Imagine a time when you had to flip through books and papers, to figure out your itinerary for a trip overseas; where you went to libraries to search for your tour guides, and sought out the best answers to the best things to do from a book.
Now imagine you had an app that could do all that for you - and personalised to your every need, too. Better yet, imagine a world where you could travel without actually travelling - from the very comfort of your own homes. Would you do it? And would you want to know how?
Virtual Reality, aka 'VR', is defined as an "artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment". It's what we know in the form of video games too, and what many of us have grown up with on the screens of our computers. But imagine if instead of virtual worlds, we brought real places to your living rooms.
In today's fragmented virtual reality ecosystem, it's difficult to have an engaging experience despite the diverse amounts of content becoming available. Virtual reality is tricky - there's so much you can do with it. So much to the extent that we question how it even came about in the first place.
When we think about a world without the use of VR... We go back to where it all begun. That is the Internet and the creation of it. Whatever happened to all those years where we would actually spend so much time in our books, now replaced with our heads sunk in our desktops... Tapping away on our keyboards. Whatever happened to learning a proper language rather than shamelessly relying on Google translate? And whatever happened to actually talking to people instead of speaking in 'tweets', where if we tweeted all day in physicality, we would actually get sent to the psychiatric ward?
Blake Snow wrote about what life would look like without Internet, concluding that
"The hidden message is that if the only way to convincingly imagine a world without Internet is to imagine a world without civilisation, then to a first approximation, the Internet has become our civilisation."
Ridiculously strong words. And a very heavy message there.
We're living in a digital age in which any new piece of information is primarily poured into the internet, if not born in it already, before being committed to paper. The Internet is more than just a bunch of wires and servers. It is humanity's largest database that hosts human knowledge. And so, ironically,
"One important consequence of the shift to digital publishing is that it leads to a potential loss of knowledge." - Curt Rice, 2013
So what does this all mean in the grand scheme of things? Where does virtual reality fit into the equation?
If we consider how virtual reality is actually used, we think about the technology behind it - did you know there's a 360 degree Go Pro called the GoPro Omni that you can use to film footage for 360 degree videos? Did you also know that to order an Oculus Rift - the device you use to view virtual reality footage - it'll cost more than AUD$1,100? The prices we once searched for, for the best online travel deals, are now turning into budgets for new-age technology. Everyone's talking about getting the latest iPhone, or in this case, the coolest new gadget in town - the Oculus Rift. Experiencing the world will never be the same again.
It's a real dilemma for people like me who love my stay-home days almost as much as the feeling of being out there exploring the world and soaking in everything that it has to offer. I'm heavily entrenched in the belief that nothing replaces being there in physicality - the sights, sounds, and smells - even virtual reality (though that's not to say you can't convince me otherwise...!)
And as Brandon Griggs, CNN, writes,
"The idea is not that virtual travel will replace real-world travel, because nobody in the industry would go for that. Instead, the travel industry hopes that people who sample virtual snippets of alluring vacations - say, rafting the Grand Canyon or hiking the Great Wall of China - will be persuaded to splurge on the real thing."
Hmmmm, interesting food for thought. Well, what do you say? Does virtual reality help you experience places without the actual need to see them, or is it simply an instrument for you to decide whether or not to make the real trip?
Still comes down to The Ultimate Existential Question: Travel or Save Money?
If I gave you the chance to explore the world through virtual reality, and if you could see the world through 360 degree videos like these, would you still leave your home?
Leave us a thought below and let us know what you think!