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As the futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted, somewhat hyperbolically, in 2003, “By the 2030s, virtual reality will be totally realistic and compelling and we will spend most of our time in virtual environments ...We will all become virtual humans.” In theory, such escapism is nothing new—as critics of increased TV, Internet, and smartphone usage will tell you—but as VR technology continues to blossom, the worlds that they generate will become increasingly realistic, as Kurzweil explained, creating a greater potential for overuse.Critics like Sherry Turkle often point to how screen-saturation has negatively affected the way we fulfill those needs, while others like David Carr have explored how virtual reality might only exacerbate the problem.
Groups like WOWaholics Anonymous have been created to help former players like van Cleave who became too invested in the game.
“It doesn’t mean that they can’t make our lives better; it means that we, as a culture, are no longer aware of them and of their positive effects on our lives, because we are so immersed in virtual life and have been for some time.” He compares this change to the one experienced by digital natives, whose perception of a healthy social life has been shaped by platforms like Facebook and Gchat.
VR’s advanced, immersive capabilities might bring more severe cases of social isolation to the public’s attention.
Despite mass media interest from publications like , the technology wasn’t there—or it was too expensive—and the audience was a tad too niche.
Save for some fruits of its early research, purchased in sum by Sun Microsystems, VPL’s sole legacy has been its popularization of the term “virtual reality.”Thirty years have passed since then, and the landscape has finally shifted in virtual reality’s favor.