Virtual reality (VR) is a creation of virtual 3D world in which one can feel and sense the world as if it is real. This virtual world can be accessed by donning a headgear. The gear contains the screen, which is attached to a computer with a necessary software so that a virtual sense of 3D world is obtained. The increasing sophistication in this technology allows the sense of touch (by wearing hand sensors like a glove), smell and hearing through the head gear.
VR experience is akin to sitting and watching a film in a 70-mm film theater but with interactive process where one can change the scenes and be a part of the scenery.
The VR process is being used presently by scientists and engineers for designing sophisticated technologies. It is allowing engineers to design machines and engines in real time as if the actual machine is being changed. However like Internet, which was initially developed to aid scientists and technologists but came into mainstream, VR will also come into the mainstream and eventually be used by everybody. The technologies in VR are progressing so rapidly that in a matter of years we will have an almost real life experience of flying, tasting objects, moving them, smelling them and even have a feel of their texture. Maybe pornography will be the first offshoot of this process!
All our experiences and knowledge of the physical world are through our five senses of taste, smell, touch, sight and hearing. Together with this is our sixth sense, the intuition. We enjoy the world or suffer pain through our senses. These sense signals when processed by brain give us a feeling of individuality, self and awareness.
Virtual reality (VR) allows one to get full blast of information to the senses and hence can allow us to enjoy the world and thus satiate our senses at a fraction of the cost in terms of energy and resources. Thus an individual at will can go to a Disney World, can visit some of the finest museums of the world or fly low over the majestic Himalayas or Swiss Alps without moving out of the VR room. Similarly he/she can do window shopping in some of the best shopping malls of the world and even try out some of the items displayed. In short a person can fulfill major portion of his/her desires through VR at almost zero cost and energy. With desires satiated to a certain extent, individuals can hopefully move on to higher things in life. This is the first step towards spirituality and may help in greed reduction also.
Each individual needs to experience the world. With increasing choices available individuals want to cram this experience in a short time. This desire is latent in all humans and has to be satiated. No amount of sermonizing can stop the younger generation from trying to experience it. VR allows a least-cost (energy wise) and non-invasive mechanism to achieve this objective. VR can sometimes be more powerful than the real world since it allows almost anybody to feel and sense the otherwise forbidden world. It is possible that this satiation of desires so easily will result in overindulgence. However as the technologies of VR and experiences of individuals mature they will move on to other higher things.
VR is however not a panacea for the ills of the present day world. It cannot satisfy the real hunger, cure the diseases, and cannot substitute for real human contact. Nevertheless it may allow vast majority of citizens from developing world to enjoy the world in an interactive mode and may help them to move on to higher goals. This will help the world to move towards sustainability.
The first step of an individual towards spirituality and hence sustainability is the fulfillment of his/her basic desires. I believe VR will allow this. Mankind in future might then move easily towards nirvana.