Virtual Realities And Associated Problems

Posted on October 18, 2011 in Health and Life

By Esha Vaish:

“Ryan”, I called out, as I dragged my 23 year old self to the fridge, gulping down my cold glass of water. Sasha, I went by that name, at least to Ryan my husband, a cardiologist with whom I had three children a parrot by the Nana. This was my virtual life… and I was a player of Second Life.

Boasting of over 10 million active users worldwide, a game known as Second Life amongst others such as World of Warcraft and DOTA have people spending over 20 hours a week in virtual realities. Virtual realities are stimulated existences within the boundaries of a re-created 3-D environment.

A sequence from Second Life, a game which lets users construct a virtual life.

In virtual realities, a banker can become a terrorist and a thief can assume the role of a policeman. People blindfold themselves to the real world and lurch headfirst into a labyrinth of fantasies that eventually consume the distinction between the real and virtual worlds. The danger is quite real as people increasingly depend on their illusionary ‘avatars’ over their real selves. In fact, as per prediction of American Futurologist Ray Kurzweil, within a quarter of a century virtual reality will rival the real world, perhaps eventually substituting it.

The physical impact of such realities may range from transient heterephoria, a type of eye condition in which the directions that the eyes are pointing are not consistent with each other; to muscle imbalance in users’ eyes. Furthermore, forging such alien associations with illusionary characters can leave a definite long-lasting impact on the players, leaving the person with simulation sickness. The illusion of motion created in the virtual world, combined with the lack of actual motion results in nausea and vomiting.

The perceived dangers of virtual reality are colossal. However, the true danger lies in the lack of awareness of individuals towards these disorders. Just like a cigarette packet comes with a warning, such games must also warn the players of the problems that can arise.