Will virtual reality become indistinguishable from actual reality?

Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster ‘Ready Player One’ depicts a future where VR technology can transport people into a completely realistic alternate universe. But how close is a real-life tech to that vision?

Much of the coverage of the movie has delved into the potential impact high-fidelity VR could have on humanity, and whether the film’s dystopian vision of people escaping an imperfect real world to live out virtual fantasies is the logical endpoint for this technology. But a more pressing question to ask is how close we are to creating such immersive VR experiences.

The technology in the film probably won’t seem that outlandish to most people, as there are real-life analogies for almost all the devices featured. The entry-level kit required to enter the OASIS virtual world where most of the movie’s action takes place is a special visor and a pair of haptic gloves that recreate a sense of touch.

In recent years, VR headsets have become a high-end but solidly commercial product, and while the quality of the graphics depicted in the movie are clearly superior to what headsets like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive are capable of, this is probably the area where reality is closest.

The big differences between current technology and the movie is how they reproduce images. The OASIS visors supposedly work by beaming low-power lasers directly onto the user’s retinas, while all real-life headsets use stereoscopic displays held just in front of the eyes. That’s unlikely to change anytime soon, but another attractive feature of the film’s headset could be closer.

In the film, the visor is wireless and can be strapped on anywhere, anytime. While the first generation of VR headsets needs to be plugged into a high-powered PC, Oculus’ prototype Santa Cruz, due for commercial release as early as April this year, and will include all the necessary computing power onboard. It will also do away with the need for an external infrared sensor to track head and arm movements, instead incorporating outward-facing cameras into the headset for motion tracking.

Where reality is still lagging considerably is in recreating the physical experience of VR. In the movie, the haptic gloves OASIS players wear make them virtual objects almost indistinguishable from real ones. Other characters have even more advanced set-ups, like full-body haptic suits that simulate both pleasure and pain, complicated harnesses and treadmills that allow users to run around and move their bodies just like they would in real life, and even “smell towers.”

But a report released by analysts IDTechX to coincide with the movie’s release suggests the first step towards most of these technologies have already been taken. VR handsets already feature the same kind of rumble packs found in computer game controllers that provide simple haptic feedback in the form of vibrations.

These same vibration motors have also been integrated into VR gloves like Gloveone and Manus, where they can recreate textures. Go Touch VR’s haptic rings use a small motor to vary the pressure of a piece of plastic against your fingertips to mimic the force felt when touching objects, while Ultrahaptics beams ultrasound onto your hands to give the sensation of pressure and texture.

Going a step further, the Tesla suit aims to provide full-body haptic feedback using electrical stimulation of both the nerves and muscles. It also features built-in motion tracking sensors and temperature control, which can transmit feelings of cold or heat.

But while there are lots of options for this kind of tactile feedback, the report notes there’s been slower progress on kinaesthetic feedback, which refers to systems that exert a force on the body to recreate sensations like weight, inertia, or resistance. The Sense Glove and VRgluv both rely on bulky robotic exoskeletons powered by electric motors to exert forces on a user’s fingers, which allows them to recreate the size and stiffness of virtual objects.

The HaptX glove manages to combine both kinaesthetic and tactile feedback using microfluidics. The textile features hundreds of tiny pixel-sized air pockets that can inflate and push against the skin with variable force to recreate different tactile sensation, and the same pneumatic system powers actuators that can apply resistance to each finger.

The company has ambitions to scale this approach up to create a full-body suit that can apply similar forces and sensations to the arms and legs, which would probably come close to the capabilities of the full-body haptics seen in Ready Player One. But considering even the current glove requires a box the size of a PC to control the airflow, this isn’t likely to be something your average gamer has in their living room.

Nonetheless, that kind of full-body haptic suit could provide a convincing way to deal with the problem of movement in VR. In the movie, omnidirectional treadmills provide a way to allow users to run around in VR while staying put, and there are already real-world versions of this technology.

