Headspace – Living in a virtual world…
A very brief discussion on virtual space…
Imagine returning to full consciousness one morning without the need to leave your home or even your bed to start your daily routine.
Films like ‘Surrogates’ and ‘Ready Player One’ spring to mind with countless other examples we could toss into the melee. But before we dive into computer gaming addiction and lives lived outside from our reality, what does this mean for us in immediate terms?
As architects we are continually being asked to provide 3d CAD generated environments for analysis and asset control. Providing details that have no physical existence but hold information that should indeed philosophically prove otherwise. So soon enough we will have moved on from google street view/google earth, which currently gives us the opportunity to explore photographic records of our world, to extensive databases of detailed virtual live realities, perhaps even augmented onto our surroundings. At the moment we can access this type of environment with VR goggles but at some point chips planted directly into our brains may provide a direct link to this new virtual real estate with potentially infinite boundaries, pushing our minds to even greater limits.
So, what does this mean for us and our physical and mental wellbeing? If we are not careful the precursors of noticeable trends such as ‘cyber sickness’ (picking up our phones, the next minute we realise we have spent half an hour just scrolling then suddenly feel sick) could be the tip of iceberg. Even NASA in (guidelines for standardisation of bed rest studies) have recognised that in the absence of normal day/night patterns there is an absolute need to wind down before getting some shut eye, something that parents have understood for millennia. This addresses a need to remove ourselves from the bombardment of information, giving our brains time to process and begin a new day. Whether it’s a routine with some form of exercise the body needs some downtime. Spending all day on a computer then lying in bed on your smartphone can often leave us with headaches and eyestrain besides the mental repercussions.1
It’s not a matter of if, but when this will be our reality either virtual or in some other form of hybrid existence. Some parts of our society even now are transitioning into degrees of virtual worlds, meetings over Zoom and working in a team and developing entire projects from a room at home for 6 months is now possible and even socially acceptable. This will inevitably allow more flexible working hours as an actual location to work is only restricted by technology available, the regular 9 to 5 working day will become a thing of the past. But with the absence of physical limitation could this start to develop bad live/work habits?
There is real capacity here for positive influence and something architects could take a lead on with their spatial cognition skills. Questions such as size, location and aspect will literally be out the window. Concerns over resolution, server specification and memory will take centre stage at least with current capabilities. In the new virtual world comfort will most likely be generated from closeness to ingrained genetic environmental markers such as shelter, relaxation, and security. It’s just a matter of time before living and working could, for most, be entirely virtual and will most likely become mandatory as the risk of another Pandemic is unlikely to disappear. The opportunities however could be endless opening up new frontiers and dimensions for us to create and explore.