Virtual Reality Will Affect Actual Reality

Since tech wizard Jaron Lanier made virtual reality popular in the 1990s, many claims have been made about its transformative power. Most of these have proved to be hype and VR remained little more than a fad, popular with video gamers. But in his new book, VR: Experience On Demand, Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Virtual Human Interactive Lab at Stanford University, insists that VR is at last coming of age, with new applications from conservation to the treatment of PTSD.

When National Geographic caught up with him by phone from Stanford, Bailenson explained how VR is now being used to raise awareness about climate change, help quarterbacks memorize plays for the NFL, and even help first 9/11 responders suffering from PTSD.

When I interviewed Jaron Lanier, the pioneer of VR, two decades ago, he was ecstatic about its potential. Recently he said the digital “hive mind” threatens to lead us into “social catastrophe.” Which is right?

Jaron is a great colleague of mine. He and I have published papers together and we talk a lot about VR as a tool to make people better, for collaboration and expression. The thing to remember is that VR is a medium. Just like the written word, just like video, and it all depends on what we do with it. Throughout his long, amazing career, Jaron has been someone who pushes us to use technology for good, to think about how to use avatars to make people more collaborative, to reduce prejudice, and increase productivity.

One of the bold claims you make is that VR can help save the planet. Describe the thinking here, and how an experiment on the island of Ischia, in Italy, is helping combat ignorance about climate change.

Climate change science is very abstract, so it’s hard for a person to fathom a world in which there are extreme weather events and higher sea levels and how it’s going to affect his or her daily life. So what we did in Ischia was take a marine site that scientists have been studying for decades, which shows how carbon dioxide is destroying coral and degrading the food web.

I can’t bring the entire world to Ischia to show how CO2 degrades ecosystems. But with VR, I can bring Ischia to people. So we produced a seven-minute journey that shows how all the oceans will look like in about 50 years, based on this one site in Ischia. Using this VR model, people get to be a scientist, explore the effects of CO2 on various species in the ecosystem and organically learn by doing.

We’ve tested it in high school and college classrooms; thousands of people go through it at different museums. We have a permanent installation at the San Jose Tech Museum and we’ve brought it to the U.S. Senate, where senators and congressmen and congresswomen can experience it. I can confidently say that this simulation increases knowledge about climate change by showing them, viscerally, how it is going to affect us all.

How Virtual Reality Affects Actual Reality | National Geographic
This reminds me of this 9/11 VR video. Experiencing reality through virtual reality even though it's a fake reality:



Reality Check VR

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