54-63, 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” [54-63]
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 54-63 continues on the talk about Morton Heilig and the Sensorama. Interestingly enough, Heilig even noticed the ties between sensation and learning. Nowadays, people recognize that VR and education have a powerful connection, such that it is one of the two biggest initiatives (the other being medicine). Interestingly enough, these two fields (education and medicine) are also converging with VR as an enabling technology (a la Rheingold 61) so that medical students can more realistically practice things that would be much too dangerous to practice in real life, such as surgery. Rheingold also says that the “convergent nature of VR technology is one reason why it has the potential to develop very quickly from scientific oddity to way of life” (60). We, as people who talk about and study virtual reality, are in the minority of awareness. It’s surprising that, although the industry is growing so quickly, there are so many people who are unaware that virtual reality is coming, or what VR even really is at all, let alone that it’s going to be so prevalent in their lives in the coming years! This is mostly from personal experience, I’m not sure if there’s any sort of survey that can tell what percentage of the population is aware that VR is in the stages that it is now – regardless, I’m always so surprised whenever I meet someone who doesn’t know what VR is. Rheingold’s book does such a good job at describing what it is and its origins – I just wonder how spread into mainstream culture it was at the time of publication (especially since it was published 25 years ago). It does seem that the tech still took a lot longer than he was expecting. I’m guessing that the biggest thing that will put VR on the radar of the masses will be Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One.


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