APPENDIX: A Digression on Virtual RealityThose who have followed information technology for more than a decade—far
longer than I have been—might look at the title and subject of this book and simply roll their eyes: Another book about the alleged wonders of virtual reality
(VR). I’ve found that the mere mention of “virtual reality” to a scholarly audience
will sometimes get a collective groan. The difficult task I have in this section is to
explain to those jaded by the history of the official, scientific virtual reality
research paradigm why the emergence of virtual reality in the form of online
games is, actually, something you should neither roll your eyes at nor groan
about. In the course of doing this I’ll have to give my own brief assessment of traditional VR research, which will be hampered by the fact that I am not an expert
on traditional VR, but rather came into it through a completely different avenue,
that of games. Subject to the caveat of my limited expertise on this subject, I will
try to give a fair idea of what the research program of VR was trying to do, and
why that was a very different path from the path taken by online video games.Three basic reasons things are different now:
|1. ||The game version of VR focuses on communities, not individuals.|
|2. ||The game version of VR focuses on software, not hardware.|
|3. ||The game version of VR is being pulled by the commercial market, not pushed
by research labs.|
To see why these aspects of today’s game-based VR are significant, let’s go back
to the earlier paradigm. Beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, visionaries such as Ivan
Sutherland imagined that computers would be able to render sensations that
would seem real to their recipients. But because those sensations would be computer generated, they would be not “really real” but only “virtually real.” As computing technology advanced, these scientists began thinking of ways to use the
computer to create an artificial sensory environment that would fool the user into
believing that the environment actually was what it was only portraying. So, a
subject might have heavy goggles mounted on her head, with images of the
Martian landscape being beamed directly into her eyes; she might have her hand
in a wired glove-and-arm apparatus that transmitted her motions into the
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games.
Contributors: Edward Castronova - Author.
Publisher: University of Chicago Press.
Place of publication: Chicago.
Publication year: 2005.
Page number: 285.
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