Will VR and AR make us feel lonely and isolated?

The hidden danger of VR and AR technology

Many people feel lonely. They are desperately wanting an honest partner. They wish they would have friends with whom they could enjoy great moments.

Our technology is advancing, and it seems that we see more and more lonely people. There are millions of apps who want to connect us with a new lover, and old friends, or other like-minded people. More and more people are showcasing their fake lives on platforms like YouTube and Instagram. Instead of enjoying quality time with friends, many people are desperately looking for likes on the internet. Until they realize that they feel lonely.

As sad as it might sound, future technology might worsen this situation even more. The largest companies in the world, as well as hundreds of small startups, are working on augmented- and virtual reality technology. Augmented reality is all about augmenting the reality with computer graphics, sounds, and much more. Virtual reality, in contrast, cuts out our reality entirely. With virtual reality, you are entering a new world designed by yourself or someone else.

How dangerous are those technologies to our human psyche? And why are they dangerous at all?

A realistic but sad forecast: Strange Beasts

Magali Barbé produced an absolutely stunning and amazing scientific-fi short movie about these implications. She is asking ourselves: How far can it go?

I love Magali’s short movie. I love it because the scenario she is pointing out is absolutely realistic. Today, we already see thousands of people gaming online. There are gamers who don’t leave their homes for days or even weeks. They play their games 24/7. While many gamers interact with other gamers online, they never meet them in reality. They don’t build real humans relationships with them.

The same is true for social networks. There are many desperate people on Instagram and Facebook. Maybe you recognize yourself. You are scrolling through Instagram photos and the Facebook feed. Documenting a life of you, which doesn’t exist in reality. You spend time with your friends while commenting on their photos and liking their status updates. Today you can contact and interact with hundreds of people with a few fingertips. What many people forget are the real human relationships they miss out.

Imaginary Friends

So, which impact will virtual- and augmented-reality technology have on this trend? Magali Barbé used her short film to show us how realistic these technologies will become. There will be a point in time when augmented reality and the virtual reality will feel 100% real. We will not be able to differentiate between our real reality and the virtual ones. In fact, virtual reality’s and augmented reality’s deepest purpose are to make the simulation indistinguishable from reality.

There is no question that very soon people will be able to seek refuge in a virtual reality. If they feel lonely they can augment a virtual friend or pet into their life. Or they will join a virtual beach party with imaginary friends.

What will be the result? Will more and more people feel lonely and isolated? If a virtual and imaginary friend makes us feel better, is it really such a bad thing?

We really need to pay attention and control in which direction AR and VR technology is heading. We need to make sure that we will use technology in a healthy way. Otherwise, our most valuable relationships will be imaginary.