Virtual Dejá Vu

Is “virtual reality” coming back into fashion? This technology involves replacing sensory input from the outside world with synthetic digital signals through goggles, ear plugs, gloves and similar. It was all the rage in the early Nineties and even inspired Hollywood blockbuster The Lawnmower Man. It has since been considered passé by most, even a joke at times. But recently, virtual reality – and its cousin “augmented reality” (adding to reality rather than replacing it) – is turning up in new places: digital spectacles like the Google Glass (augmented reality) and Oculus Rift (VR) have been in the spotlight of tech blogs and conferences recently. Today Netopia took part in a video games conference where the virtual reality game console Project Holodeck was featured and in an audience vote more than 9 out of 10 believed virtual reality will be the next hit technology for games.

American author Jaron Lanier is a favourite of Netopia’s for his insightful books on online economy, democracy and the influence of cloud computing on Western civilization. Ironically, he is also one of the early visionaries of virtual reality, is often called the “father of virtual reality” and is said to have inspired the scientist in The Lawnmower Man (played by Kyle MacLachlan). If the vote at today’s conference has any weight, it seems Lanier might have a point about this too.