In his keynote speech at Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Association, Tony Parisi offered a glimpse of hope that VR can improve society. “I’m hoping that collectively we can make the world a better place,” Parisi concluded. “Have fun. Make money. But change the world, hopefully for the better.”
Parisi, Head of VR and AR at Unity Technologies, gave his keynote at SVVR 2017 on Thursday morning with an optimistic note, as reported by Venture Beat. But like many of his peers note, VR has long ways to go before it's accepted into the mainstream consumer culture, noting we are in a “gap of disappointment” after the 2016 launch of consumer versions of VR headsets.
Parisi shared that he sees a huge potential for many companies looking to create applications, but expresses his concern for getting people to believe in an alternate reality. Speaking in a cautionary tone, Parisi posed the question: “What if we can jump into a clan and go kill some people. That is OK because they’re not real. Even if they are, they are not us.”
What Parisi is referring too is this dark-side of empathy. As seen in Netflix’s Black Mirror episode “Men Against Fire,” empathy may make someone turn against the other who looks nothing like them. In the episode, a military psychiatrist shares with a young soldier named Stripe that empathy is “a good thing — until your future depends on wiping out the enemy.”
While Parisi was cautious about the implications of mass adoption, he praised the technology’s ability to instill the better aspects of empathy — allowing people to generate a unique perspective they would otherwise not gain. He described Chris Milk’s documentary “Clouds Over Sidra” as the “ultimate empathy machine.”
The film was released in 2015 and uses Video 360 to follow Sidra, “a twelve-year-old girl that has fled her home in Syria due to the ongoing crisis and found herself in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp.”
The experiences found in Milk’s documentary allow you to be placed in the shoes of another person and be able to see the world as they see it.
Not only did Parisi highlight the ability of VR to extend people’s empathy, but VR also has the potential for brands to foster more engagement and people to create escapes. “The best VR entertainment creates a new world for us to inhabit,” Parisi said. “VR is the ultimate escape pod. We could all use some of that right now.
Photo credit: Michael O'Donnell/SVVR