
VR Is Going To Make Long-Distance Relationships A Lot Easier
Long-distance relationships are tricky to navigate. Phone calls, even video chats, aren't a suitable replacement for physical presence. That lack of closeness can rip some couples apart. Luckily, VR simulates physical presence better than anything before it, which bodes well for couples trying to erase the space between them, and surprisingly I'm not even talking about the porn stuff I mentioned before.
Writer Nathan Grayson uses virtual reality to stay in contact with his girlfriend overseas. His experience thus far has been bizarre and touching. Using a VR social network called AltspaceVR, they've been able to establish something that feels akin to an actual physical presence even though their avatars are that of a generic blond guy and a floating ball.
This was their Christmas card.
They hold hands, even though they can't feel other's touch. They stare deeply into each other's eyes even though it's all generic cartoon face and floating ball staring back. Somehow, it works. They get something that sounds like and has the mannerisms of the person they miss. It's like they're there, and they don't even have to smell each other's farts, which is a plus for anyone in a long-term relationship.
At one point she glitched out of a room and he continued on adventuring without her, sparking the kind of argument about selfishness a lot of people in relationships have probably had in real life. The most fascinating part was when Grayson's girlfriend was playfully swatting the virtual hand of another man. It was innocent fun. Just two people who couldn't believe something as simple as fake hand slapping could feel so real. But Grayson felt actual jealousy in virtual reality.
The most startling fact to come out of his account is that he's describing a normal relationship. There is no dystopian sci-fi twist that makes it depressing. No one's brain has been uploaded into a VR avatar that's siphoning enough intelligence from the internet to wipe out the human race. They have an ocean between them but remain as close as ever, just in a nontraditional way. Maybe normalcy is the twist. If that's the future we're in for, it doesn't sound too bad. Until someone wearing a VR helmet is struck by lightning and their consciousness becomes the tyrannical overlord of a new world where the line between reality and simulation is blurred. Then we're screwed.
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