21st July 2016
The man known as the grandfather of virtual reality is worried about the technology’s potential to create violent worlds.
Tom Furness built the first helmet mounted displays used by US Air Force pilots 50 years ago and is still working on virtual reality technology today as founder of the Human Interface Technology Lab at the University of Washington.
In the years since Dr Furness built the so-called super cockpit, civilians have begun using virtual reality.
Some virtual reality game products, such as Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, have failed to take off, but due to high quality virtual reality products such as Oculus Rift and Vive the technology is starting to meet the hype.
Dr Furness said he was worried how such products could be used, especially if violent video games were integrated with VR.
“I’m worried about it. It’s sort of like you’re going to the other side of the glass, you’re not looking at the screen anymore. You’re there,” he said.
“You’re all exposed with your emotions and when you pick up a weapon and blow a person away and see their brains spattered everywhere and blood, you remember that and you’ll have nightmares about that because it’s so graphic.
“The only way that you deal with that in the end is become numb.”
Dr Furness said while violent virtual reality was particularly dangerous for children, young people did not naturally seek out violent games.
“When given the opportunity to build their own worlds, kids don’t build worlds that are violent. They generally build worlds that are really whimsical and exciting and fun and we’ve seen this with the explosion of Minecraft,” he said.
“We have to remember that these [violent] games are actually made by adults for kids and that’s not necessarily what the kids want but they play it because that’s what’s out there.”