Another look at the sky

2021-03-29 20:05

Recently I've been reading Jaron Lanier's Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality. It's both an autobiography and the origin story of modern VR. They're sort of inseparable.

In it he argues that the best moment of using VR is when you return to the 'real' world. After early VR experiments Jaron used to hold a bunch of flowers in front of people as they took their headset off and watch as they seemingly experienced flowers again for the first time.

I've experienced this myself after a long period spent in VR. It's weird to return to a naturally lit room after sunset and it seem like a completely different place. The world suddenly seems hyper-real after time in a comparatively basic virtual space.

I love this idea of VR being a tool to heighten perception. I sometimes forget to remember how miraculous life and the world is (as I think lots of us do). The idea of technology sharpening the senses through mere exposure (rather than, say, high tech augmentations of the body) is exciting.

It reminds me a little bit of when some friends and I saw one of James Turrell's skyspaces. They're carefully constructed rooms (typically) with a hole in the top where you can see the sky. The sky seemed so brilliant and perfect that one of my friends was convinced it was an LED screen. They even started to convince me and we had to go back to have another look. Another look at the sky! To see if it was real!