The goal of virtual reality is evidently to transport you into modified worlds that are either more visually appealing, exciting or horrifying than the real one. With an Oculus Rift we're tricking two out of five senses into thinking we're somewhere else (sight and hearing). But how do we immerse our selves 100% into virtual reality? Below I'll try to explain each part in detail and how far we've come. I'm going to skip sound in this post as it's very easy to replicate, and no further advances are really needed. Sight
- This is probably the most important sense to manipulate, and even though we've come very far, there are a lot of progress to be made. Most importantly higher resolution (16k+), wider FOV, and eye tracking. But also lighter HMD's that eventually could transition into bionic contact lenses, although this might take a while.Touch
- Full body haptic feedback suits like the Teslasuit are currently in development and will bring virtual reality to new heights. These suits would have to mimic all kind of touch sensations like heat, cold, wetness, vibration, breezes and feather light touches. Eventually the technology would have to expand beyond fabric suits into something you could really 'coat' your body with, like a conductive paste sprinkled with sensors to reach parts of the body otherwise not accessible, and I mean ALL the parts
. This could prove tricky for places like the the eyeballs or most importantly, the insides of your mouth (very important when simulating eating).Taste and smell
- Advances have been made and these senses seem quite easy to replicate artificially. Electrical stimulation and thermal changes can produce several major taste sensations like sweetness, saltiness, sourness, bitterness, mintyness and spiciness. Although the technology have to develop into something you could wear on your tongue comfortably. Regarding smell there is already a device called "FeelReal" that can produce 7 odors so far, attachable to the Oculus Rift DK2.
So lets say there's enough progress that we can artificially create all of these sensations using various technologies, will it feel exactly like reality? Sadly no. There are still other 'senses' like balance, acceleration, proprioception (position of the body parts), hunger, thirst, internal pain, nausea (why you would want those two I have no idea) and others that are near impossible to replicate with today's technology. The only way to influence these senses would be to surgically manipulate the brain, which we are very far from accomplishing.
Another aspect, and possibly the most important one, is how do we create worlds that are as believable as the real one? I'm not just talking about the visual part, but how do we overcome the boundaries of digital environments like everything having to be precisely coded and planned in advance? Firstly there'd have to be advancement on the AI field, with the outcome of our actions being randomized within certain boundaries. Interaction would have to be unpredictable yet logical, with reactions seeming real and not picked out of an array as the response that made the most sense. I believe quantum computing will eventually let us create 'real' humans in virtual space, but that might also take a while.In conclusion
, virtual reality has come a long way in the last ~25 years, mainly in the visual aspect and new technologies are emerging to make digital worlds seem even more real. I'm certain that humanity will eventually move into virtual space to never return, and that we've found the answer to the Fermi Paradox, but that's just me
I'm done rambling and would love to hear what other people have in mind regarding the future of Oculus Rift and virtual reality!