The Inevitable, Incredible, Wearable Holodeck
William Holz
1

Doesn’t work — for many reasons.

  1. Momentum. When your body (or some part of it) is moving and comes to a sudden stop — you can feel it — even if your eyes are closed. There is another sense here, which you can’t simulate. Without it, the world doesn’t feel right.
  2. Depth of focus. Stereo headsets can’t simulate this — so we’re getting one distance measurement from the stereo vision and another from the amount of distortion we have to apply to the lenses in our eyes to pull things into focus. We can’t simulate the latter, so our brains get two conflicting distance measurements…and the world doesn’t feel right.
  3. Haptics can apply force to fingers — but they can’t overcome the force of (say) your entire arm pushing on something solid (imagine you’re doing push-ups in the virtual world) without having more power than your muscles have. This means you need to wear an entire body suit that has more power than your own body. That’s gonna be bulky, hard to put on and take off — and if the software screws up, it’ll literally rip your arm off…but without that, the world doesn’t feel right.
  4. Haptics don’t absorb heat from your skin. When you touch something, the thermal conductivity of that thing results in some amount of heat loss at the fingertip — which lets us tell metal and rock from plastic and wood. Without that sense, we don’t truly feel that we’re touching something and the world doesn’t feel right.
  5. Haptics also can’t reproduce the texture of a surface…
  6. Your inner ear responds to rotations and translations of your head. There are experimental rigs that apply voltages at your scalp to fake that response, but they’ve never been refined to the point where anyone will sell them because of the potential for killing people.

Well, I could go on. Suffice to say that without a hell of a lot of technologies that we REALLY don’t have — “the world doesn’t feel right”. Our senses conflict about what they are reporting to our brains.

The big problem with that is this: When our senses produce conflicting information — things that simply cannot happen in the real world that we evolved in — our brains respond by assuming that we must be hallucinating — and the assume that we ate some kind of hallucinogenic substance like maybe a magic mushroom — and they try to puke it up to fix the problem.

This is why at least half of the people who try to wear Oculus Rift headsets feel sick within a matter of minutes…and all efforts to fix that with higher resolution displays, lower latency times and higher frame rates are only making tiny inroads into that problem.

This is ultimately, why virtual reality is doomed.

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