I attended the VR Science Hackathon at Epicenter. As my HCID specialization is in Situated Interaction, I had an interest in seeing what Virtual Reality technology is out there.
I unexpectedly had the opportunity to try the Microsoft Hololens. Such an opportunity is unique as this piece of hardware is quite expensive, and it is not commonly reachable to curious students. A professional showed me how to perform basic gesture interactions with the device. Its responsiveness is better than expected, and I foresee plenty of industrial applications for such technology. I tried a Hololens game, and that’s where I think the device is lacking as the field of vision is limited, and playing a game might become frustrating. Nevertheless, the product is in its first version, and it already surpasses many competing devices. I felt much more comfortable interacting with Hololens than with any VR device available at the event.
The first day of the hackathon was around story telling as it is a central theme in Virtual Reality. VR is known to many as the ultimate empathy machine. I can attest such a thought as I could only truly understand the horrors of the Syrian war after watching a 360 video showing the ruins of Aleppo. Therefore, this hackathon challenged participants to create an experience that would tell a story tackling one of the United Nations goals for the year.
Participating in a VR hackathon made me reflect on the future of my field of study – Human Computer Interaction and Design. VR is nothing new – it has been around for decades – so, why is it finally such a hot field. Maybe it is the ability of using phones as screens that made the technology finally accessible, but maybe it has to do with our increasingly short attention span and how much is needed to capture our attention.
To exemplify what I am thinking about what level of pervasiveness media needs to achieve in order to capture our attention, I could talk about the changes in children’s cartoons. The animated cartoons shown on TV nowadays are extremely irritating for me as they might be too loud, too colorful, and might otherwise some information overload in visual and sound. However, this is what kids like nowadays, and showing children an old cartoon might bore them to tears as my generation’s cartoons might be too static for them.
That’s where I think VR might be the answer to a generation that needs more and more the intromission of technological devices. Their phones might not be giving them enough of a hit, of dopamine, serotonin, or whatever the brain produces as a response to candy crush, Facebook notifications, or what’s app messages. People might soon move into the next digital drug and want to be completely immersed in that alternative reality, a tendency that can also be implied from the broad trend of binge-watching and the success of streaming media.