Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Virtual Reality Gets More Real

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Virtual Reality Gets More Real

Article excerpt

Oculus Rift sounds as if it's a science fiction robot that morphs into a snazzy car. Instead it's the best-known name emerging so far in a new area of technology that lies just this side of science fiction.

Virtual reality (VR) claims to be more than just another advance in entertainment or education or business communication. It plans to be a whole new version of "reality."

By wearing bulky, wrap-around dark glasses (the user looks pretty nerdy), people can intensely experience two powerful human senses, sight and sound.

What will they see and hear? Video game players might undertake incredibly realistic adventures as the action surrounds them 360 degrees. Or students might "virtually" visit the Pyramids or an art museum half a world away. Sports fans could view a big game as though they're sitting right on the sidelines. Business people in distant cities could meet "in person" with a sense of realism and "presence" that would make today's video conferencing seem dull and archaic.

And what if news viewers could be taken by VR to the site of a Syrian refugee camp and allowed to tour it on their own? Might that change how they feel about the refugees' plight?

Oculus Rift, which Facebook bought for $2 billion in 2014, has just announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that its VR product will be available later this spring for $599. That's if you already own a very powerful computer that can run it. Otherwise, figure on spending another $1,200 or so.

That price would seem to scare off all but the earliest adopters. But cheaper versions of VR (though not as powerful) already exist, and prices for electronics traditionally fall quickly.

Skeptics still wonder about all the fuss. Less than three years ago Google Glass promised to be a revolutionary new "wearable" technology, and now Google apparently has quietly hid the glasses away in a dusty closet somewhere hoping they'll be forgotten.

But filmmaker Chris Milk, who is already producing VR documentaries, says that sooner or later VR is going to produce some profound ethical debates. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.