How Advances in Virtual Reality Technology Can Help Reshape Actual Reality

By Beecher Tuttle April 13, 2011

The concept of virtual reality is no longer a pipe dream. In fact, this emerging technology has progressed beyond entertainment mediums – like 3D movies and video games – and has slowly become a significant part of our everyday lives.

In their new book, titled "Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution," authors Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson take an introspective look at how virtual reality is helping to reshape the way we look at ourselves and the manner in which we view others upon returning to actual reality.

As explained in the blog Big Think, the book details how physical and virtual reality will eventually blend into a hybrid state. The pair looks at the emergence of virtual reality both from a technological point of view and as psychologists.

"We are going to tell you how the technology works, where it is going in the future and exactly what happens in the brain when you are having a virtual experience compared to when you are having a physical one," noted Bailenson, founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. "This book is about how virtual reality affects the mind, and how it affects society."

Blascovich and Bailenson also discuss how 3-D conferences with avatars may soon become acceptable forms of communication in both academic and business settings. The psychologists told the New York Times that three consumer-based technological developments within the last year will eventually help avatar meetings go mainstream. These events include the launching of the Microsoft Kinect, the introduction of the Nintendo 3DS gaming console and the Watson computer's recent victory over human Jeopardy contestants.

"These three events have been paradigm-shifting for avatar conferences," Bailenson told the Times. "The technology is finally ready for the living room and the cubicle."

The authors believe that these technological advancements will eventually lead to virtual conference table meetings where people interact with each other via computer-generated avatars. Blascovich said that this technology could replace video conferences, which people tend not to like because they make them feel like they are contestants in "Hollywood Squares."

The book also takes a look at other examples of virtual reality, and how they are contributing to a change in culture.

Beecher Tuttle is a TechZone360 contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Janice McDuffee

TechZone360 Contributor

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