VR is intended to simulate the real world by fooling your senses. And even in its relative infancy, it is able to do so to a significant degree.
My memories of places and visiting with friends on VRChat live along side my RL memories of those same things. That is significant because that sort of thing has never been the case before. Playing FPS games with friends didn’t do that. Socializing on Second Life didn’t do that. These other things have always produced memories in a distinctly different category from my real world memories. As if they were filed in a different section of a library.
But VRChat goes into the same section of my mental library as my real world memories do. That is, when I think about a place I’ve been or a discussion I had with a friend, I actually need to take an extra step to think “Wait… was that a real place or a place in VR?”
That distinction stands to become more and more blurred as VR technology progresses.
What is real?
That’s not actually a new concept with VR. When you go to Disneyland, you are surrounded by a fake environment. That’s not a real pirate ship. You are not actually under the ocean. You are not actually flying in space. Is VR actually any different? The underlying technology is different, but it’s still producing a fake environment around you that seems real.
In “normal” real life, how much of what is around you is also fake? We have furniture that appears to be real wood, but actually isn’t. We wear fake gemstones. If you really think about it, much of the environment around us is actually fake to varying degrees and in various ways unless you’re living wild in a forest or something.
Much of what we think of as real isn’t real. So is VR really so different?
I have come to think of my VR gear as something akin to a Star Trek “transporter”. I strap on my FBT pucks and teleport to a friend in Germany and another friend in the UK. I travel instantaneously. My friends are real. The environment is not. But does that really matter?
If these two friends and I were to travel and meet within Disneyland, the environment is again not real.
And maybe none of the environments we think of as actually real are truly real. We could already be in some sort of undetectable VR simulation ala The Matrix. And so your Pimax headset is VR within VR. Maybe we’re actually several levels of VR within VR deep.
It’s really mind warping the more you think about it all.
But at the end of the day, maybe it doesn’t really matter. The people are real. And the more that VR technology advances, the less it will matter whether the environment around them is real or not.