THE VIRTUAL OF REALITY


Last week, I talked about sci-fi stories that depict Artificial Intelligence attempting to become human. Well a new friend of mine, Nicole L.Bates, brought up the point of humans becoming more like machines. So we have her to thank for this weeks blog article. Thanks Nicole!

Nicole’s comment got me thinking about movies and TV shows that depict humans utilizing A.I. for personal fun. There are stories; however, which show humans utilizing different forms of A.I. to augment their lives. Ideas of “holograms”, “avatars”, and robots as extensions of ourselves have been around for decades.  Books such as Neuromancer,  and shows such as “Star Trek: The Next Generation“, “Ghost In The Shell”, and movies like “The Matrix Trilogy“, and “Lawnmower Man (1 and 2) are brilliant visualizations and show us a world beyond imagination. But just how far beyond imagination are the virtual worlds of our reality?

Back in October of 2007, CSI NY did an episode which featured an online community called  “Second Life”. Online communities like this one and The Sims Online, Dreamville, and even the ever popular multi-player online game “World of Warcraft”, give people the opportunity to become someone else and meet new people. These communities are another form of social networking. They are, for some, safer than utilizing Twitter, Facebook or any of the other communities where you use your real name, photos and information.

In these virtual words, which are simulated computer-based environments, you create an Avatar that can look totally different from your real picture, adopt a fake name and live a fake life doing the things you’d probably never do in real life. A person has the opportunity to dress, work, play and live as a different person.

Believe it or not, virtual worlds weren’t born with the Internet. As a matter of fact, way back in Ancient Roman times, there was a guy named Gaius Plinius (not Baltar), who was recorded as having an interest in perceptual illusions. Fast forward to the 1950’s and there was a machine called the Sensorama (yes, that’s the real name), created by Morton Heilig, which provided the viewer with a steroscopic 3-D image of, let’s say, a bicycle ride, while the box tilted the viewer side to side and back and forth. Think of the modern-day “Klingon Adventure” ride at the now closed (oh my aching heart) Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas or roller coaster simulated rides in the mall.

The term Virtual Reality; however, came from the french actor, poet, director and playwright, Antonin Artraud. In 1938 he wrote a book titled “The Theater and its Double”  where he characterized the theater as virtual reality. Needless to say that the term stuck, but not just for the theater. The term now relates to the simulated reality.

Other forms of virtual reality simulators include bulky wired headsets that make one look as if they are heading into outer space. These helmets are equipped with headphones and steroscopic 3-D goggles as well as gloves to allow the wearer to manipulate objects inside of the V.R. environment.

But what about a totally interactive environment without need of the headgear? Or living as another person through a real A.I. in the real world? How many people if given the opportunity would try it? And why? Stay tuned next week for the answers.

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