Essay on Benefits and Dangers of Virtual Reality

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Benefits and Dangers of Virtual Reality


Although still in its, infancy, virtual reality will have a substantial effect on our future way of life. Virtual reality already has made astounding progress in the world of commercial design, and it is predicted to have a tremendous impact on everyday life as well. Virtual reality, when more available, will have various uses ranging from recreation to basic communication. The applications of virtual reality into different fields of occupations and research will have both positive and negative effects on our society.

Virtual reality can be defined as a, "technology that enables users to enter computer generated worlds and interface with them three dimensionally through sight, sound, and touch" (Newquist 93). Virtual reality combines computer simulation and visualization into a single, coherent whole (Peterson 8). Researchers say it embodies an attempt to eliminate the traditional distinction between the user and the machine. Virtual reality is intended to provide a means of naturally and intelligently interacting with information (8). Virtual reality is contending to be the interface of the future, allowing ordinary users to use their senses to interact with complex data.

Virtual reality is a new exploration in science and technology using advanced and complex mechanics. Virtual reality allows for users to go far beyond simply looking at a computer screen. Instead, the user puts on a special suit or gloves equipped with fiber-optic sensors. These fiber-optic sensors are able to interpret body positions. The user also wears special goggles that have video screens and audio attachments. This equipment allows for the user's complete immersion into a 3-D, computer generated, model of reality (Carr 37). The use of a two-way data transfer is what enables this interaction with an alternate reality to occur. Fiber-optic and electronic cables are attached to the virtual reality equipment in order to record the user's movements (Newquist 93). These cables then send this information, called motion data, to workstations which modifies the graphics in the model. The new information is then sent back to the users headset, displaying a graphic and audio world that is time with his or her movements. It is because of this cabling process that the action/reaction information is continually updated (93).

In order to effectively create a 3-D environment for the user, virtual reality combines the elements of immersion and interactivity. Immersion is the user's contact with the virtual reality with as many senses as possible including; sight, hearing, and touch.

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The degree of an individual's immersion into an alternate world depends on how many senses are in contact with the virtual reality equipment. Interactivity includes the concept that the user can move around, touch things, and talk in this virtual environment (Carr 39). Together these factors make possible the effect of a completely realistic atmosphere.

Virtual reality has reached far beyond the interest of only computer scientists and engineers. It has also peaked interest in many other fields including; communication and telecommunication industrialists, artists, the entertainment industry, the medical field, the military, and major businesses and industries. While once believed to excel in mainly forms of entertainment, namely high-tech video games, virtual reality is rapidly becoming an advanced means for communication. Virtual reality technology allows for users to observe and access information in a number of ways. It is this aspect that is increasingly appealing to large businesses and corporations. Virtual reality, once perfected, will have widespread use in these particular fields.

Almost all advances in technology have an impact on society at large, and virtual reality is definitely one of them. Virtual reality will have major effects, both positive and negative, on our society in the future. While presently only in the beginning stages, virtual reality could change our future way of life drastically.

Some of the positive implications of virtual reality will be used in order to prevent mistake or practice trial and error. For example, in the medical field simulated surgery would serve in the training of new doctors and medical students. Experimentation with new procedures on simulated patients could become possible as well. In the military the use of flight simulators has been a practice for years. The use of virtual reality would provide even more advanced, realistic situations for military training in flight as well as in combat. Virtual reality in businesses and corporations would provide tremendous means of communication and equal access to data. For example, rather than search through file cabinets on a computer desktop, the user will be able to actually open the file drawers and flip through the files his or her self (Carr 40).

There are also several drawbacks to this technological advance and its foretold widespread incorporation into our society. The present cost and the complications with the virtual reality equipment are two of the main negatives facing scientists. For example, the head set sometimes cannot keep up with the natural movements of the user's head. The issue of dehumanization in our society is a another negative aspect. It is essential to our existence that we maintain a humanistic mindset and not become overrun by a technology immersed world. Virtual reality, if as widespread as predicted, could result in a significant decrease in human interaction in the real world. It's advantageous for building stronger companies and so on; but what will our society turn into if everyone is walking around in goggles and gloves pretending they are somewhere that doesn't even exist?

In addition, virtual reality defeats the traditional view that fantasy is unattainable. In a way fantasy and what we cannot obtain is intrinsic to our existence. People may begin to spend more and more time in their preferred "virtual or fantasy world" and less time in reality. One researcher says that if, "people eventually use virtual reality technology for the same amount of time that they spend watching TV and using computers, some users could end up spending more than twenty years inside virtual reality" (Biocca 14). If we begin to lose our hold on distinguishing between fantasy and reality, our entire world will become uncertain. While virtual reality is a colossal accomplishment in the science world, there must be some limitations on its incorporation into our society.

Works Cited

Biocca, Frank. "Communicating Within Virtual Reality: Creating a Space for Research." Journal forCommunication 42.4 (1992): 5-22.

Carr, Clay. "Is Virtual Reality Virtually Here?" Trainingand Development 46.10 (1992): 36-41.

Newquist, Harvey P. "Virtual Reality's Commercial Reality." Computerworld 30 March 1992: 93-95.

Peterson, Ivars. "Looking Glass Worlds." Science News 4 January 1992: 8-10.


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