44-53, Virtual Reality

Author’s Name: Howard Rheingold
Bio: Howard Rheingold fell into the virtual ecosystem fairly early on and documented his travels in seeking out the virtual frontier in the book Virtual Reality
Name of Artwork or Topic: Virtual Reality, “Grasping Reality through Illusion” [44-53]
Date of Artwork, Article Publication or Topic: 1991
Describe Artwork, Article or Topic: Virtual Reality is a book that describes all manners of development, background, explorations, future visions and tensions in the developing Virtual Reality world as it led up to and existed in 1991.
Opinion of Artwork, Article or Topic:
Pages 44-53 started off with a talk on simulation and education. Here is where I agree with Frederick Brooks, who warns against the illusion of control and knowing how something works or what to do in a situation when that situation is simulated. As he says, “the map is not the territory” (44), and to me that makes a lot of sense. Specifically with medical imaging today and how the field that UNC-Chapel Hill was exploring–protein folding, synthesizing, and matching–the same ideas. As Rheingold documents, there is a difference between using simulation as an aid versus using it to learn and use as a 1-1 paradigm for reality. The last of the pages describe Morton Heilig’s Sensorama. Of all the descriptions, I think Rheingold captures a truth that is timeless: “The right person has to pursue the right vision at the right time–and the right people have to be convinced to offer financial support” (52). Interestingly enough Heilig’s Sensorama has an olfactory dimension which I wonder what kind of scents would even be in stock to mimic a lot of life’s scents–though I do believe the cheap perfume is a clever scent that would be easily diffused.

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