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A Virtual World that is Harmless to the Real World

January 9, 2018 10:11 AM
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Virtual Reality or VR has become a familiar terminology for giant tech firms. Tech media (such as myself) also mention that this is the technology that will change the world. This may have seemed quite farfetched because available tools that will provide access to VR were limited and costly. Moreover, content for VR was uncommon. However, the time has proven that VR prevails and is moving closer to us. Before we know it, VR gadgets have already found a place in our homes.

The movie industry is also actively producing more VR films and it is expected that VR will create over 75 billion USD of revenue by 2021. Additionally, numerous movie theatres begin to welcome this technology. For instance, IMAX group introduced their first VR theatre in Los Angeles early this year. Similarly, shops or booths where you can experience VR content via movies or games are available in large cities around the world as well as Bangkok.

Looking a few years back, a similar trend was the three-dimension or 3D. Most box offices would come in two versions, normal and 3D. Before entering the movie house, viewers would be handed 3D eyeglasses (With my low nose bridge, I didn’t like the glasses as they would often slide down my nose. Yet I’d often watch 3D as I felt it is worth it.)

Nevertheless, the 3D technology was not long-lived. Stores with 3D television took them off the shelves while manufacturing also slowed down. Moreover, 3D movies were rarely produced due to viewer’s lack of interest brought about by the insignificant difference of 2D and 3D.

Therefore, what can guarantee that VR will prevail in the cinema industry and not walk the same path as 3D. Let us take a look.

First, a positive outlook is that giant tech firms including Facebook and Apple have invested large sums on VR content-viewing hardware. When we have large enterprises as a back-up, the investment may seem worthwhile.

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Second, content creators in the industry are engaged in making VR movies. We see VR films acquire awards in the Cannes or Venice film festivals. Directors and performers alike show their confidence in VR.

The third aspect stems from this confidence. Watching a VR film makes you feel like you are inside the movie. This impact is powerful and an incomparable experience that you can only feel when you yourself watch the movie. This phenomenon is expected to completely change the future of cinema watching and it goes beyond expectations. The limit is still beyond imagination.

Reminisce the fear from a frightening movie or the sadness when a character would die for true love. Now imagine the feeling if you see that scene happen right before your eyes as if you were present in the moment. The thought of this brings me excitement and goosebumps at the same time.

To add even more pleasure, viewers can become part of the storyline and interact with other avatars in movies of the future. We may walk, fly, or do the unthinkable. This is how VR aims to disrupt traditional practices and redefine entertainment from cinemas.

Now that we see the possibility of VR, allow me to adjust the mood and talk about a recent research. This will help us see the other side of this technology.

An expert from UK’s Leeds University mentions that VR technology may affect children and the younger generation. They warn that it may affect their eyesight and the ability to balance. The study was conducted with several VR firms in the UK and is the first research concerning the effects of VR.

The research involved closely examining 20 children from 8-12 years old who played VR games for 20 minutes. Although results found no severe eyesight deterioration, however, one child’s ability to detect differences in distances was effected while another showed an extreme worsening of balance instantly after the game. These effects were short-lived but noticeable even though they were immersed in the VR world for only a short period of time.

The professor explained that when players wear VR devices, the 3D VR world is presented on a 2D screen and may create tension on the visual system. For adults, this can cause headaches and sore eyes. But in children, the intensity of the long-term consequences is still unidentified.

This study shows that the child and the adult body reacts differently to VR. It may be too soon to define the long-term effects as the technology is fairly new. Yet this is a gentle reminder for VR developers. They may need to reconsider the hardware development process that can solve such issue before VR expands any further.

Because no matter how wonderful this new world is, if the real world is blurry and unbalanced, it can’t be so great.

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Digital Ventures x Jitsupa Chin