I got some comments and messages from people complaining: “Ok there is a 3D wave, but i don’t see VR.” So… I thought I’d write expand on the topic a bit more. VR is definitely in the media and in the movies again. “But where?” – you might ask.
VR is back in Hollywood – but, as usual, it has advanced somewhat for the silver screen; its more high tech, looks cooler, and seems even more improbable. Hollywood needs that. If film makers wanna give the impression of something being futuristic they don’t tend to take a 10 year old laptop from the shelf, they mock it up in cardboard, spray paint, and green screen to make it look cool. They also attempt to predict future technology: “This is how it’s gonna evolve in XX years”. We call that Science Fiction. Let’s look at how hollywood has resurrected VR and pimped it for some recent movies – can you guess which ones?
Let’s start with the world’s new favorite – Avatar. The movie plays in the distant future, so they had to fluff the VR a lot to make it look truly evolved. In the movie Jake controls his “Avatar” through machinery that is not really explained much further, but it seems to be some sort of advanced VR cryo chamber. To sustain our suspension of disbelief in Cameron’s future (casual 90’s VR would have looked a bit old fashioned) the idea of Virtual Reality was extended so that our heros (and vicariously, the audience, through 3D) get full immersion complete with the impression of body feedback and movement. Maybe one day it will be feasible to “bypass” the nerves and instead of making one’s legs move, the nerve signals are rerouted to some computer which will accurately render your leg in 3D space. In Avatar it goes even one step further – taking VR from cyberspace back into reality – the controlled “Avatar” is – unlike in our current VR setups – taken back to reality, some kind of humanoid Robot moving through your neighborhood. In terms of overall credibility, the FilthyCritic sums up Avatar nicely.
The next movie could be Avatar 2 – judging from the vision of future VR portrayed – but it surprisingly is completely independent and has nothing to do with Avatar. Surprisingly the idea is exactly the same – lay down on an unexplained cryo chair and be able to fully control your robot’s body. “Surrogates” stars Bruce Willis who is hunting down the criminals that hacked in VR systems, changing their programs so that, if your robot dies, you also die in the non-virtual world… with considerable gore, blood streaming from your eyes and ears, and certainly ruining the VR headset forever.
The third movie is called “Gamer“. In this movie some rotten prisoners are altered by nanotech techniques so that someone else can take over their movements and see from their eyes. The person controlling the con-avatar is not wearing a VR headset – but instead, humorously using a CAVE – a quite uncommon form of VR where all walls of a room are turned into screens (Usually with multiple projectors), producing an excellent immersive 3D experience. The film’s vision goes even further: non-cons also “work” as willing VR slaves by their own choice, which seems a bit far off from today’s ethics.
To sum up, I’d say that Hollywood has not totally forgotten about VR, they’ve just advanced it a (tiny) bit.