By Darren Whitham (@dazwhitham) on 28th November 2015
Imagine a time where being able to visit your ancient ancestors in VR is commonplace. A world where akin to Superman, we all have our own equivalent of his Fortress of Solitude.
I was chatting to my wife recently and we got onto the subject of her family tree, ancestors and what not. Unfortunately she couldn’t go back very far as she wasn’t sure and has no family to ask as her Mother passed away and her Father unfortunately has severe Alzheimer’s disease. This is a tragic condition causing sufferers confusion, forgetfulness and loss of memory. It’s a terrible illness that is very hard to come to terms with as you witness a person not only forget who their family is but also forget who they are themselves. As I say, it’s hard.
It was the next day, when I had been thinking of VR and how it will be used in ways that we perhaps had not thought of yet, when the thought struck me that VR technology could be used to fill in gaps such as this. I know, I know, so could writing this sort of thing down or charting a family tree but the thought I had seemed so much richer, so much more personal in fact to the point where it made me question if indeed this would be something people would want to do.
The thought I had was that if there was a service available that recorded you answering questions about your life, family, likes and dislikes etc. along with different mannerisms and answers to questions you believe you could be asked, then this could be stored as a virtual version of yourself, ready, when accessed, to give information when asked to future family or friends. A virtual you, preserved for posterity with as much of your personality stored within as you deemed appropriate upon creation.
As generations pass families could enter a Virtual Hall of Ancestors where they could engage with family going back all the way to when the process started and get (albeit virtual) one to one time and viewpoints from ages past.
Now, I can fully appreciate after offering up this idea, that to the nearest and dearest of a loved one who has left behind such a legacy, this kind of idea may be just to close to the bone and simply be too much to bear. However, for generations down the line and perhaps in time, it could be something people may want to explore.
It was then I started thinking I was morbid and weird for thinking up such odd uses of technology.
But then I started to think of the idea and it expanded to more than just a personal familial use of this tech. Surely it could be broadened to encompass galleries of famous people, the great and the good of both past and present. A huge repository where everybody would have access to one on one time with their inspirational heroes, historical figures, great politicians or authors preserved and delivered by the person in question. The prospect of tech opening up such a world truly excites me as I imagine such a future, a future in which we have history lessons where you can interview Henry VIII for example, or look around the Titanic before she sank (you can do this on Oculus Rift already).
Strangely, a few days after thinking of this I was doing my usual sift through the happenings of Internetland when I came across a video I found very interesting as it connected to this train of thought I had. The project called ‘Later That Same Life’ by Stoney Emshwiller is a genuine ‘time travel talk show’ in which Stoney at 18 years old planned ahead to interview his own self later on in life. To do this he recorded many questions and responses in readiness for the big discussion he would have with himself 38 years later at age 56. This was so strange to come across as I found it illustrated, to some degree what I was trying to get across with my VR people preservation idea. Take a look below, I hope you find it as fascinating as I do.
Obviously we won’t have the perfect VR experience overnight. It’s going to take time to refine, the tech will get smaller, better and cheaper. The developers are working away as we speak, creating, innovating and exploring this new dimension.
I’m sure new and exciting ways of harnessing this technology will be found, some will succeed and others will fall by the wayside as experiments into what fits VR best are undergone. It’s a thrilling time for us to watch the dawn of the technology and see it evolve.
This is merely just one facet. Imagine the application of this technology in education streams. I’ve mentioned History already but how about Biology, where you can peel away the human body right down to the skeleton and study every layer as you go (as HoloLens has demonstrated). Or learn an instrument sat side by side with a famous pianist of your choice.
I could go on, Surgeons could train in VR, you could view the house you want to buy in VR or even take tours of some of the world’s most beautiful homes.
These are just some of the exciting aspects I feel VR is going to bring us, it’s an exciting time indeed and that’s not even getting to the games…
Oh the games, I dearly hope that games and VR can dovetail to bring us some amazing new experiences and I’m confident they will. I firmly believe we stand on the edge of the next big thing in which the arrival of new applications in virtual reality and new genres opening up before us herald a time where fully realised virtual worlds and people will become commonplace to us all. We embark upon a journey from the brink of this new technology. Does it have the potential to change things as much as the internet has?
Time will tell.
If you want to hear more of Darren’s thoughts on this and many other, mainly gaming matters I bring this up on our Podcast Episode 24 – Please Fallout with GAME – No More Exclusives!