The Coming Era of Virtual Reality: Changing the Landscape of Social Etiquette

Appropriate social conduct is not something consciously thought about on a regular basis, although it is something that permeates modern lives. That social etiquette, as dictated by today’s age and technology, is about to undergo a drastic upset this coming winter season. The Samsung Gear VR, a phone-powered virtual reality headset, will be released in November and December for just $99. This means that transporting yourself to a world other than your physical one is about to become infinitely easier, which also means that the way humans communicate with one another is about to undergo a tremendous change. If you thought that video games and social media have transformed the world, wait until you see what these new pieces of gadgetry can do.


The Technology

Oculus rifts and virtual reality headsets already exist to a certain extent. There have been many enterprising technology companies racing to produce the latest and the greatest, but there have been numerous disappointments along the way, with high price tags still being the norm. Games and movies do exist for consumers to enjoy, but for the most part VR technology has been unreachable for the masses. This is all about to change with Samsung’s Gear VR this winter.


The Analogy

Picture yourself as a flight attendant on a plane carrying 300 people across the Atlantic Ocean. Now picture that almost all of your passengers are sporting bulky white and black headsets plugged into their phones. These people won’t be able to see what you’re doing or hear what you’re saying. In effect, these people have willingly become both deaf and blind. Some might be watching the newest movies in virtual theaters, while others may be burying their feet into the sun-warmed sands of Hawaii.  Others yet may be battling enraged dragons and bloodthirsty dinosaurs.

How do you address these people? If there’s an emergency, how are you going to reach these deaf and blind passengers? It’s common enough to have people absorbed in their phones or game devices while on a flight. Having a virtual reality headset will exponentially magnify those problems, and in more facets than just airplane travel.


The Controversy

As with any new line of world-changing technology, there are many concerns that come along with its introduction. Television sets first offered the chance to escape to another world in a way that forced your physical world to remain stagnant, along with desktop computers. Then there was the explosion of laptops, gaming devices, and music players. All of these innovations caused both subtle and obvious changes in the ways humans connect and interact with one another. Introducing virtual technology into mainstream lives will be yet another cause for a communication metamorphosis. Virtual technology will remove you even further from your physical life and transplant you into a virtual one- and your virtual one may rapidly become more appealing than your real one. For instance, if you can virtually walk the streets of magnificent Rome for $99, why ever travel there in the first place?

There is also the concern for physical safety. As with the airplane example, how do you communicate danger to a host of people who are mentally living in a different world? How do you signal to them while they are engaged in activities that shield them from the real world? There have been many suggestions made to alleviate this issue, such as creating proximity sensors and setting levels that keep you linked to the real world while in your virtual one. With such fresh and uncertain technological advances, there will be many similar future bridges to cross.


Changing Times

Regardless, the oncoming age of virtual reality is an exhilarating one. We are in the midst of technological breakthroughs that were only dreamed of in science fiction novels decades past. There are as many positive aspects to this revolution as there are troubling ones. Welcome to the brief moment before the onslaught of virtual reality’s domination of entertainment and its subsequent alterations to modern systems of social etiquette occurs.