A man has spent a whole week in virtual reality (VR) as part of an experiment described as “quite possibly the dumbest thing I’ve ever done”.
Jack Wilmot, the co-founder of US-based VR studio Disrupt VR, spent approximately 168 hours in a virtual world, which was continuously live streamed on gaming site Twitch.
With the windows of his home blacked out, Wilmot set about experiencing virtual reality to the extreme. When switching between cabled or wireless headsets, he even closed his eyes to ensure he remained immersed in the virtual world.
In fact, the headset Wilmot used even had a camera fitted to the front so he could see his apartment, yet not directly.
In a video detailing his experience on YouTube, Wilmot explained that adjusting to his new ‘reality’ was difficult at first.
“Day one has been trying to get used to my new schedule in virtual reality,” he said. “Even the simple act of grabbing my coffee on the desk is a little bit difficult.”
“After keeping it under wraps for a number of weeks, I finally announced my experiment, and it was received with criticism and encouragement, and having a 24-hour live stream I’m not used to having eyes on me all the time. What I found was solitude, specifically in the African Savanna.”
Wilmot said that, at times, he could choose whether or not to play alone or with other people online, and that it was very easy to communicate with others through a virtual landscape.
“It’s very easy to find your tribe, to make friends, to communicate with others through a virtual landscape, where it’s no longer through a digital window but actually being there with them,” he explained.
This experience, Wilmot suggested, is one of the fundamental principles of virtual reality; experiencing a very real, human connection with others via a digital medium that one would normally associate with direct contact.
Following an intensive week’s worth of virtual reality, Wilmot said that he did not experience any significant side effects or fail to grasp reality once he returned. Admittedly, he did experience some dizziness, but that quickly passed.
Wilmot even quipped that the real world’s ‘graphics’ were far superior to what he had been experiencing, and noted that smells and sensations of the real world are something we cannot replicate in a virtual world at this time.
Spending such extended periods of time in a virtual environment is not advised and, in February, this very subject was explored as part of an inquiry into the effects of immersive technologies by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Sarah Jones, head of the School of Media at Birmingham City University, spent two days using a virtual reality headset in 2017 as part of a study into the psychological effects of VR and AR.
Jones’ research found that the impact on the individual was not as significant as she expected. Speaking to MPs at the inquiry, Jones said: “I was interested to see whether I would wake up and not know that I was in a virtual world and that didn’t happen.”
Fortunately for Jones and Wilmot, neither recorded any damaging side effects of extensive use.