London Technology Week kicked off yesterday, and today I attended a panel presentation called “Ready Player Two? Bringing virtual reality dreams to life“. Generally, the speakers talked about the possibilities of virtual reality from their perspectives: entertainment, philosophical, journalistic, and artistic.
One of the presenters talked about how virtual reality might affect gamers and game narrative. Another talked about the possible ethical considerations of interacting with others in virtual worlds. Another talked about newscasters reading the news in 3-dimensional space.
Really? is this the cutting edge of virtual reality that we should be getting excited about?
I left somewhat underwhelmed, despite the free wine, the discussion being about something I’m really interested in, and the subject itself that is just ripe for intellectually challenging discussion. There was something missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on what.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve used Second Life for as long as I have. Or, maybe the DraxFiles Radio Hour has spoiled me – with its weekly injection of thought-provoking guest perspectives from the exciting world of VR. With all due respect to the presenters at Ready Player Two, the talk just didn’t have the ooomph I was looking for.
When I got home, I was tweeting the above pic when I found Draxtor’s retweets of a new series of videos called “What Second Life Means to Me”, just released by Linden Lab, featuring both Xiola and Torley Linden, Strawberry Singh, Kaya Angel, Gentle Heron, and Draxtor Despres.
As I read the blog post and watched the videos (below), it dawned on me what was missing from the event I had just attended. Emotion! Stories! Actual cases of people using virtual reality to make the world (even their own) a better place!
I couldn’t help but reimagine the evening. I honestly wondered: Wouldn’t a dozen back-to-back episodes of the DraxFiles World Makers videos have done a better job at exciting the audience about what virtual reality can offer – today?
Perhaps the sponsors wouldn’t have been too happy with that idea. And of course, the world of VR extends well beyond the walls of Second Life.
Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder: Putting aside the headsets, the motion controllers and the VR demos for a moment – isn’t all this excitement about real people actually using virtual reality? Wouldn’t seeing how people use the tools at our disposal for communicating, for creating, and for healing help sell the future of what virtual reality might be about? Doesn’t what we’ve been doing – for over nearly 12 years now – have the potential to teach the world at large about this incredibly exciting new world of possibilities? Talk about really bringing virtual reality dreams to life!
As I considered the enormous job of spreading that message – I became a little daunted by the prospect. How can a few people make these great ideas stick, in the overwhelming cacophony of the peripheral – mainly dominated by large corporates intent on narrating our perception of what virtual reality is supposed to be about?
Of course, there’s plenty more to discuss about VR than just a few people’s positive experiences with this weird thing called Second Life. There are start-ups to run, markets to be penetrated, and worlds to be changed. But perhaps – and in this I think Draxtor has it right – it starts locally – right here, right now.
As the tech industry imagines what virtual reality can be, it would massively benefit from understanding the experiences of those who’ve made excellent use of virtual reality already – in its current form.