Editorial: Virtual Reality- Sophocles to “Look At These!”

Sophocles_Morpheus
Virtual Reality, or VR as it’s becoming known, isn’t new. VR is as ancient as the human experience.

Reality is determined by our brains. This is what makes hallucinations possible. If reality was anchored to and inseparable from the world outside of our heads there could never be mental illness or confusion or probably art. There would only ever be what was in our physical world.

Our dreams are an alternate reality. Cats and dogs twitch and whine while humans kick-off our sheets and cry-out or laugh in the throes of unconsciousness. It’s not until we awaken that we re-connect to the concrete world.

When humans dwelt in caves we told stories of the great hunt and painted our walls with depictions of a reality not concrete to our current warm, safe environment. In this way, the charging buffalo depicted on rock were our first VR inventions. Neolithic man imagined himself in the painting as part of the adventure.

The ancient Greek dramatist Sophocles‘s works are an example of how the wall paintings evolved from simple depictions of the hunt to fictions and how the technology advanced from crushed-berry pigments to stone arenas containing re-enactments.

You want Virtual Reality? Think back to October 30, 1938 to what is undoubtedly the most impressive VR experience the world had ever known. The surroundings were real for everyone. Americans sitting down to an evening’s entertainment by the radio. There was nothing out of the ordinary. Until the Martians landed and suddenly you were in the story whether you liked it or not. War of the Worlds succeeded in convincing so many because it was merely sound. Television was not in anyone’s home yet.

After the reports of widespread panic caused by The Mercury Theater‘s broadcast of HG Wells’s War of the Worlds people became less gullible as it pertained to the media. Even now the mindset is one of cynicism and doubt so deeply ingrained that often people who witness actual violence online report it as faked.

But people are people. And people need their escape from the tedium of their lives. No matter how difficult the effects may be to achieve, we all crave the excitement of new and different experiences. That is why CinemaScope, Sensurround, and more recently again 3D have intrigued audiences at the movies.* We have always sought a virtual reality to supplant our own if even for short periods. Paintings are pretty but they do not transport as they did 10,000 years ago.

Are we now on the precipice of another advance in entertainment? Are we about to evolve another standard of immersion with Morpheus and with Oculus Rift?

I believe we are. We have been heading here for millennia. We have been heading here always. The keys to market saturation are simply comfort, price and perfect performance.

As long as it’s affordable, as comfortable as a baseball cap and doesn’t give anyone motion sickness eventually everyone will buy one. We could finally go into the painting.

*Less successful was John Waters’ Odorama. For his film Polyester in 1981, Waters had cards made with 10 scratch and sniff areas. Audiences scratched the corresponding number on the card to a flashing number on the screen. Number 1 was a rose. Later numbers included pizza, gasoline and flatulence.

Written by Keith Dunn-Fernández

Keith Dunn-Fernández

An actor/director and more lucratively an Administrative Assistant at a small paper company in NYC, Keith loves his games. And he loves to write. And he is a bit of a sarcasmo.

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  • John Davidson

    That was a great read Keith, very interesting perspective.