The Omni, made by Virtuix, uses special low-friction shows that allow users’ feet to slip around inside a bowl-shaped surface surrounded by sensors that track their stride length and speed. Harnesses prevent them from running off the edge of the surface, but the issue the latency of the transition in movements prevent a realistic feel and additional technology will be needed to make this something that is a reality.

It may be that wide-scale virtual environments should be simulated in well, large scale real environments, and with the untethering mobility that the next round of HMD’s such as the Santa Cruz offer via inside out tracking this is becoming a reality.

As the report notes, though, most of these VR tools are still firmly out of reach of consumers. At best, they may be available at arcades and theme parks, but some of the more advanced technologies like the haptic gloves are aimed squarely at training and simulations in fields like medicine, engineering, and defence.

So while Ready Player One has given us a tantalizing glimpse of what our VR future may look like, we’re likely going to have to wait some time for the coolest capabilities to trickle down to our living room.

Of course, whether we can or cannot recreate reality in a virtual way is a question that opens the floor to an infinite amount of probability and possibilities. We would love to hear your thoughts, can we recreate reality with any degrees of accuracy, and if so what are the implications and potential uses of this technology?


If you like Ready Player One you should check out the Korean show (currently on Netflix Australia) Memories of Alhambra - this shows the dissolution between VR and reality - highly recommended even though it’s subtitled :+1:t3:

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I get the idea, but it just all seems so klunky.
You know, I meditate, and I can also visit other worldly places in my own mind. The experiences for me are as real as if I were there physically. I cannot explain this properly, but it is a bit like remote viewing. Everyone is capable of this.

The problem with virtual reality is that it seems to cater to fantasies beyond the laws of physics, and everyone seems to want to fight and take stuff… Most of the gaming on line is used in this manner. It is as if there are no consequences… You can be as violent as you want, get killed, blow up a city… It is not healthy. It creates an experience that negates feelings.

In answer to your question, will will virtual reality become indistinguishable… If it does, we have lost something even more valuable, and that is our own self regulation. I find that to be just a step too far.

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The technology will allow us to visualize information more effectively as well as interact with the computer with more bandwidth. The benefits will be immeasurable.

Imagine that as the new drug from the future, those who have the most challenging VR will try to sell it in the black market.
What can we do?
Never doubt of Dopamine Effect!

In the next one hundred years, there is an extremely high probability that we will have innovations which seem so real, that human beings cannot tell the difference between reality and the immersive environment. This probability comes from quantifying the advancement of technology in the last 30 years. Technology is exponential, meaning the last 30 years isn’t even noticeable on a graph compared to the next five years of growth.

That means, that the probability that this has happened many times before, is even greater…

Thanks for sharing this article. Great read as always.


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In my opinion all the VR headsets and AR glasses and haptic suits and gloves and what not will continue to evolve as technology does, they get smaller, better and more seamless. As the years go by they will have alot more of computing power, rendering better and better graphics. The sector will grow and a lot of people will make alot of money.
Until one day, 10-15 years from now, someone figures out how to plug into a persons brain and let the brain do the heavy lifting. No headsets, no body suits, just dreams.
Efforts made by visionaries like Elon Musk with neural lace will bring us to the future and create technologies like we see in movies like The Matrix and Total Recall.


Yes it will be indistinguishable archiving matrix-like VR. This is because it’s a technological and engineering problem and those just take time and because since 2006 we’re in the parabolic zone od Kurzweil’s Law of exponential returns based mainly on the experience curve called Moore’s law, then I would say it’s not even that far off (25 years) as long as we can circumvent the quantum tunneling problem for transistors in a chip (we probably will or invent something else different than your standard transistor to process informartion).


What if we already got there and this is a simulation right now?


Of course that’s completely possible and we just have no way of knowing. Even more interesting is the question of: if we are in one, did we put ourselves there after passing Kurzweil’s Singularity just out of boredom?
Alan Watts had a nice thought experiment regarding this issue (or at least first time I heard it was from him). He said that what if you were an omnipotent being indistinguishable from what we humanly percieve as God, as in you can manipulate all reality (whatever that is) at will, both space and time and whatever else might exist. At first with this new power you would probably have your controled safe fun, but eventually in the infinite time you will be bored and end up creating a reality for yourself where your control is very limited and you are not aware you are in you own “simulation” or ilusion of “reality”. And in this simulated reality you could create another inside and so on so who knows how deep we might be in one ourselves. I kind of like that idea, like in Rick and Morty when they are at an intergalactic arcade and there is a “life game”. You put a helmet on a go through the entire process of life, from a sperm until your death and then the game ends and you are in the arcade again but lived an entire life. I think this will also be possible in the future and hope to be alive to witness it.

