Virtual reality or simply VR is a technical term used to describe various types of computer simulated scenarios which simulate the real environment and also makes imaginary worlds look real. Most virtual reality experiences are visually transmitted and supported by sound and other sensory stimulations. Virtual reality is presently used in medicine, military training and gaming applications which have become very popular. This paper will identify the disadvantages attributed to virtual reality and compare them with the known advantages of this technology. We will establish whether the technology is beneficial to continue with the development of the technology or not.
Virtual reality is a technology that affords its users a virtual presence in a virtual place which appears to the senses as real. The technology works by creating telexistence and telepresence through computer input devices like keyboards, joysticks and a mouse (Durlach 247). Additional sensory support is provided through headphones and special eye wear. The VR programs are run by computers which are installed with special software to support the programs.
Virtual reality has created a new dimension of interaction on the computer. People can meet on the virtual world and create new relationships. VR users are therefore able to have a second life alongside their real lives. Today, VR is widely used in many professional fields where practice and precision is important such as the military and medical therapies. Despite its great potential, there have been concerns about its effect on human psychology and its effects on the ability of users to maintain healthy relationships in reality (Cafrey 11). There are legal issues surrounding the possibility of cybercrimes and the illegal activities which are not currently covered in law.
Virtual games accounts for the largest number of VR users. Many adults and children play these games without due regard for the possible side effects it may have on them. Parents consider these as mere games and not gateways to a whole new world of psychological issues (Durlach 93). Many gamers devote hours enjoying their virtual games at the expense of physical games or real social interactions. There is a great risk that children, who begin playing VR games at a tender age, may have difficulty living in the real world. They may experience great difficulty in making friends and building healthy relationships with the people around them. Additionally, they may find the real environment boring compared to the often magical world of VR.
People have been known to use VR to escape the realities of their lives. This is because virtual reality is more interesting. The experiences feel as real as those in real life without the physical pain or the consequences. Adults have been known to engage in fantasy world that involve sexual escapades they would not ordinarily engage in. Individuals use virtual reality to make up for any inadequacy they may have in their lives (Alexander 136).
Researchers have noted that individuals who spend most of their time using VR suffer from a condition known as isolation. This occurs when a person becomes far removed from the realities of life. These individuals become reliant on their virtual world experiences as opposed to those in their social interactions. With time, the social environment becomes hostile to them causing them to revert into seclusion, depression and disassociation.
Another psychological effect of VR is desensitization. This occurs when typical VR entertainment scenarios cloud the judgment of an individual regarding the consequences of their actions. VR games may involve a lot of violence and criminal activities which are not punishable. Unstable users may carry this into the real world where all violence and criminal activity is punishable by law (Alexander 140). This could result in reckless activity such as public shoot outs and crime sprees carried out by disturbed VR user.
The technical possibilities of virtual reality have helped soldiers and doctors to carry out complex simulations which would be risky in real life. Military personnel are able to simulate real battle situations in the comfort of the military training facilities. These simulations are designed to emulate real battle situations as closely as possible. This helps the soldiers to get a better perspective of what real battle situations may require from them. The problem is that excellent performance in VR simulations does not necessarily translate to success in the real situations. Real life lessons and experiences cannot be fully replaced with virtual realities. The lessons learnt in real life are more profound than those found in the virtual world.
The technology behind virtual reality is very expensive. Scientists are currently working to fine tune immersive VR technologies which will enhance the virtual experience by mimicking all the human senses. Existing technologies are still affected by poor picture and sound technology. There are also too many additional gadgets required for the virtual reality experience such as special goggles and headphones. The initial cost of acquiring a complete VR set is $20,000 which is prohibitive. A lot remains to be enhancing the VR experience and avail it at an affordable cost.
Despite all these challenges, VR could be used beneficially in many professional fields. Medical students can use virtual scenarios to carry out surgical operations without risking lives. Soldiers can be trained on the art of combat without costs involved with staged training combats. Doctors are currently using virtual reality to treat stoke patients especially during physical therapy. VR machines are used to measure their recovery progress.
Virtual reality has also become a formidable form of entertainment. Many families regularly play virtual games in their living rooms as part of family entertainment. These games have allowed many families to bond while having fun. Many children spend time playing these games therefore reducing the amount of time spent in the street where they could be negatively influenced. Popular games include Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii remote have entertained many people across the world. However, without proper supervision, these children could become social misfits with poor socialization skills.
The technology behind VR should definitely be developed because it has great potential for human benefit. As computer scientist fine tune this technology, psychologists, social scientists and legal experts should find possible solutions to the consequences of using VR technology. Psychologists will help to understand how VR causes desensitization and social isolation. Legal experts will have to find legal solutions to new legal concerns arising from the use of VR (Wankel, Charles & Shaun 12). Since there is great emotional involvement in VR there is a legal debate as to whether it is possible to suffer physical and emotional damage from experiences in the virtual world. These are only come of the issues that should be addressed as virtual reality technology becomes more available.
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