Skip to Content

Should We Vacation in Virtual Reality?

Could VR let us swim with penguins in Antarctica? Sure, but the best experiences may be those that don’t try to copy reality.
February 26, 2016

Virtual reality could, among many other things, be a great way for all kinds of people to experience things they might not be able to afford in reality, such as fancy vacations to far-flung destinations.

As a piece this week in Wired points out, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey and chief technology officer John Carmack have gone so far as to refer to a “moral imperative” to create an accessible alternative reality.

You would, of course, have to convince people to strap on a virtual-reality headset in the first place. But the author of the piece, Wagner James Au, notes that while living in Beijing he noticed people who seemed obsessed with escaping the crowds and smog of the city for 3-D fantasy games played on their phones or in Internet cafes.

That could lead to another problem: people becoming so entranced by their virtual lives that they don’t spend enough time engaging in their real ones.

So how to balance the fun escape that virtual reality may provide with a world like that depicted in the book Ready Player One, where VR serves largely as the setting for people's actual lives?

For now at least, it’s a bit premature to worry about making the imagery and experiences within virtual reality mimic real life or depict idealized versions of it. Without a host of other technologies to mimic things like touch, smell, and even taste, it’ll be hard for such experiences to truly take the place of the real thing.

Like the smartphone, virtual reality presents a whole new template for interactions—one that can be totally immersive, if done right. And as with the smartphone, it’s highly unlikely at this stage that anyone’s vision for it will come close to predicting the things—good and bad—that people ultimately do with it.

(Read more: Wired, “Facebook’s Oculus Says Gaming Is Just One Thing You’ll Do in Virtual Reality”)

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A view of clouds illuminated by sunlight
A view of clouds illuminated by sunlight

We can’t afford to stop solar geoengineering research

It is the wrong time to take this strategy for combating climate change off the table.

conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned
conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned

A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click

Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.

Death and Jeff Bezos
Death and Jeff Bezos

Meet Altos Labs, Silicon Valley’s latest wild bet on living forever

Funders of a deep-pocketed new "rejuvenation" startup are said to include Jeff Bezos and Yuri Milner.

ai learning to multitask concept
ai learning to multitask concept

Meta’s new learning algorithm can teach AI to multi-task

The single technique for teaching neural networks multiple skills is a step towards general-purpose AI.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.