I’ve talked about how, in the next few decades, nanotech will (likely) allow us to somehow connect our brains directly to virtual worlds that look and feel 100% real, just like in the movie The Matrix. I’ve also talked about how female sex robots will change everything, even before the virtual nanotech stuff does.
One response I sometimes see on both of these points is: “It won’t be nanotech or sex robots. Instead, it will be VR. That will change everything first.”
Yep, that’s entirely possible too. We could reach the point, well before nanotech or viable sex robots, where you can put on a VR helmet and gloves, wear a full-body haptic suit, step onto an omni-directional treadmill, and enter into a virtual world that looks pretty damn close to a directly-connected nanotech induced world.
In an article here I reviewed Ready Player One, a movie and book all about this, both of which I somewhat enjoyed even though they had lots of flaws (mostly because they were written for men exactly like me: Gen X Americans in their 40s). However, the movie demonstrated a lot of misunderstandings about the limitations of VR.
For example, in that movie, it showed people doing things like jumping. How the hell would you be able to jump? In the real world, you’d land on your face and break your VR equipment. I suppose you could wire yourself up to a bunch of bungee cords, but would most people actually take the trouble to do this? I also suppose you could link up a certain movement of your fingers to jump in the virtual world, but if that was the case, every jump you’d make would look similar, if not exactly the same, and be the same height every time (or at least one of two or three jump heights), just like in a video game.
There were also people floating and dancing in zero gravity. Uh, no. How the hell would this be possible? It wouldn’t. You would not be able to do anything remotely like this with a treadmill, gloves, and a VR helmet. I’m sorry.
There were also people doing things like spinning other people around and hanging on ledges. Again, impossible.
There were also scenes of people wearing VR helmets, logged into the VR world, while running in real life without a treadmill. Just think about this for a minute. Why wouldn’t these people just run into walls in the real world? Even if they could see the real world while in the VR world, you never saw anyone say something like, “Hang on man, I can’t run this way any farther. There’s a real-life building in my way. I have to run 300 feet over that way first.”
It’s just stupid. These movies are not at all how VR will actually work.
Instead, the virtual world(s) you’ll be able to visit may look real (more or less) but your interaction with these worlds will be just like playing a game like Skyrim. You won’t be able to jump, float, dance, hang onto things, or anything like that, other than in very strictly controlled and limited ways. Most people won’t even have treadmills, which means that most people in this world will only be able to move by pressing buttons or making certain movements with their hands, and thus will walk in ways video game characters walk, i.e. in a very specific, controlled, repetitive way, and at very specific, set speeds.
You’ll never be able to sit down either. How could you do that in real life?
You’ll be able to pick things up, but nothing will have any actual weight. That will be very weird. It’s true that VR gloves will have movement resistance built into the fingers, but it still won’t be the same as feeling something’s weight.
During combat, you might be able to feel impacts on your body if you’re wearing a full haptic suit (and most people won’t bother to take the trouble or spend the money to do such a thing), but nothing will actually push against you. No character or monster in the VR world will be able to actually push you, pull you, or shove you around, again, just like if you were playing Skyrim or Call of Duty. Sure, you could smash someone with your sword or shoot someone, but you won’t be able to run the guy through, shove him back, push him off a cliff, or pin him to a wall.
Lets say you or one of your enemies falls off a cliff. How would that work? The answer is, it wouldn’t, so you can’t. Just like in many video games, when you approach a cliff in the VR world, the game will just stop you with some kind of invisible barrier. Or perhaps it will let you walk off a cliff, and the game will just instantly end and tell you that you’re dead.
I don’t want to sound like I wouldn’t be interested in entering any VR worlds in the future. I think that would be super enjoyable and exciting. But don’t think for one minute that VR will be anything close to the full plug-your-brain-into-the-matrix virtual worlds I’m talking about. In those worlds, you really will be able to do literally anything you can think of (allowed by the world, that is) because you won’t be limited by what a treadmill, VR helmet, and gloves can do. Your brain won’t actually know the difference. It will be amazing.
VR will be amazing too, but VR will be simply a stepping stone, and a primitive precursor, to what will be coming shortly afterwards.