Last month, Microsoft revealed Project Holo Lens, a headset that creates high-definition holograms, which has been secretly under development since around 2010, according to .Its thick, black lenses use an advanced depth camera, sensors, and several processing units to process thousands of bouncing light particles, in order to project holographic models on the kitchen counter, or take the wearer on a hyperrealistic trip to Mars.“To some degree, this has already happened with the Internet and social media,” Aboujaoude says, “where we can have a ‘full life’ [online] that can be quite removed from our own.” It is possible, however, that virtual reality may drastically change a person’s social and emotional needs over time.
Since the 1990s, the term display depressive and obsessive-compulsive tendencies, while a minority “appear addicted to the Internet.” Then there are the infamous World of Warcraft players who lose themselves in their massive online universe.
In 2004, Zhang Xiaoyi, a 13-year-old from China, reportedly committed suicide after playing Wo W for 36 consecutive hours, in order to “join the heroes of the game he worshipped.” In 2009, a three-year-old girl from New Mexico tragically passed away from malnutrition and dehydration; on the day of her death, her mother was said to have spent 15 hours playing the game.
The idea of a life lived online, or outside of regular society, is largely seen as dangerous and unhealthy.
There have been some reports of self-imposed social isolation that illustrate the negative side of withdrawal.
This technological paradigm shift brings a level of immersion unlike any that has come before it, and the handwringing has already begun.
Early doomsday predictions aside, can virtual escapism can ever be used for good?
Google has invested 2 million in the augmented-reality startup Magic Leap, while Sony and Samsung are both developing virtual-reality headsets, according to .
Much was made of Facebook's billion purchase of VR Kickstarter darling Oculus Rift last March, as Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that the company was playing the long game: “One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people.”, followed by a lunchtime spelunk through Thailand’s water caves.
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.
Aboujaoude notes that people who report much more fulfillment from virtual scenarios often have underlying conditions, such as untreated social anxiety, and those cases should not be taken lightly.