Loss of Human Touch

On one hand we need to look at how close virtual reality (VR) can come to being the same as the physical world or an authentic experience. And on the other hand we need to look at the ways that VR can enhance the human touch, like the visualizations of an architect or the experiences students have through VR that are impossible in the real world. VR is currently a rarity, not in the sense that there are only a few products, but in the sense that not too many consumers have purchased them. However we should be ready for a huge surge in the purchase and sale of VR devices according to a prediction made by Forrester.

Virtual reality is known for taking a user to an imaginary realistic world with goggles. Augmented reality (AR), meanwhile, is known for allowing a user to see and interact with imaginary things in real life through a device.

The video (mature content) above describes and displays how a device can allow you to experience the physical connection of being the opposite sex. The human touch is mutual between the two users. Each action is taken with caution and the view is in the goggles of the opposite user. This gives the users the true perspective of the physical attributes of being a male or female. This human touch experiment provides the opposite user empathy for the opposite sex as well as enlightenment. Not only are you seeing out of their eyes, but you are given the illusion of touching what they touch. You ultimately become someone else for some time and learn about the other person quite quickly.

There is no doubt that advancements in virtual reality have changed the way we behave. VR has made us more connected, informed, educated, and aware of disruptive innovation. Sounds like a good thing right? But what about human touch? What about in-person connectivity and social interaction? Is that lost forever? Are we developing into a society that no longer possesses skills for real life relationships? Oculus creator Palmer Luckey says if you can perfectly simulate reality, why do you need to actually go see people in real life? In our lives we exhibit emotions, hold relationships with others, play, fight, and so on. We each play a role in each other’s lives. Throughout our lives we have learned social values, morals, and actions. We learn what is socially acceptable, and how to behave. We are now faced with a challenge. If we adapt virtual reality into our lives, how will human touch last?

It is quite possible that the concept of human touch will evolve. While physical touch may become more obsolete, other methods of ‘touching’ people could become more emphasized with VR and AR. For instance, a California startup has developed Altspace VR, a social platform for people to connect with each other in a more personal way than, say, a group chat. According to this article by Virtual Reality Reporter, using a virtual platform like this that is unbound by physical reality allows people to be more imaginative and specific in how they create and share meaning with one another.

Additionally, AR technologies such as the Meta 2 are groundbreaking in that they allow people to collaborate in both a physical and virtual reality simultaneously. In the first few minutes of his TED Talk, Meron Gribetz explains how our currently integrated technologies (smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc.) can still create a disconnect between human interaction. We hear it all the time; many people argue that people are becoming less sociable because of technology. But, according to Gribetz, AR is designed to enhance human interaction and capabilities.

How will this affect the visual arts, which are currently and primarily physical representations of things? Will the arts become overshadowed by fascinations in digital expression, or will the delicate, flawed stroke from a human hand on a muddy canvas become all the more precious? Or perhaps the potential scarcity of physical human touch will become all the more valuable? With the integration of VR we will be able to take more risks with less fear of their consequences – after all, regardless of what happens in virtual reality, our physical body is safe. That being said, will we develop a deeper appreciation for pain and the lessons it teaches us?

The implications of VR and AR’s effect on human touch are huge, while the underlying question remains; can VR and AR replace the interactions that humans have with one another and/or replace the interaction that we have with nature? This article from GameSpot.com puts it very well; the author says that he enjoys speaking to people face to face, and enjoys spending time outdoors in nature. However the author then questions, similar to Luckey, why these authentic experiences would be different from the same experience in VR or AR if they become indistinguishable. It frightens people when reality is replaced with a virtual form. For example, in the Disney Pixar movie Wall-E, humans develop a lazy mentality to a point where they have replaced basic human abilities with virtual technology. This prediction seems dramatic and unfounded, but many people have a similar fear that the human race will become even more lazy than we already are because of this technology. The bottom line is that we shouldn’t expect the human touch to go away anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean that it may slowly be replaced by virtual experiences.

1 thought on “Loss of Human Touch

  1. kaitlyn healy

    Human Touch, are we losing touch with ourselves and where are e heading with all of this new found technology. Personally before I read this article I truly believed that society learned how to become “unsocial”. Yes I text, message on social media, and at times lose myself in my own little rectangular world but the truth is I try to make it a point to talk to people. I want to be a people person and not be socially awkward because I was brought up in a generation where it is easy to communicate with a keyboard than a voice box. In this article, Loss of Human Touch by Allison Yashay we can see that we are moving in the direction of reality becoming virtual but is reality becoming less human?

    I’m trying to look at this from both sides, one being that technology is making a society of people who cannot communicate and develop relationships with a human touch, and the other side that perhaps technology can help people develop better relationships and understand each other better. The video of the two people who did a virtual body swoop was interesting in seeing yourself in someone else’s body and perhaps understanding each other on a more intimate way.
    Overall I believe that the future technology including virtual reality and augmented reality still create a environment that loses the human touch. I thought it was funny when we were in class one day and someone’s phone rang and Professor Shannon said to the student’s mother that she was impeding on his time. I thought to myself this is exactly what is happening to our society, we are letting technology get in the way of so many things and experiences. Can you imagine if the student took the phone call, I’m glad it didn’t happen but truth is our generation doesn’t think its inappropriate because we are programed to let this technology control our lives. I remember being in places like doctors offices or any offices where there used to be signs that said no cell phone use. Think how rare that is now, it’s like we have given up on what is socially acceptable and made new rules, we gave up on what seemed right at the time. After I read this article I went to the café and I watched people for a few minutes and guess what everyone, I men everyone was on their phone. They could be alone or in a group, it did not matter they were consumed. Are we losing human touch? Of course we are. At the end of this article was a TED talk by a neuro scientist from Columbia University who made good points. First he said that he had a moment years ago in a bar with a fellow student who he was having a exciting conversation with about computers and just when they were getting to the exciting part of the conversation the colleague received a text message and he started reading it and said to the speaker to just continue, as if multi tasking was going to make the interruption better. At the same bar the speaker noticed a group of people who were sharing pictures on Instagram and the entire group was laughing and enjoying the technology together. Is point how could the same technology make one person feel one way or another person feel something completely different. At that point he introduced the VR device he was promoting and his point was that this type of VR would bring people together to collaborate on ideas and learning , and truth s after seeing his presentation he was right. Truth is there are good and bad point to technology but pretty soon we are not going to have basic computer classes in middle school, we re going to classes on how to socialize in the 21st century.


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