Virtual Reality has grown in leaps and bounds since the release of consumer level HMD’s such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive back in 2016. Since then we’ve seen the technology move forward and improve upon itself in all the expected ways, and one of the most desired improvements is size.
As headset technology shrinks and becomes more affordable the potential audience for VR grows. Truely, It will not be long before we can have a modern VR experience in a device no bigger than a pair of swimming goggles or sunglasses with headsets situated in every room in every home, but will we even need a headset at all?
Recent advancements in Medicine sugguest we will not. The Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience is developing high-resolution implants for the visual cortex that will allow for the restoration of eyesight to the blind. It is needless to say that if these implants can generate an image in the brain from a camera, then any image from any source can be used, including from say a GPU.
Imagine a visual cortex implant that could register as a device on a home network. You could interface with your PC from any room in the house without the need for any display device. Browsing the internet, streaming movies or baby’s cot cam directly to your visual cortex are just a fraction of the possibilities. Of course, you could in theory completely take over your visual range for a complete VR experience, and data from your eyes would be intercepted and possibly used for inside out tracking. As VR enthusiasts this future sounds very exciting, but should we be concerned?
In Cyberpunk 2077, a game by Polish software developer CD Project Red, these ideas are vivdly portrayed in one such future. Players find themselves in a world where cybernetic implants and drastic merging of flesh and machine are as trivial as designer jeans, jewelry, and other accessories and the definition of what makes a human is blurred. Is a cyberpunk-like distopia in our future or is it pure science fiction?
Today the medical applications are indeed appropriate, but once the technology is well established in medicine, and profits stagnate due to the limited number of people in need of it, corporate greed will then market the technology to consumers. Accessible at first only to the rich, prices will work their way down to the masses. Eventually (after the morally charged politcal debate subsides) it will not be a question of “Should I get a cybernetic implant?”, but “Which cybernetic implant should I get?”
This technology along with others like it, such as Elon Musk’s Neuralink, are bringing us closer to a “Matrix” like interface with machines. However, for such precise and interactive applications as AR/VR it is still very distant, for now. There are many other hurdles to get past as well but the technology being developed by the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience is undeniably implicative. As Morpheus said “It is simply a matter of time.”