Virtual Reality (VR) and Full-Immersion Virtual Reality (FIVR)

Talk about scientific and technological developments in the future
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Virtual Reality (VR) and Full-Immersion Virtual Reality (FIVR)

Post by wjfox »

In the next few weeks, I want to re-write this 2039 prediction. It was among the first entries to appear on our timeline, and based largely on a forecast by Ray Kurzweil. Although I admire the guy, he tends to be overly optimistic in terms of timescales. In retrospect, after 12 years of research and writing on futurology, I now think it's highly unlikely we'll have so-called full-immersion virtual reality (FIVR) in just 20 years. I'm creating this thread to gauge people's opinions on the future of virtual reality and the "when" of certain developments.

It's true that technology is advancing exponentially, and will likely continue to do so in the decades ahead. But even with rapid progress, there's still a mountain to climb in terms of reaching the capabilities needed for real-time FIVR.

The human brain has nearly 100 billion neurons, and many trillions of synapses. It also has the blood-brain barrier to limit the entry of foreign objects. Computers might reach the scale of blood cells by the late 2040s, going by the current trend in miniaturisation... ... me-mm3.htm


... but these will need production and deployment in vast numbers, coordinated simultaneously and in real time. Assuming it was even possible by then, why would people choose this highly invasive (and possibly dangerous) method of experiencing VR, when other options would be available that still offer a high-quality experience? The cost of FIVR would likely be much higher than conventional VR too, limiting its market potential.

Surely a more likely scenario is that conventional VR will continue to dominate for at least the next few decades?

8K displays (33.2 MP per eye) are likely to be standard by 2030 and are covered in detail here. I can then imagine 16K (132.7 MP) following by ~2040, reaching a level of photo-realism that's hard to distinguish from real life.

See my graphs here, for trends in pixel density: ... trends.htm


However, there's a massive difference between "goggles providing photo-realism" and "billions of microscopic machines connected to your brain cells providing photo-realism". The bottom line is that most people will be hesitant about such an invasive procedure.

I think a more likely scenario (at least for the medium term) is new form-factor options – such as contact lenses that beam graphics into your retina, alongside ear implants, and other wearables such as gloves, haptic suits/chairs, etc. For the more adventurous/hardcore gamers, these might be combined with some form of brain-computer interface, but in a limited way.

Laboratory research into FIVR might be happening by 2040-50, using mice or primates, but its usage in humans is something I view as a more distant technological prospect. And remember, we aren't just talking about the visual experience. FIVR would need to encompass the other four senses and include real-time input/output based on a vast ecosystem of thoughts/memories/emotions. It would also need human NPCs with perfect animation and facial models, full interactivity, etc.

All of the above seems very optimistic for 2039. So I'm interested to know what people think is the likely future evolution of VR, and when FIVR might become a reality, if it happens at all.
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Re: Virtual Reality (VR) and Full-Immersion Virtual Reality (FIVR)

Post by Yuli Ban »

Much like with AGI, I think FIVR has a spectrum of architectural ability.

The "full thing," what we're waiting for— brain connected to computer, computer feeds brain an alternative reality that it accepts as real— is definitely far out. Barring AGI, I don't see it happening in the next twenty years. Even if we had the technology and capability to do it, even if it turns out that we can do it today with Neuralink or DARPA's cortical modem, it would take a COVID-19-tier crisis that incentivizes unlimited funding and forced virtualization for it to happen on that timescale. Unlike COVID-19, I can't think of anything that would get governments and megacorps to try to herd billions of people into FIVR systems. Again barring AGI, but even then that would only be if said AGI demanded humans being plugged in en masse. And that's a hypothetical within a hypothetical within a hypothetical.

However, "pseudo-FIVR" or "high-immersion VR" is indeed possible. This is more a case of biohacking than human enhancement however, and I know I've talked of it before. There are two ways to get to this:

1: Wear a conventional VR headset to sleep, and then wake up with it it still on and active. Your brain will automatically accept the virtual world as completely real for a short time until the immersion is broken. It's fleetingly possible that certain drug cocktails could extend the time of this virtual awakening, but it's definitely a glitch in our biology more than anything.

2: Controllable lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is wetware FIVR, as has been known for decades. If we can control lucid dreaming, potentially even using current BCIs to share dreams, then something like a biopunk VR could be possible. Starspawn0 thinks it's possible. But again, this presumes we can toggle our dreams to become lucid at any time as well as extend lucidity and dreaming as long as possible. And there's also the obvious drawback that it only works when you're sleeping. I'm not saying this is any less safe than directly messing with your neurons, but a techno-lucid dreaming junkie seems like someone who could easily suffer neurological damage. Still, this is the most likely thing that'll lead up to full-dive VR in the medium-term future. On some level, the only difference between a controllable lucid dream and FIVR is the ability to toggle when you're dreaming. But that's an extreme summarization that ignores the chemical differences between waking, dreaming, and lucid dreaming.
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Re: Virtual Reality (VR) and Full-Immersion Virtual Reality (FIVR)

Post by funkervogt »

I don't think FIVR as Kurzweil envisions it will exist by 2039. The audiovisual aspects of VR will be almost 100% lifelike by then, but the experiences will not immerse the other senses (taste, touch, smell), and naturally moving around in VR (on something like an omnidirectional treadmill) will still be problematic.
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Re: Virtual Reality (VR) and Full-Immersion Virtual Reality (FIVR)

Post by Metalane »

Hmm, interesting points from both of you. You see, at first I was going to argue the contrary that FIVR is actually closer now than it was in the past, so I would predict before 2039. But it depends on your definition of it. I believe it was StarSpawn that suggested that as early as 2030 we could have BCI enhanced headsets (I guess "enhanced" wouldn't be the right word as it would be the BCI itself) that essentially read our brains data and allow us to create simulations where our brains will basically "react" to to certain stimuli and the BCI will replicate it. I might be explaining it wrong or simply just misunderstanding what StarSpawn meant. Would the sense of touch be indistinguishable from reality in 2030? No. But maybe we could at least get approximations of certain sensations, including taste and smell. Visuals and audio might be the easiest since that's the dominant area that's being tackled right now.

So by 2030 at least we shouldn't expect FIVR in the sense where our brains are completely transported into this 100% world, but we should at least get primitive sense of it. It'll likely evolve akin to how graphics have been evolving in 3D simulations for decades where the first BCI VR headsets will feel "not quite there yet", but will rapidly progress as more brain data gets fed.
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