64-73, 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 [64-73]
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 64-73 finishes Rheingold’s exploration into stereoscope images. Rheingold then goes in to talking about augmenting technology. That is, technology whose meaning is to help people think and perform tasks–a thinking machine. For him, the first experience of a technologic mind amplifier was using a mouse for a computer, and using that to navigate a pictographic representation of the computer through the desktop metaphor (files, file folders, trash cans, etc). He talks about “creating tools for dealing with complexity” (69) and about human-computer interfacing. HCI is about /through what/ we interact with objects – the doorknob is the human interface for the door as is the hand grip for a stone axe. It makes me think of my all-time favourite TED-talk, which is about shape-shifting technology and tools. The Sean Follmer talk “Shape Shifting Tech Will Change Work As We Know It” talks about tools, how they arise, and how we use them. I agree, and the way I see the future is one with a bunch of different tools (be they physical or gestures) that do specialized tasks. Indeed, why should we perform thousands upon thousands of different functions on the same static machine that is the computer? I believe that with virtual and mixed reality (soon to be one in the same device if the screen-brightness that allows the Microsoft HoloLens to basically become semi-virtual is anything to go by) we will be able to use our hands more than ever in unique ways to perform tasks. We will mediate our tech experiences through our bodies – that thinking machine, that augmenting technology will be our own, physical, corporeal body. As Rheingold states when he talks about the introduction of the close-up in films, “we understand what is represented by disembodied ‘talking heads’ on a screen today because it is part of our perceived reality template, our collection of learned perceptual rules that help us make sense of our stream of sensations” (66). Soon, this language (the tools) we use to speak (interact) with technology will be second nature, because it will overwrite what we currently have as our perceived reality template.
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