Virtual Reality and cheap thrills
The Bored Generation
We live in the age of entertainment. From T.V’s to phones and laptops, we have access to entertainment at every hour of the day. So, why are we a bored and unsatisfied generation?
According to anthropologist Yasmine Mushharbash, boredom is very much attached to modernity and relates to the age-old problem of finding meaning. “The flows of time are an endless repetition and the present becomes oppressive, like a cage where the same thing keeps going on,” explains Mushharbash.
We have cocooned ourselves in a world that is essentially risk-free. We no longer live in fear of being eaten by a wild animal or being killed by an invading tribe. Our lives are predictable at the best of times and rarely do we come face-to-face with the unexpected.
“People demand stimulation from certain events and feel bored when those events fall short of their expectations. Repetition, lack of interaction, and minimal variation are among the reasons for such misaligned expectations,” believes sociologist Peter Conrad.
The biggest challenge we might face in the modern world is: how can we lose weight, and how do we fill the Game Of Thrones void for the next two years?
While these challenges may seem important to our current lives, amusement academic Malcolm Burt believes we’re still that same twitchy caveman, but we’re just living in a safer world.
Scare Yourself Silly
Malcolm has dedicated his life’s work to studying the design and nature of thrill rides. His first research project at Queensland University of Technology was a documentary about roller coasters and exploring why such rides exist.
People fly from all around the world just to visit Disneyland and scare themselves silly. But why?
“Thrill rides give us unusual sensations that we can no longer experience safely in everyday life. But, at the same time, we are driven to seek those kind of sensations,” says Malcolm.
Thrill rides bring on a rush of adrenalin, and for that split second a person is highly focused on their environment and the sensation of living on the edge. But what happens when a water-slide becomes predictable?
This is where virtual reality meets thrill rides.
Virtual reality is about enhancing the sensations that already exist in the world. It creates a visceral experience and takes you to places you cannot go or experiences that you cannot have— without putting yourself in danger, of course.
As an amusement academic, Malcolm has flown all around the world, working on large- and small-scale thrill ride projects. He’s currently developing a Virtual Theme Park with Lund University in Sweden where students are able to learn physics forces via rides in VR, and he is also helping to create a virtual reality waterslide in Germany. The project is based around enhancing the existing experiences of a water slide. Riders put on a virtual reality headset and physically experience the existing water slide, but in tandem with a new virtual experience.
The premise is that the rider is escaping an erupting volcano and they must dodge the lava to “survive.” The virtual reality experience is enhanced with a variety of physical effects such as cold water splashes and hot air blasts.
Malcolm explains that virtual reality is exciting because it doesn’t take much to convince people’s perceptions that the scenario is real.
“If there’s a good visual representation and a little bit of motion, whether it’s simulated or real, the brain is tricked to believing the virtual scenario.”
The Future is Virtual
According to Elon Musk, we’re already living in a virtual world. The idea of a virtual world is not so fanciful as it once was in The Matrix. We’re already heading down this path, and fast.
In speaking about the future of virtual reality and thrill rides, Malcolm believes that one day we may never leave the house. The experience of going to Disneyland may be accessible directly from the living room couch.
“Maybe we’ll just pay for a Disney account and that’ll enable us to walk around the park virtually and get access to all Disney rides, like a Netflix subscription.”
Learn how to create your own virtual reality and experience what lies beyond virtual theme parks with our Virtual Reality Courses.