The first time I put on a Virtual Reality helmet was 20 to 25 years ago.
That’s right, Virtual Reality isn’t new. The basic technology has been around for decades. But it is only in recent years that technology has improved this field to the point that the mind can believe it is real.
Back then, I remember it was during a trip to Genting Highlands. At the video arcade where I spent most of my time while my parents were at the casino, there was a booth promoting the latest technology of Virtual Reality. At that time, I was already wearing thick glasses because of my high astigmatism. The Virtual Reality helmet back then did not allow the use of glasses. In order to play the game, I had to take off my glasses.
I suppose that improved the graphics of the blocky pixelated game I played. But it also meant that I could not experience depth of field. So I didn’t have a good first experience with Virtual Reality. Or perhaps there was no depth of field to begin with. I never could tell.
For whatever reason, Virtual Reality didn’t catch on until recently.
A couple of weeks ago, I got the opportunity to try Virtual Reality in the 21st century. It was mind-blowing.
21st century Virtual Reality allows you to wear glasses inside the helmet. That was already a marked improvement. My good friend insisted I play a survival horror game. Gawd, it was so realistic and so freaky! I had to keep telling myself, “There is no monster here. It’s all in my mind. There’s nothing right in front of me.”
Besides seeing the gory monster face right in front of mine, the experience of walking into a dark and deserted house was so haunting. It was so freaky that I didn’t dare to go in even though there was nothing scary inside it. Just the atmosphere alone was enough to make me think that I was really the one entering.
The experience that really blew me away was a kiddy game. I forget the name of it, but I remember at one point, my character was supposed to go down a slide. I was sitting on a chair (in reality) when it happened. As my character came to a halt at the bottom of the slide, my body jerked. In my mind, I had experienced a real feeling of coming to a halt, even though my body was not moving at all.
I suppose it’s a little like how you can experience motion sickness while watching a movie such as Gravity. The scene tricks your mind into believing it is experiencing what you’re watching as reality.
There were other games where you could play a tank driver, a Godzilla monster, a power ranger, and even as Batman. Standing at the edge of a ledge, overlooking Gotham City was absolutely amazing.
We played video games from 10am to 6pm, as we usually do… as we have been doing since we were teenagers. After I left his home, I couldn’t stop thinking about Virtual Reality. The technology today allows you to put on a helmet and immerse yourself in a totally different environment. It is a matter of time before we can give our minds the experience of a Pathfinder on Mars, exploring a new planet from the comfort of our living room.
In time, technology will allow us not just to see and hear the world around us, but also to smell, taste and touch it. We may even be able to experience pain.
But what got me really thinking was this.
What if we are already living in a Virtual Reality world? And the means of experiencing the world is our physical body? What if we are actually just consciousness experiencing the world in a Virtual Reality machine that allows us to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch the world around us?
The game ends when our physical body can no longer function. When it stops functioning, we exit the game and find ourselves in the true Reality. We can then decide if we want to continue to play the game. Or maybe it’s already been decided for us, and we have to keep playing the game, downloading our consciousness into another body to continue the experience. What if the cycle repeats itself until we realise that the world around us is just a game?
Perhaps this is why Elon Musk says that …
The chance that we’re not living in an artificial simulation is one in billions.