Forms of Communication
It goes without saying that for virtual reality
it’s easier to be virtual or immaterial. There is
no doubt that the future product designer will be
more a designer of virtual spaces, surroundings,
things and experiences.
If only the dream or the experience
(of happiness) matters, one can limit oneself to
sell dreams. The
Internet comes as if called for. It makes a gigantic
production of virtual realities available for the
hungry consumer, that is hungry for experiences.
In the future the Internet and Virtual Reality (VR)
will merge into one cyberspace. And that gives enormous
possibilities. Companies, that produce virtual realities
(all possible experiences), will become the most
important. The most extreme virtual experiences can
be put up for sale directly on the Internet.
the product and the experience are one and the same.
Until now, the product and the advertising
were distinct but grafted upon each other. With VR,
the product and the message will merge. Communication
and design will be inextricable. Advertising becomes
superfluous. The future is on the dream-producers.
Engineers will have to invent dreams and experiences
instead of technical engines. So, Disney Corporation
states that "imagineering" will take over
the task of "engineering".
Surely, the VR
technology is not yet as advanced as the Internet,
but it is very promising. An economic
growth of 60% is put in prospect. There is no doubt
that VR, once merged with the Internet, will fancy
the public. The most important characteristic feature
of VR, quoted by all authors, is immersion.
a Head Mounted Display (HMD) is required. But to
interact with the environment, use is made
of a vibro-tactile feedback glove, a joystick, treadmills,
bicycle grips etc. It seems that the cumbersome HMD
can yet be replaced by a kind of glasses that scan
the retina and bath the backside of the eye with
images, so that in principle there is no more difference
from our usual spatial perception. The simulations
reach an always higher and theoretically unlimited
degree of realism. That is anyhow their trend, their
If we have to believe some authors, such
as Rheingold, the day is not more far away that "computer
simulations become so realistic that people cannot
distinguish them from non-simulated reality" ("Virtual
Reality", 1991). The apple of the eye is a haptic
VR, that can produce properties such as mass and
texture and that will be tactile and not just visual.
Most lyrical about this is B. Woolley ("Virtual
Worlds", 1992): "With the ultimate display,
the objects in computer-generated space would not
just be visible, they would be tangible. (...) The
kinaesthetic display reveals their physical characteristics – chairs
become ‘good enough to sit in’, bullets real enough
Virtual Reality becomes high-fidelity
(while real products become high-semiotic or virtual).
especially the merging of VR with the Internet is
exciting. From his/her own home everyone will
be able to enter any virtual world of his/her choice.
And moreover, he/she will be able to share this virtual
experience interactively with anybody in any continent.
Communication will indeed become "doing things
together". But this "doing things together" will
mainly take place in the cyberspace.
A first repercussion,
that is already seen on the economic level, is that
companies actually conclude
striking alliances in order to make profit of this
market in expansion. In particular, and that is very
symptomatical, cable companies and entertainment
companies try to bring their interests on one line.
US West collaborates with TCI, the biggest cable
company in the United States, and has also built
up a partnership with the entertainment factory Time
Warner. Disney acquired Capital Cities, owner of
the ABC Network, aiming this way at becoming a producer
and a supplier of entertainment. Japanese giants
such as Nintendo, Fujitsu and Sega aim at the market
for entertainment. In Japan exists a coordinated
strategy to join telecommunication, computer hardware
and software, and especially the entertainment market.
Games drive the commercial VR industry.
Moreover – this is just a side-remark – the current
VR-games cannot disavow their origin, the Arpanet.
They imitate mainly the military training they derive
from. The goal of the game is invariably: "find
the enemy and kill him". The "doing things
together" in the cyberspace will mostly be: "find
the enemy and kill him".
The apologists of VR
compare it incessantly with a dream. When we are
totally immersed in an "all-inclusive
experience", "we find ourselves as in a
dream". All our dreams not only come
true, but we can direct them and give them the course
we wish. Here comes the Dream Society. All human
dreams become reality. That is the definition of