Oculus and the HTC Vive have already released earlier this year and in a few weeks, the PlayStation VR will launch. Years from now, 2016 will be remembered as the year of Virtual Reality. It’s not farfetched to say – so why aren’t we giving it its due importance, today?
Why would a cumbersome headset and a screen just millimeters away from my eyes matter in any capacity?
Because it’s a new age, a new era. Time has come and gone and we continue to find new ways of expressing our cultures and ideas. First, it was oral tradition; trained stories committed to memory and passed down through generations. Then through transcription on parchment and paper, writing down sophisticated plots and characters. Moving on, the use of musical accompaniment entered the picture, to tell a tale of victory or sorrow with the help of melody. This was then married with traditional stories in the form of dramas, giving rise to Shakespeare and his craft. And then things stopped, storytelling techniques continued to evolve and ideas were born but the methods with which they were delivered remained constant. That is, until the visual element found its way into our homes with television. Too many people view this particular invention with some amount of disdain, or at least, as a waste of time. I’ve never understood this way of thinking, how is something that has allowed us to be transported beyond space and time to other dimensions or experience different cultures a bad thing? It’s about the potential – the highest heights. And in a very unique way our experience of culture, storytelling, and entertainment is about to take a new turn.
We’ve had the travel channel but in the very near future we’ll have virtual-tourism. The idea is that we’ll be able to stand on the streets of Athens or in the remote reaches of the Andes and turn our heads and watch the sunrise, sunset. It opens up more than just that though, why do we have to look at pictures of Mars when we can stand on the surface with Curiosity? Maybe you can’t afford a round-trip ticket to the Louvre and yet you’ll still be able to pace the hallways and admire the statues, paintings, and mosaics that litter the iconic museum. Innovation can bring forth the wonders of the world from the most remote parts of the world to those who might otherwise never get to see them, experience them in their grandeur.
And what can it do for stories?
When radio was still in its infancy, War of the Worlds was able to create a panic from utilizing its medium to its utmost. Television has been able to bring back to us the wondrous lives of those long-since deceased. So what does a new kind of screen do? Perspective and immersion. Imagine the creative liberty if you’re no longer responsible for trying to convince an audience of your universe but can physically place them there. An audiobook you can listen to while exploring the dark forests of Africa or perhaps a novel that can be read as though it were an e-reader while being surrounded by the flora, fauna, and sounds of some distant moon. We merely have to have the imagination and creativity to manipulate this medium as any other to bring out the emotions of our audience in a way that’s never been possible before.
Beyond this? That’s for us to decide. New ways to watch sporting events, 3D modeling and sculpting, and new ways of connecting to those very distant are all being discussed but it’s what we want to make it. We’ll be able to experience things in a much more personal manner, how can that medium suit our stories? How can it aid in our art?
Personally, I’ve always wanted to walk among the stars, under an unfamiliar night sky, and into some untold adventures.
But so much of this relies on one word: experience. No amount of words can give you the incomparable feeling of standing on a high rise or being immeasurably dwarfed by a dinosaur. It’s silly to think “How could I get scared of heights while a screen is strapped to my face?” But when your knees buckle and you hug your carpet for fear of falling, that’s when you realize what’s been created is more than just a screen.
It’s some kind of reality.