PODCAST - Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, & Embodiment ft. Michael Waite
In this episode of the Red Beard Embodiment Podcast, host Alex Greene interviews Michael Waite, creator of the Brain Shaman podcast, about the current and future state of virtual and augmented reality technologies. They discuss how VR and AR are shaping our experiences of embodiment and connection, as well as their potential applications for mental health and trauma treatment.
Rekindling Philosophical Interests through VR
In 2018, Michael found himself deeply involved in the nascent VR industry in Japan. Utilizing basic phone-based and PC-powered systems, this work reignited his college-era passion for the philosophy of perception. For Michael, VR is more than just technology; it's a tool for delving into questions about how we understand and experience reality.
Advancements and Limitations in Current VR Systems
Current systems like the Meta Quest offer improvements in immersion compared to earlier technologies. Despite a broader field of view that minimizes eye strain, Michael observes that full-body tracking is yet to be fully implemented. This lack of complete embodiment remains a shortcoming that he believes future advancements in sensors and computing will overcome.
Therapeutic Potentials of VR
Michael sees significant promise in using VR for therapeutic purposes. Whether it's for exposure therapy in treating phobias, pain management, or stress reduction through tranquil virtual nature scenes, VR has the potential to revolutionize wellness practices. Yet he emphasizes the need for evidence-based research to substantiate these applications.
The Balanced Reality of AR
Shifting focus to augmented reality, Michael values AR's ability to meld the digital and physical worlds seamlessly. Unlike VR, AR helps to maintain a balance between the virtual and real, preventing issues like overstimulation or dissociation. This harmonious integration, according to Michael, marks a healthy advancement in immersive technology.
The Future: Eye-Tracking in AR/VR
Michael is keenly interested in the upcoming eye-tracking features in AR and VR headsets. Through a technique known as foveated rendering, these systems can provide sharper, more realistic visuals by concentrating graphics processing where the user is looking. The same technology can be employed for personalized vision therapy, offering quicker treatments for conditions like lazy eye.
Expanding Human Cognition and Empathy
What excites Michael most about the future of VR is its potential to serve as a medium for fostering empathy and expanding human cognition. Users can experience different perspectives, whether of animals or other people, thereby nurturing a deeper level of understanding and compassion. The integration of brain-computer interfaces may even enable new, thought-based forms of communication.
In summary, for Michael, VR and AR technologies represent far more than technological marvels. They offer a gateway into the future of how humans will perceive, understand, and interact with their reality.
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