Week 11 – VR Field Trip (due before March 28 at 9pm)

Now that you have experienced VR to some extent, what are your impressions? Which VR environment grabbed your attention and in what way? How would you respond to the points raised in the reading from Jaron Lanier (2017)? Here are some questions to guide your reflection:

  1. Why is the main joy of VR to think about it?
  2. What part of the body does VR extend?
  3. Comment on: “When we think technology can surpass our bodies in a comprehensive way, we are forgetting what we know about our bodies and physical reality” (p. 49).
  4. What kind of simulation does Lanier think VR is? (p. 51)
  5. What is “motion parallax” (p. 53)?
  6. How can VR be situated disciplinarily? (p. 54)
  7. Comment on: “Virtual reality is the technology that exposes you to yourself” (p. 55).
  8. How does VR compare to other new technologies? (p. 56)

Do you see a similar scenario to Black Mirror/S4E1 – “USS Callister” ever happening in the future? Why or why not? How would you compare your experience of VR to other film or literary representations?

Lanier, J. (2017). Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality. NY: Henry Holt and Company.

See additional readings in the VR Moodle folder.

4 Comments

  1. I had only experienced VR through a friend’s Google Cardboard a year or so ago, and as everyone knows, cardboard isn’t usually the best way to go about things, especially when technology is involved. My time spent at Arcadia VR was valuable seeing that if I hadn’t been exposed to the technology in that form I might’ve gone on thinking it wasn’t too great of a technology and that it was in its early stages of development (which it almost is when you think about it, which is crazy… It’s only going to get better, folks!). Oddly enough, the game that affected me the most was “Hold My Beer”, specifically the skateboard portion. It was the only game to actually make me feel like I was getting thrown around, which was a crazy experience having that happen the first time. VR extends the eyes, ears, and hands when looking from a high level, basic point of view. It really extends and tests your mind when you think about it, it’s really tricking your head into thinking you’re somewhere else, it’s a pretty powerful experience. Lanier thinks that VR is about “simulating neural expectations” (p. 51) which is something I can agree with. It calls on the brain to pull the whole picture together to make it more of an authentic experience instead of trying to replicate reality fully. The statement that “virtual reality is the technology that exposes you to yourself” (p. 55) is another statement that I agree with, seeing as that it really pulls on your brain and real reactions to get through whatever objective there is. You’re not playing the character anymore, you are the character.

    Lanier, J. (2017). Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality. NY: Henry Holt and Company.

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  2. This was my first time using actual VR devices and I was very excited to finally give it a try. My biggest concern was using the headset too long and getting headaches or dizziness. I was concerned because I had used Google Cardboard and after about an hour of using it i felt very ill, yes its lower cost but they follow the same design. However when using the headset for the time I used I never received this sensation and I felt i could have used it for hours without having a problem. When playing the games I knew I was in a padded room with nothing in it but me and the Vive but there was times where I unconsciously would try to lean on scenery
    or move around objects thinking they are actually there. That was the weirdest experience for me when my hand would just enter the scenery and I would remember i’m not actually in the VR world and and when that happened it’s of the circumstances that Lanier(pg. 49) brought up for us to realize that we are in a virtual reality. I definitely thought I wouldn’t become so immersed into the worlds created.

    In reference to Black Mirror/S4E1 – “USS Callister” and “When we think technology can surpass our bodies in a comprehensive way, we are forgetting what we know about our bodies and physical reality”(pg 49) I don’t see that kind of technology being created not only for level of technology needed but the ethical concern. I’m not sure if the society would be okay with technology being able to tap into the human brain on an ethical sense. As for the tech used in the episode it seems too far fetched to be able to work and work effectively seeing how impressive our bodies already are. Still however I think it would be very cool to have that tech and play games in a virtual work in my own brain or some other form of new VR.

