Society

Five Virtual Reality Experiences I Am Really Excited About

| by Eytan Elbaz

I have had the opportunity to share my Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, and other Virtual Reality devices with at least 50 first-time VR users. It's always fun to see the reaction on people's faces when they first experience virtual reality. After they go through the water-splashing roller coaster, sit on a lifelike toilet, or wander down a super creepy hallway, we usually have a discussion about the future of VR. Here are the some of the experiences I am most excited about.

1) Taking a nature hike with my younger brother who lives a half a world away: My younger brother moved outside the United States 14 years ago. Since then, we haven't been able to spend a great deal of time hanging out in person. But that could all change with virtual reality: whether it's a heart-to-heart chat in the VR jungle or a simple every day activity, VR will allow us to connect with our loved ones, no matter where they live.

2) Seeing MLK Speak from the Lincoln Memorial in 1964: Martin Luther King's "Let Freedom Ring" speech is one of our greatest national treasures. Watching that speech had a very strong impact on me, even though the black and white video made it seem like it happened a long time ago in a world far away.

Imagine how much of an impact it could have if we enabled and allowed all of our nation's children to be in the crowd and see the speech as it happened on that historic day. Perhaps MLK would touch even more people and the U.S. could emerge a stronger, more tolerant nation with the guidance of a posthumous leader who keeps living through virtual reality. 

3) Going to concerts as a member of the band: When I tell people I want to go to concerts in VR, they usually say, "So what, we can go to concerts now." Yeah, but can you go to the concert as the keyboardist or the drummer of the band, onstage -- watching outward as 50,000 fans scream at you, looking to your left and seeing Jay Z, The Black Keys, or (insert your favorite artist) up close, beads of sweat dripping from their faces, watching their hands rip at the guitar, passion oozing from their faces as they sing into the microphone. We will experience concerts and sporting events up close and personal in a way most of us cannot even fathom today.

4) Not having to wait in lines for the Louvre: Visiting the Louvre is one of those bucket list trips you have to do in life if given the unique opportunity. You can't come home from Paris and tell people you didn't see the Mona Lisa. Even though I visited 20 years ago, I can still clearly recall how long the lines were to get in and see all the famous works of art.

I'll probably go again someday, perhaps with my wife and children, and maybe the lines will be even longer. How great would it be if we could have the same experience from the comfort of our home in Los Angeles, without having to trek 10,000 miles to stay in a hotel and stand in a two to three hour line to get inside.

5) Imprisonment: This one might seem strange to some, so think about it with an open mind before you cast judgment. I am excited for this one in a different way than the others - this is not about an adrenaline-pumping rock concert or seeing my beloved San Antonio Spurs from center court (and I mean the literal, exact center of the basketball court with Kawhi Leonard running past me on a fast break, at full speed, to dunk a basketball through the rim, just 47 feet away from me, but I digress...).

Rather, I am excited to experience alternate, difficult and challenging realities than I cannot currently process. I hope these experiences can make me a better, more empathetic person. Over two million Americans are in prison -- many for non-violent drug offenses, and the people who put them there probably don't have a clue what it feels like. As we attempt to tackle the mass incarceration problem in the U.S., it's imperative that we understand what that reality truly means. Perhaps I, plus everyone in Congress, should spend a day behind bars, in a tiny cell, without our friends, family, or sunlight and see what it's like. Experiencing alternate, difficult realities will help us better understand each other, and also appreciate what we each have in our own real worlds.

I would love to hear your feedback. What VR experiences are you most excited about? 

Photo Sources: Flickr, (1), (2), Wikimedia, (1), (2), pbs.org