Getting Lost in a Virtual World. How Bad Could it Be?

via Tim Marler

Soul Summoner recently released a new augmented-reality role playing game.  It looks fun with an impressive “cool” factor, but it also points to broader implications.

Using just a phone, players, working independently or collectively, can immerse themselves in a virtual world that is overlayed on top of their real environment.  It is essentially the next evolution of Pokemon Go.  However, the role-playing aspect of this new AR capability advances one’s ability to explore or become part of a new and different world.

Immersion and fidelity have long been topics of discussion with respect to simulations, gaming, and VR/AR.  There has always been the potential tendency for gamers to spend hours lost in a game, whether it be on a tabletop or laptop.  Now, however, there is a significant move towards the ability to truly have a new identity and become part of a separate virtual world.  The scenarios from the movie, Ready Player One, may not be that far off.  And, with these advancing capabilities come significant serious applications and policy implications.

Applications range from education and training to medical treatment to virtual travel (and perhaps increased understanding of different cultures).  Policy considerations could center on safety or ethics.  If someone could assume a new virtual persona, look different, and perhaps have more wealth and control than they do in their real world, while having a positive impact on themselves and other real associates, would there be anything wrong with essentially living in that virtual world?  What would the benefits be?  What would the risks be?  Perhaps these are questions we should address sooner rather than later.

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