Sharing personal experiences through virtual reality.
I wrote a bit about the perception of reality, stating that it's highly subjective. I promised to get back to it. For me, what is at stake is critical for human societies.
Recognising that there is no absolute reality and that the truth can never be fully recognised means so much to humans. It means you cannot compare your vision of reality. Your point of view is your source of truth but doesn't apply to anybody else.
This realisation means that judging, arguing and controlling are totally pointless. People should be allowed to do whatever they wish in total liberty as long as it doesn't limit anybody else's.
I have high expectations for the societal impact of VR. I hope that it will change the world. When people grow up with the idea that reality can be falsified, transformed and recreated they will realise that what they consider real is only the result of their perception. This can only lead to more empathy and less judgemental attitudes.
Today is the last day of this series of experimentations about VR and we're going to completely get rid of the concept of reality as we think of it. Like yesterday the VR scene is static. Well, not completely as it is a video (make sure you're on a wifi network or it may cost you money). On iOS you may need to pin the VR web page to your homescreen to be able to play the video. I need your help to make it work.
This is how to use it. First open the VR scene on your phone and put it in VR headsets. Quickly search for the centre of the fish tank. Look around but make sure to keep your field of view within the limit of the aquarium. Now feel yourself floating in the water. Maybe you are a fish. Or maybe you're just swimming in there, watching at the fishes. Feel this as an absolute and unquestionable reality. Then, look at the opposite direction. You'll see the illusionist, myself, holding a 360 camera in the concave side of a fish tank. Realise that what you think was real was actually a mere illusion. You now see the trick that made it possible. Look at me and feel the reality of this scene. Now take off your VR headset. What you've just seen was yet another false reality living in a virtual world accessible through a specific device. Observe the world around you and recognise it as a reality. Now, realise that there is another layer. What you see is yet another illusion. Feel the truth through this reality, look for it. If you recognise that what you see is just the product of your own thoughts then the exercise is successful. You can go out now and explore this world while keeping a sense of empathy and respect for other people's reality.
At a personal level, facts are of no importance. Only experiences are. Remembering dates, numbers, names are not likely to change you. Living experiences, feeling emotions, dealing with situations,... these are examples of what shapes your personalities.
Memories are traces of past experiences, not of past facts. As such they are not as reliable as we generally think. They can be and are altered when retrieved. They can also be planted in the form of false memories.
According to studies, if we show someone the evidence that an event took place, this person is likely to acquire a false memory about this event.
I have many memories of when my family and I were living in the Reunion Island, a tropical island in the Indian Ocean. We left when I was 3 years old. So my memories attached to that place date back from my early childhood. I often wonder to what extent these memories are distorted, falsified or plainly false.
Today, the VR experiment is static, so it needs your active participation to work. We're going to plant a false memory in you. Slide your phone in a VR headset and look around. You see a colourful landscape with trees, green grass and a Buddhist temple, but the details have been blurred out. Imagine yourself in that landscape. Try to recall it as a vivid memory. Feel the quietness of the place, the fresh air blowing in the trees, smell the grass. Look at every elements of the landscape and reconstruct the details with your imagination. It doesn't matter if you've never been to a Buddhist temple, you don't need to google pictures of it, just make the details based on your knowledge and taste. Let's repeat the experimentation 3 times today. When a false memory is planted, your brain will work out the details itself. It will fill in the gaps and recreate a coherent story. Maybe this event happened on a school trip, or on holidays in Hawai'i, at the valley of the temples in O'ahu, or maybe you can't quite remember because you were so young. Facts don't matter. What's important is to know that you've visited a Buddhist temple one day.
Congratulations, you brain has been hacked!
I already touched a little bit on how we approach reality through our senses. Then our set of past experience is used to mentally label whatever our eyes land on. Another aspect of perception is obviously the thoughts that it generates in us.
When I look around, my mind is usually busy creating thoughts about whatever it is I am looking at. It draws the content of the thoughts from my memories, but also from my beliefs, my fears and my fantasies.
Just like anything related to perception, these thoughts are highly personal and subjective. It's not something we can share. We can of course trying to explain with words or drawings what we're thinking but it always end up being a mere approximation.
The purpose of this blog is sharing experiences, so today I'll share my thoughts with you. As you view the VR scene of today, you'll notice some blocks floating around. When you look at them (use the cursor to align), a thought about the object that hovers it appears. Look at the block on my T-shirt and you'll see what it reminds me of.
This VR scene also allowed me to experiment with annotating 360 scenes. This is something I want to explore as I feel that there is value in doing it, in a form or another.
I would define a culture as a set of beliefs and customs shared by a human group. In that respect it's not much different to an individual personality. I'd use similar words to define the character of someone.
I believe that when a person gets in contact with a culture that closely resembles its personality, they experience a feeling of intimacy, of being at home.
Hawaii has an interesting culture. From what I can see, it has elements of western and eastern cultures. This have to be a reflection of its geographic location. Hawaii is also a favourite destination for Japanese tourists. There is an abundance of signs and conversations in Japanese here (this is why the subtitle of this experiment is VRにっき).
The Japanese culture and language are an important part of my daily life and personality. To that regard it closely resembles the culture of Hawaii, a mix between western and Japanese culture. This must be the reason why I felt like at home when I arrived here.
In today's VR experiment, I invite you to experience this being-at-home feeling of Hawaii the way I experience it. Like yesterday, if you look down, you'll see 2 boxes. Look at them successively to change the feeling of the scene. One is in English, the other one is in Japanese. This scene also have ambient sounds with mostly English and Japanese speakers respectively. Make sure to mute or put on headphones before trying it.
Try the Japanese version if you're not used to that language, then switch to the English one. The way you feel about the English one should give you an idea of how the Japanese version feels to me.
I have been questioning reality a lot lately. What we call reality is a personal and subjective experience. We take it for the truth but we also know that our senses are highly inaccurate and unreliable.
The truth is perceived through the lens of our senses and it seems to me that direct access to truth is not humanly possible, at least no through perception.
Yesterday, I was standing on a beach, starring at the sea. I saw the sea as blue because I hold the concept of blue inside my mind. I perceived this landscape as relaxing, peaceful because these are concepts I have experienced before.
But this is simply mental labelling. My mind judges and attaches concepts to the product of my perception. The reality is actually colourless, tasteless, odourless and with no sound. My experience of the world is an interpretation of my perception. There is no objective experience in human terms.
I always had this theory that what I call blue may be perceived as my red for other people. There is no reference frame to compare our respective perceptions.
As this concept relates closely to VR, I'll come back to it later.
In today VR view, if you look down, you'll see 3 boxes. Lay your gaze on them to change the colours of the scene and experience what may be my perception of the world in your frame of reference.
I arrived yesterday at Honolulu. It was an exhausting journey, but now it's already forgot, already forgiven.
I can't believe that about 24 hours ago I was wearing a winter coat and a woolie hat, making my way to Heathrow.
After waking up this morning, I was eager to explore the surroundings. I headed straight away to Waikiki Beach, a mere 5 minutes from my Airbnb.
Shortly after my breakfast, I found the tree pictured in today's view. It's located right on the side of the road in the seafront. It is pretty impressive with its branches turning into roots. It seems to offer me a shelter while being entirely open.
It made me wonder what it's like to be a tree. Being a living creature without self-consciousness as we experience it, does it mean that trees are not aware of other beings? If so, they must see us as what we are, without under- or over-estimating us.