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.