As a child I spent a lot of time reading, to this day I still settle down before bed with a book in one hand and a glass of milk in the other. One series I still fondly recall reading when I was younger were the Alex Rider books and the fictional world of espionage they took me to; at the time I wasn’t aware there was a set of James Bond books and naively thought only the films had carved out that legendary character.
As I sat reading I suddenly remembered one major plot device of the first Alex Rider book-the Stormbreaker programme. Essentially Stormbreaker is the virtual reality machine we all want, so immersive it makes PlayStation VR look like a piece of plastic strapped to your face, which I guess it essentially is. Anyhow, this got me pondering just exactly how technology and gaming could be drastically improved upon in the future, especially considering developers seem to be promoting VR to a higher standard than it being a fad that will die out.
Virtual reality isn’t an abstract concept in these modern times, both PlayStation VR and the Oculus Rift are paving the way for this department. But for the dreamers amongst us the technology is nowhere near its full potential, full emersion in to the game you’re playing hasn’t quite hit the sweet spot yet. The reality instead is that we must attach a box to our heads and some games can cause motion sickness amongst players, I myself being quite a sufferer in this area.
That’s not to say current attempts at VR aren’t a technological marvel, don’t get me wrong, yet for the sake of this article let’s just imagine that it’s finally here, some minimalistic peripheral or set up that allows us to fully immerse in a virtual world. We take a step forward and so does our character, have to jump out of the way of something or climb an obstacle? Well in this fictional future the virtual reality device will let you do just that!
Let’s consider the endless wonder and possibilities that we could experience through this medium of technology, kicking it off with gaming itself. Just imagine if we could step in to the shoes of Ratchet and Clank, soaring through space and exploring vast alien worlds that are even more colourful, vibrant and engrossing than they were to a chubby 6-year old. A grittier approach to space and its vast pool of secrets could be undertaken with the Mass Effect universe, just imagine standing beside a Krogan on the battlefield as the fate of the universe rests with you. Star Trek: Bridge Crew already goes some way in achieving these dreams and teases such potential.
Of course space would be a popular location for VR to take us, but let’s not forget we could experience equally immersive worlds and compelling narratives a little closer to home too. Picture yourself as the resident of a vault, engaging in conversation with other vault dwellers, or mounting horse and taking a pleasant canter through Tamriel (both of these examples are on the horizon but not to the full glory I’m on about) You could become a stealth master, the likes of Snake and Agent 47, or don the cowl of Batman for a quick brawl against Superman or Deathstroke. Whilst these are all franchises we know and love, there would also be entirely new and innovative games for us to indulge in, just the thought of that gets my excitement train chugging along.
However, as well as using VR to immerse ourselves in videogames, there are other, more educational or recreational purposes we could use such a technological wonder for. I’m not saying get rid of the school system and just have people plug themselves in to a virtual reality machine, but to incorporate it alongside traditional teaching could prove beneficial.
Take a history class for example, you could be given some information by your teacher about an event such as the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, jot down your notes and then hook up to your VR device and BOOM, you could all experience this historic battle as a class and properly engage with what your teacher has been explaining. It would be harrowing, but you could take a trip to Auschwitz or step aboard a reconstruction of the Titanic without ever having to leave the classroom.
Maybe you’re hoping for a career in medicine, the likes of surgeon simulator already exist but imagine the accuracy the future could hold. Training up a medical student could be made that little bit easier if there was a VR simulation readily available to help tutor them through the learning process. I’m in no way advocating VR over textbooks, watching surgery being performed, or psychically doing the surgery yourself on a cadaver or real-life patient, but just considering how VR could be used alongside all these methods to further train someone in the medical profession.
Science would likely blossom in to a school favourite subject, imagine being able to walk the Earth 65 million years ago to witness the dinosaurs first-hand, or dive into the depths of the ocean and swim alongside the aquatic life deep below. They say active learning can further push a child’s potential so why not use VR to do such a thing? You could study cells by having a VR program that lets you interact with them, virtually reconstructing the DNA model or creating chemicals without the risk of actually harming yourself and no need to rely on the materials to psychically exist, which for trickier formulas sees schools often not having the funding for to secure, and so students learning is restricted to burning crisps. Ours was at least.
Whether it be to have fun playing videogames or for slightly more educational purposes the thought of what VR may one day evolve in to is truly staggering. I’ve only scratched the surface of how mind-blowing I think VR has the potential to become, as I sit here writing this more and more ideas come to my mind, both for practical and entertainment purposes of VR, and the possibilities truly are astounding. This post, to make it concise, has only lightly touched upon the gaming and some educational aspects of VR that could blossom, and even then more so just some personal highlights that came to mind, there’s countless others and I could write thousands more words on what I want to see (maybe I will in several other posts), but for now I know one thing for certain- we’ve come a mighty long way from a dot on a screen, here’s hoping VR has a very bright future ahead indeed!