Thursday, January 09, 2003

Virtual Reality Shows

First we had MTV's Real World. Then it was CBS's Survivor. Other "Reality" Shows include The Mole, Big Brother, Boot Camp, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum (Oh, don't forget the oh-so mentally stimulating "The Osbournes"). I have no idea why these programs are so popular. I guess I'm just too elitist, but watching a microcosm of a bunch of college roommates living together is not my idea of fun. And in the Osbourne's case.....well, that speaks for itself.

I've been stuck on a theme of "Virtual" things being recreated from their real counterparts in the living world. With the 2003 Consumer and Electronics Show (CES) kicking off today, it only seems fair that we are being shown the next latest and greatest electronic goodies that any red-blooded male on this planet would drool over to get his hands on. That's why I can't understand women who say that they have a hard time finding gifts for their husbands/boyfriends. It's easy, just get him some neat electronics gadget that could be used in the next Bond film, and he'll be happy as hell. He might only 'play' with it for a few months, but he'll really appreciate it.

Now a company has come up with a "Virtual Reality" game that seems eerily similar to these reality shows. 'There'(who comes up with these names?) is an on-line interface where you can visit different 'locations' and interact with 3D representations of other people connected to the system. Its basically a huge chat room where you can see who you are talking to. However, they were smart enough to realize that the 'video phone' has failed to gain traction because no one wants to be seen how they look at home when they are looking 'comfortable'. Therefore you can create yourself to appear anyway you wish in the (always improving) still somewhat blocky 3D computer generated models.

So....

You're going to come home after a hard days work and get on your computer and go visit your 'virtual friends' and try to deal with other humans in the same way as if you went out and tried to socialize. So, 'There' is trying to duplicate life without actually having to go out and interact face-to-face with people.

The Sims by Electronic Arts is a similar type of game that is already available. Only in The Sims you have a goal, you get hungry, need energy, and your bladder even needs relieved. (I don't want to know if you can 'spy' on someone in the virtual toilet...) So you do things to 'take care' of your in-game goals.

'There' has none of this, it is just pure interaction. With a high-speed connection and fast enough computer you can even 'talk' to other 'people' in the 'game' (going to need a whole new lexicon to describe this type of society) rather than type out what you are saying.

I still don't get it. I'd rather go out and be with 'real' people, not some made-up technological facade of a person. If you can't relate to people in real life, how are you going to do it virtually? Why would you want to? Someone please explain it to me. The one person they talked to at the end of the article said he didn't want to get offline once he tried it.

Maybe this will move us towards the extinction of the human race. I've always told people that once we invent Star Trek type "Holodecks" its all over. If these things catch on, and are very profitable then it just might push companies to try to create Holodecks. Once you have the AI, and you can have anything you want on a whim, there will be no reason to interact with 'real' people, because you won't be able to tell the difference.

I am as far from a technophobe as you can get, I embrace new technology and all the wonders we've gained from it. But I prefer my online entertainment to be more on the fantasy-side, where I can do things that would normally be impossible in real-life. I hold nothing against people who enjoy these 'virtual societies', I just don't understand the draw.