Isn’t it crazy to think that virtual reality is slowly becoming an actual reality?! It seems like something that was only ever dreamt about on TV shows from the 90s, and yet here we are, although not without some concerns!
Code of Conduct
Thanks to the warnings given to us by various virtual reality-themed films, a group of German researchers have decided to risk assess the new technology and create a “code of conduct” ahead of virtual reality becoming more commonplace.
Currently, VR is only used for gaming and entertainment – most popularly platforms such as Google Glass and the Oculus Rift, the latter being very popular with Youtube gamers including Hank Green. Although playing games with an odd-looking device strapped to your head may seem harmless enough, the potential risks of such devices cannot be understated.
Immersing oneself into a “virtual” world that feels hyperreal, has the potential to leave longer-lasting psychological effects, particularly environments that involve horror or even virtual torture. As seen in the small number of Oculus Rift gaming videos on Youtube, even horror games with very low graphics have the potential to cause distress and the quality of these games is only going to increase as the platform grows.
Potential Issues and Risks
Even within the world of non-horror gaming, concerns have been raised. For example, hotly anticipated VR game EVE:Valkyrie encourages players to backstab and exploit one another – would a game like this negatively influence behaviour in real life? With research suggesting that the current gaming culture encourages violence in the real world, it could be safe to assume that a similar effect, if not more so, would exist in the world of VR gaming.
It is important that users are well-informed of the risks that could be associated with virtual reality and that they understand that experiences that happen within a virtual world, are likely to feel just as intense as the real world – as is really the purpose. There is a real risk that users would go into the virtual world, underestimating the realism and therefore exposing themselves to things that they may not have been expecting.
As with all things online – sex and porn is likely to be a huge part of the VR world, and it will be important to see how this is managed and regulated in certain situations. Is having sex with someone taboo in VR still an issue? What about virtual sex with someone other than your spouse – is it still cheating if it was only in virtual reality?
Where Are the Lines?
The code of conduct that the researchers have developed also touches on the use of avatars and online personalities in regards to personal privacy, something which is likely to complicate the way we interact with one another, and even create a whole new world of cyber crimes.
Virtual reality has the potential to be amazing – it will change the way we experience everyday life – however there is also the very real, and a little terrifying, chance that it could become a force for evil (sort of!).