January 19, 2019

[Kim Ji-hyun] Virtual reality, a dream come true?

PUBLISHED : July 12, 2017 - 15:32

UPDATED : July 12, 2017 - 17:54

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The weather is hot and sticky. I am desperately seeking respite, but that’s getting harder and harder to find in the stifling city. This means it’s vacation time. Time to get away.

But I just can’t decide. Where would be warm, yet not humid, full of fun things to do and good things to eat? Before I make my choice, I think I’ll just have to take a look to see what it’s like in Singapore, Hong Kong and Hawaii.

Am I going to leaf through pamphlets or go online to browse picture galleries posted by travel agencies? No. I just need my goggles and I’m off.

This is how industry watchers say the future will unfold when virtual reality takes off. Virtual tours will become possible, and you may not even have to hop on a plane. You can enjoy your vacation right at home, without having to take a single step outside. For the physically challenged, they would be able to make movements they only imagined. Experiments that were deemed too dangerous could be done, helping people make progress in medicine and other areas of treatment.

On the other hand, virtual reality could mess up our lives in ways we never thought possible.

Already, the Korean soft porn industry is getting ready to embrace the trend, and is spending more on R&D than it ever did. Content is already pouring out, even if it is not quite up to par. Just last month, a VR Summit was held here, where firms such as Greenlight Pictures from Korea and Japan-based Imagine unveiled pornographic content. The booths were popular, and people were willing to pay to have the experience.

In fact, many expect the porn industry to be one of the biggest benefactors of VR technology. The same concerns and expectations were raised when the internet first appeared. The worries were not ungrounded. YouTube, for instance, which has become something we can’t live without, is chock-full of content that should never be seen by eyes of tender-age.

Adults, of course, also have responsibility. I can still feel the shock I felt when my 11-year-old son stumbled upon a racy video that was beyond erotic. Then I slapped my forehead, remembering that I had failed to put parental controls on my phone.

But the system is just as important.

Technology is always a tricky thing. It can be our best friend, and it is how so many companies on this planet has made money and made people billionaires. Without it, our lives would be on permanent hold. On a side note, technology does not advance as fast as we often imagine. A few weeks ago, I watched an installment of Back to the Future and laughed my head off to see that the movie predicted flying cars in 2015, which was two years ago. Flying cars might be in development, but we are a long way from seeing them on our streets.

The speed of technological advancement may not match our imagination, but it looks like virtual reality will very soon become a part of our lives. Considering the endless less-than-virtuous ways it can be applied, it will likely penetrate faster than we thought.

I am not officially an early adopter, but technological prowess, the pains taken to attain it, and how it is applied to our everyday lives are nothing short of a wonder. I am still amazed at how I can access so much information with my phone, how that information is being channeled in so many mind-bogglingly different ways, and how more devices are being developed. I am amazed that my car and phone will soon become seamlessly tied together, that I can be in touch with my house at a whim, that I can even figure out where my son is whenever I want.

At the same time, unless proper measures are taken to keep this wonderful monster of technology to stay healthy, it may soon become a beast that can’t be tamed. It may not be time yet to discuss such measures, but virtual reality will soon be a part of our reality, especially more so in Korea where technology tends to make quantum leaps. So we all need to play our part in creating a healthy ecosystem for these new technologies.

As Steve Jobs once said, it’s not about faith in technology. It’s faith in people.

By Kim Ji-hyun 

Kim Jihyun is the editor-in-chief of The Investor. -- Ed.

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