Distinguishing Reality from Virtual Reality: The Danger of the Rise of VR in Film
Wouldn't it be cool to be your favorite movie character? Soon, your daydreams of hunting down the Lost Arc as Indiana Jones or dodging Xenomorphs as Ripley could become a reality. Or at least a virtual reality.
Virtual reality used to be relegated to the realm of science fiction, but due to technological advances, we are coming closer and closer to this immersive form of entertainment becoming available for the masses, not only in the soon-to-be booming VR gaming world, but in the movie industry as well.
This year marked the premiere of the Kaleidoscope VR Film Festival, where virtual reality filmmakers showcased their work. On October 21st, Video Marc Dorcel, a French adult film production company, will launch the first virtual reality pornography film. This year's Sundance Film Festival featured a three-minute, three-dimensional VR experience called "Wild: The Experience," based on the Oscar-nominated film starring Reese Witherspoon. It's very possible that it won't be long before we have the type of experience described by Ernest Cline in the hit sci-fi novel Ready Player One, where protagonist Wade Watts takes on Matthew Broderick's role in War Games, using VR to actually live through his favorite films as his favorite film characters.
Virtual reality in film seems fun and exciting, and I for one can't wait to be Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill, but there are some concerns to keep in mind while exploring the possibilities of this technology:
In the above video, Jayde Lovell of SciQ describes how virtual reality could create difficulties for the quarter of our population that lacks a paracingulate sulcus, or PCS, a brain folding variation that helps us distinguish what is real from what is imagined. In a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, 53 volunteers were either given a common word pair (e.g. Laurel and Hardy) or the first word and a question mark (e.g. Laurel and ?) and asked to imagine the second word. They then either said the word out loud or listened to an experimenter say the word. Later, they were asked to remember if they had seen or imagined the second word, as well as whether they had said the word or heard the experimenter say it. The participants without a PCS gave answers significantly less accurate than those with the fold, though all participants believed that they had a good memory.
Failing to remember who said what or whether a word was imagined or read does not seem to be a very big deal, but according to some scientists, a lack of PCS coupled with a rise in virtual reality options could be more troublesome.
As Lovell points out in her video, situations could arise that are similar to the plot of Total Recall¸ where virtual reality experiences are confused with real-life memories. You could go to the VR movies and come out believing that you had a quirky romantic history full of flirty anonymous emails with Meg Ryan. Or in my case, I could go to indulge in one of my favorite Tarantino flicks and come out with a vendetta and an urge to kill Bill. (Which, frankly, sounds pretty awesome, but I digress.) If we're not careful about the rise of VR technology in film, we could be in danger of a full-on Matrix situation, in which we are no longer able to distinguish reality from virtual reality.