Depending on who you were rooting for in the US election, last night was either a shocking and sobering wake-up call to a reality that you don’t feel a part of or it was a jubilant celebration of a victory that was doubted and underestimated by the mainstream political and media establishments. Either way, what’s clear is that there’s a cultural divide in America that’s split nearly evenly between the percentage of people who voted in the election. Trying to understand the other side of the cultural gap can feel like entering into an entirely different parallel universe, and I feel like virtual reality has an important role to play in bringing more empathy and understanding to each side.
I had a chance to catch up with VR Playhouse co-founder Ian Forester at Oculus Connect 3, where he shared with me some of his vision for how VR could change the way that the learn and understand the world. He sees that there are three primary ways that we learn about the world including our direct sensory experiences, our direct observations of other people, and then a lot of indirect cultural indoctrination that comes from the mainstream media, education, and the culmination of all of our social interactions.
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Ian sees that VR has the potential to provide us with a wider range of direct sensory experiences with a diverse range of people and cultures within social VR experiences, and that this has the potential to give us more access to learning from our interactive direct experiences rather than from information that we’re consuming from different sources of external authority.
It feels like the United States is at real crossroads right now with the political culture gap that exists right now, and this interview with Ian starts to discuss how VR could help us move beyond our existing methods of cultural indoctrination. Rather than passive consumption, VR allows us to have interactive experiences that could help engage and connect us to each other in new ways that transcend the capabilities of any other technologically-mediated interfaces.
I tell people the reason I'm working in VR is because of its potential to inspire empathy by connecting very different sorts of people.
— Brian Sharp (@bhsharp) November 9, 2016
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