The promise of virtual reality has intrigued science fiction writers for years. But the technology for VR has been rather disappointing. Until now, writes Wired. A headset called the Oculus Rift has gamers excited. But also movie makers and artists interested in new forms of story-telling:
What is known is that the ways that perspectives can change thanks to virtual reality are remarkable. Movies, as Roger Ebert said, are “like a machine that generates empathy.” If a person in a VR headset can experience a protagonist’s or antihero’s life first-hand, then the Rift actually becomes that machine. (The possibilities for documentaries seems particularly appealing; Oculus Rift is already being used by artists to “gender swap.”)
Artists love to talk about the importance of the live space – the theatre or concert hall or museum – and how it delivers a “better” experience. It’s an article of faith that usually goes unchallenged. But technology is creating more and more ways to have artistic experiences, not only competing with live events, but also changing the expectations of audiences.
Live and in person might have been better. Might still be better. But it’s worth asking why this is so and if it will necessarily continue to be so in the future. It’s not something that should be taken for granted. Staging live events is expensive, and orchestras and theatres struggle to support themselves as costs rise. Technology scales in a way that live art doesn’t.
As for competition for quality of experience, any football fan can tick off ways that watching the game on the big flat screen at home is preferable to actually buying a ticket to be there in person. Doesn’t mean they still don’t want to go. But you can bet the NFL is paying attention to how to build a better stadium experience.