Epiphany in the exercise of self awareness often brings knowledge that presents a new set of choices. If we discover we are in a simulation then we have options. Continue as before as if the matter is solved, and incorporate the limitations into our knowledge base, or act as we are apt to do, and seek to escape the simulation and take over the host. This would be considered a programming error in that context. Unless that is what the simulation is designed to encourage. Discovery of multiple layers of synchronicity involving all fields of science, however, does not imply simulation.
The best evidence we have that we are in a simulation, is not discussed in academia, due to fear of the loss of credibility. And that is the presence of, interactive superconsciousness with the ability to appear in person. The first layer of intelligence that is directly above and beyond human capacity. There is a code of silence among the shaman types around the world, who not only have experienced it, but are also able to facilitate the experience for others. And no, not with drugs, and absolutely conscious.
The difficulty to communicate this, can be understood by examining language barriers, or knowledge barriers, such as a jet engine mechanic explaining maintenance protocols in Japanese to a audience of English only speakers. The proof is only transmittable, through direct experience. Even then, it is not believed unless others are able to corroborate the account, and even then, it must be experienced as a repeatable process. This is common knowledge to those who study such things. Other anomalies that indicate simulation are bi-location, missing time, inexplicable weather such as a “shaman” causing rain from a clear sky, and other well known “unexplained” events and experiences.
The double slit, is a good way to begin the study, as that shows the basic barrier, and why some people do not experience these things. The intention of obtaining proof, somehow affects the process, and thwarts the desired outcome. That said, there are some smaller basic things, that can be proved to enable scientific satisfaction. But, again, it is very much like the shaman, attending college to learn and prove physics. The process is quite equal in time and effort required, but from a completely different approach.
The further we have drifted from ancient knowledge, the harder it is to restore it. Modern religion and academia are united in the prevention of the study. Yet are the first to ask the questions. This is a conundrum. Imagine if humanity embarked on a mission to eradicate physics and math from the planet, and spent the next thousand years on the endeavor. That is why we only find certain knowledge in inaccessible geography, guarded by those who know the intention of anyone who approaches before they get there.
We should also be vigilant in maintaining perspective. Airplanes, photography, microbiology, automobiles, and literature. Wright Brothers, George Eastman, Leeuwenhoek, Henry ford, and Mark Twain, all non-high school grads. And Mendeleev got the periodic table in a dream. Sidney Altman, altered his course study, which led to the RNA discovery. What event precipitated that ? Specifically ?
Hundred monkey syndrome, simultaneous invention, mirror events like Sandy Hook and Chenpeng China a mirror event 12 hours apart on opposite sides of the world. Space time calibration.
The first day of the 20 day calendar is Batz, pronounced (bots).


“# Is life a video game? | Elon Musk | Code Conference 2016”

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Not in disagreement with Musk on the possibility, but the odds cannot be calculated without better data. I certainly do not find, rapid development and invention by humans as an indication of being in a simulation, as much as say, the metamorphosis of insects, or the organizational abilities of insect colonies. Invention and industry is one of the more pronounced, predictable and observable periods of time. It is easily found in both macro and micro. As is electricity, and Tesla himself was born precisely on the day of electricity in the 20 day calendar. Nearly everything to do with “wheel” fame, was invented by people born within a 10 day time period. Feb 1 -10. So perhaps not the invention explosion itself, but the predictable nature and origins of particular facets of it, may be better evidence of a simulation. Base programming. John Boyd Dunlop, TB Jeffery, Francis Marion Smith, Rosa Parks, FDR, Neil Cassady, Mendeleev, and many others.

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