“I was there, and I wasn’t there.
I was in two places at the same time, and wasn’t anywhere at all”.
This was one of TEDxVienna’s “Future of Intimacy” participant’s reaction to the virtual reality experience that was made accessible at one of the interactive stations.
This is crazy.
And this is Virtual Reality.
But why go VR?
Place illusion, plausibility and virtual body ownership* : Those are the components that make VR…that freaking awesome.
Research has shown that first, human beings are capable of being both conscious of their true and their virtual surroundings. To be in the virtual reality, or not to be: While experiencing VR, you can be both thanks to the dual way of understanding and perceiving different environments at once.
Second, it is the plausibility, the potential that the scene with all its responses and interactions might be true, that overwhelms VR enthusiasts.
But apart from the environmental factors, what is it about VR that takes our breath away?
The answer is simple: first-person experience.
Because when experiencing VR, you own the virtual body. And yes, you know this is not your arm, your foot, your hand, and yes, your brain still perceives it as yours. In a plain, and still astonishing way, VR shows that the human mind is not bound by its physical nature.
Virtual reality as a field of public interest
Ever since the invention of the Telesphere Mask in the 60ies – the very first model of a head-mounted display- Virtual reality has risen to a field of enormous public interest. VR has already invaded various scientific fields, from the IT branch to the social sciences. In particular, VR lovers in Academia have already set up a new model of media history.
In the beginning, there was the analogue world. Digitalization followed.
And then, experience and emersion came and blew up everything society knew about media and communications.
In fact, there are already amazing immersive journalism projects out there, offering the reader a first-experience in terms of news coverage and reporting. Nepal: After the Earthquake and Huffington Post’s immersive journalism project RYOT are two significant examples which offer people an innovative way of news consumption.
Virtual reality holds great potential for various markets and industries such as tourism, entertainment and science, too. Who wouldn’t be thrilled by the idea of eye witnessing a historical battle, a crucial political decision, the construction of the Seven Wonders of the World? But VR can be much more intimate than you think.
Virtual reality as a personal experience
It is not only history that can comes alive thanks to virtual reality technology. VR is also highly likely to impact human relationships in the very present, too. The TEDxVienna conference on the Future of Intimacy discussed how virtual reality can strengthen friendships and romantic relationships by bringing together people who otherwise would have never been able to experience each other in a first-person perception.
This means, one just needs to put on the headset and surrender oneself to the virtual surroundings. The hardware is designed in a way to give you a 3D impression via the stereoscopic display, which enables the images to change according to your perspective. The visuals get even more real by adding sound stimuli and interactive elements to the experience. Therefore, this technology might prove itself a helpful tool in specific cases such as long-distance relationships.
Freeing intimate moments from the boundary of physical presence: This is why TEDxVienna called the floor open for discussion by engaging its participants with innovative experiences such as VR porn and teledildonics.
It is your turn!
As a stage for technological breakthroughs and ideas worth spreading, TEDxVienna does not hesitate to experiment with innovative and provocative projects. After 3D-printing and the first virtual reality meet up in Vienna, VR was also present at our last conference. And it might also stay in the long term: Even though TEDx conferences are biannual, we decided to provide you with some VR experience for your home.
Together with VRisch, we produced 360º videos during the Future of Intimacy conference for you.
And since TEDx aims for democratization of information, these videos are freely available on Youtube. It can be enjoyed as a video in your browser – use Chrome and move your mouse up and down. Or as a VR experience via any smartphone-based headset – use Google Cardboard/Samsung Gear VR and go on the “Cardboard Icon” at the bottom of the video.
Photo credits to TJ Photography and Philipp Schwarz
* de la Pena et.al, 2014, 294