Making Virtual Reality a Reality
By Grace Raver
BU News Service
If you’re a “gamer” you’ve probably already heard of Oculus Rift, but for those of you who don’t necessarily gravitate toward the digital arts let me break it down real quick.
Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that gives the user a fully immersive 3D experience that has never been available to the public before. Intended to enhance the way videogames are played, the gadget got its jumpstart on the website Kickstarter and then Facebook acquired the parent company, Oculus VR, for 2 billion dollars. Videos of grandmas using the headset have already gone viral on YouTube.
But Oculus Rift isn’t the only product on the scene anymore. Google just invested 500 million dollars in a technology called Magic Leap. Magic Leap’s CEO, Rory Abovitz, claims that not only is his product more realistic than Oculus Rift but that virtual reality is an out of date term and what they are creating is “cinematic reality.”
The main difference in technologies is that Magic Leap can project virtual images onto the eye so that they appear in the viewer’s real world, instead of an alternate world you see through goggles. With the continuing development of Google Glass it’s obvious why Google might want to get its hands on this technology.
Don’t get me wrong, I think this is all exciting technology, but I worry about what this means for the future of our real reality. Whatever happened to simply using your imagination? I know that this technology would make images more vivid and realistic but they’re still someone else’s creations.
A child’s use of imagination can have an important impact on his or her cognitive skills, and being creative is a trait encouraged throughout life. When we learn about history or picture a future event, we use our imagination to build that imagery and we develop those skills when we’re young.
Maybe we’re moving to a future where these imagination skills aren’t so necessary. Maybe our future children will have virtual reality history lessons where they won’t need to envision anything themselves. But picturing historical events isn’t the only benefit to developing minds.
In a 2012 study by Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein, found that creative individuals such as Nobel Prize winners or MacArthur foundation “genius” grant awardees engaged in childhood games and make-believe worlds more frequently than control group individuals in their same field.
Imagination games also aid in a child’s emotional development, especially when it comes to self-regulation. A 2006 study out of Illinois State University suggests that when children engage in make-believe play they naturally tend to take on different roles and perspectives. This allows the child to deal with situations of aggression, delayed gratification, civility, and empathy.
If virtual reality will be part of the development of future generations, we should start thinking about what problems that might create. In the meantime, I’m quite content with the actual, and on a chilly spring New England day like today, I would much rather be out enjoying the tangible sights, sounds, and especially smells of real life.