[ExI] VR content

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Sun Jan 25 16:39:33 UTC 2015

I was active in VR during the original peak in the 90s. That makes me a bit cynical.

It seems that today we have the software and hardware to make it work really well - one reason it didn't take off in the 90s was of course that limitation. But one needs to think of the use cases: what is it *good for*?

Obviously one can make computer games even more immersive, which is good insofar people play them for immersion. But quite a bit of gaming has social aspects - people in the room participate to some extent. This use case is not enhanced by VR/AR. So I predict that for the dedicated gamer VR would be great, but it would not work for the informal/light gaming or social gaming in a group. Same thing for demonstrating things, whether infoviz, architecture or sales forecasts: switching context into a VR environment must be so simple and seamless that people do not mind it.

Interactive immersion is great for visualising stuff, and I can see some amazing educational applications. But the cost of making a good educational worldlet is also higher: making a neat demo of a property in calculus will take longer than explaining it on the blackboard. Yes, it can be re-used globally and endlessly, but so can a good explanation. So far I have rarely been impressed with interactive software education because the shining parts - where somebody actually used the medium for something awesome - are usually padded with rather crummy software experiences. Probably a MOOC-like winner-takes all phenomenon could occur, where everybody shares the very best VR explanation for something. But I suspect it will be a *long* while before we have great material for every part of education. 

My personal guess is that VR for gaming will drive the technology, while AR applications is where we actually get the useful enhancements of human capability. But since good design is hard I expect that the utility will be rather uneven. I predict it will take up to 20 years from good VR hardware/software is invented until it is properly integrated in human life. 

Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University
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