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  3. Going into our VR experience I was a little nervous as I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was extremely indecisive about what game I wanted to play, so I decided to sit back and watch a few others play first, however seeing people’s movements and watching their games on screen didn’t prepare me for what happened when it was my turn. From the moment the Vive was placed on my head it felt like I had been teleported into another world. I could still hear noises from the real world, but my whole perception of where I was changed. Going in I thought I was going to be self-conscious about my movements, but I quickly lost awareness of everything around me and was completely immersed. in the VR world. As Lanier suggests, “our brains are not stuck in place; they’re remarkably adaptive. We are not fixed targets, but creative processes” (50). Experiencing VR really proves just how creative and adaptable our brains our, as even though you’re sure of where your body physically is in space, your mind and senses can place you somewhere entirely different. I think this is the closest we will ever get to being in two places at once.
    Originally I wanted to play a horror game, but that quickly changed when the tutorial made me realize just how real this was going to feel. As a lover of Left 4 Dead, I chose to play the zombie game Arizona Sunshine and luckily I was able to experience it in multiplayer mode with Luiz. It took a few minutes to get the hang of how to play, but I picked it up pretty quickly thanks to the incredibly helpful Arcadia staff member. In multiplayer mode, Luiz and I were able to communicate with each other and it really did feel like we were there. I think the multiplayer mode made the game way more enjoyable as it was fun to experience it and figure it out with another person. Surprisingly, I found out that I am actually better at shooting games in VR than I am on a console or computer.
    Lanier suggests that VR extends our minds, and this was made very clear to me in the last 10 minutes of our time at Arcadia when the staff talked me into trying out Ritchie’s Plank Experience. In the game you take an elevator up 80 stories and you are supposed to walk out onto a plank 160 meters in the air. I am terrified of heights, but knowing that I was in a room at Arcadia I thought I could handle it so I was completely unprepared for how real this felt and how terrified I became. As you begin to walk out onto the plank the wood begins to creak adding to the realistic effect. My heart was racing, my palms were sweating, and I was desperately searching for something to grab onto. I did make it to the end of the plank, but I was not able to jump off, as it all felt way to real. Lanier says, “the nervous system is holistic, so it chooses one external world at a time to believe in. A virtual reality system’s task is to sway the nervous system over a threshold so that the brain believes in the virtual world instead of the physical one for a while,” this game was successful in doing this, as even though I could hear people’s voices around me, my brain completely believed I was on a plank 80 stories up (54). Looking back I wish that I had walked off the edge so I could have had the full experience, but in the moment every instinct in my body was telling me not to do it and that just goes to show how immersive the VR experience really is. As Lanier says “VR is not about simulating reality… but about stimulating neural expectations,” and this game definitely did that (51).

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  4. I agree with Lanier’s claim that there will never be a perfect VR system (49). Last night was my first time using a VR headset, and I noticed a difference in how immersive it was at the beginning and how it changed as I continued to try the games. At first, when I started the tutorial, it was a bit overwhelming. I felt almost like I had been transported into a different place. But after some time, the weight of the headset, the limitations of movement, and the lack of peripheral vision became more apparent, and it began to feel much more like just playing a game. My experience is in line with Lanier’s claim that people adapt to improvements in VR and they will seem less real (49). I do not think that not being able to have perfect VR is a bad thing though. Realism should not necessarily be the main goal of virtual reality games. I am more interested in VR games that are fun and that use the medium to do things that are not possible in normal PC and console games. I think too much realism could even make the games less fun. For example, dodging bullets in Super Hot by leaning out of the way is a lot of fun, but I would not want to feel like a real bullet was heading towards my face.

    I am interested in Lanier’s idea that VR can be a tool for understanding our own consciousness (54-56), but I am a bit skeptical about it. His idea is that consciousness is a fixed point, while everything external can change (56), but this seems to apply to normal experience as well as VR. If I go for a walk in the forest, I will experience completely different sights and sounds than I do here typing in my room, but I will still have the same fixed point of consciousness. The external changes experienced in VR are much more extreme, so they might make this idea more apparent, but it is not clear what can be gained in this area from VR that was not possible without it. This is at the end of the chapter, which is the only part of the book I have right now. I hope this was leading into a chapter that explains this idea more.

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