Movies are wonderful things; they can inspire, spark debate, and even make you believe in what you are seeing. Virtual Reality is a creation of a highly interactive computer-based multimedia environment in which the user becomes a participant with the computer in a “virtually real” world.
Movies and virtual reality can do the same thing: make you believe what is presented to you. Although there are several movies which use virtual reality in the plot, such as The Lawnmower Man, and Hackers, the one most prevalent to me is The Matrix. Although this movie contains many aspects of virtual reality, it stands out in my mind so much because it suggests that the world in which we live, is a virtual one. The Matrix has many different aspects of virtual reality and they are incorporated throughout the movie.Virtual reality is involved in this movie in one major way: it suggests that our world is merely a virtual reality program that was created in order to “control” humans and keep them from the “real world,” which has been taken over by artificial intelligence who harvest humans for power. The main character in the movie is Gary Anderson, affectionately known to the hacker-world as Neo.
He is contacted by people who have escaped the Matrix, and through a series of adventures, joins them. At one point in the movie, Neo goes to a psychic to find out if he is the one person who can save the rest of us from the Matrix. While waiting to see the psychic, Neo encounters a boy, there for the same reason, bending spoons without touching them.
He watches and asks how he does it. The boy responds in a typical virtual reality response, “concentrate not on the spoon itself, but that there is no spoon.” That is how virtual reality works: you can interact with everything in the virtual world, but it’s not really there. Everytime Neo enters the Matrix, a plug is inserted into the back of his head and he is hooked up to machines.
Virtual Reality also uses such equipment. Granted, it is not as drastic as having a probe thrust into the back of your head, but there is special equipment needed such as helmets, gloves, and eyephones. The glove is made of thin Lycra and is fitted with sensors that monitor finger flexion, extension, hand position and orientation. It is connected to a computer through fiber optic cables. Sensor inputs enable the computer to generate an on-screen image of the hand that follows the operator’s hand movements.
The glove also has miniature vibrators in the fingertips to provide feedback to the operator from grasped virtual objects. The system allows the operator to interact by grabbing and moving a virtual object within a simulated room while experiencing the “feel” of the object. The eyephone is a head mounted stereo display that shows a computer-made virtual world in full color and 3D; sound effects are also delivered to the headset increase the realism. With this equipment, a person could believe that they are part of the program in the virtual reality system. The same idea is dealt with in The Matrix.
If you die while in The Matrix, you died outside. Even though you know it is not real, your body thinks it is. A similar example would be The Lawnmower Man, a Stephen King movie in which scientists take a mentally retarded man and use virtual reality to try to learn basic things and help him be a normal citizen. Their plan backfires when the man takes over the computer and essentially “moves in” to the hard drive of the computer. Both of these, The Matrix and The Lawnmower Man, show the possible dangers of virtual reality. This is not a danger when simple playing games with virtual reality.
The problem comes when you are incorporated into the virtual world for longer than you are in the real world. The person learns to live in the virtual world and never wants to leave. This is the danger of becoming too involved with virtual reality, so involved that you believe that you are part of that world. Virtual reality is a powerful thing. It has the power to help us learn, live out fantasies, and even influence our behavior. Movies can do the same. The movie industry is becoming quickly aware of the many advantages to marketing virtual reality.
Virtual reality is still an infant; people do not know very much about it and are very curious; The Matrix, is a movie about a kind of virtual reality. Maybe we do live in a Matrix and need to realize that there is no spoon, or maybe we should just keep our feet planted solidly in reality. Works CitedKing, Stephen.
The Lawnmower Man, 1992.The Matrix. Warner Bros., 1999.