We Are VR

“Greetings, user. Welcome to The Overlay.”

In the future, these words may welcome us to a worldwide holographic interface that will permanently and completely transform reality.

We have all heard of virtual reality from movies like The Lawnmower Man and Tron, which opened our imaginations to the idea of constructing a world inside a computer. Although this idea continues to spark interest, the progress in virtual reality technology slowed dramatically as we realized that such a feat was far more difficult than previously thought, and our inability to predict the future became depressingly apparent. In the mid 1990s, Nintendo released a virtual reality gaming console named Virtual Boy, which highlighted just how far the technology hadn’t come. However, the idea has recently surfaced again after the Oculus Rift, a head-mounted display virtual reality display, was displayed at the 2012 Electronics Entertainment Expo.

There are many barriers that virtual reality must overcome if it’s to become an acceptable avenue for education and entertainment. First, and most obviously, the visuals must be convincing. If the user doesn’t believe that they are immersed in an alternate reality, they won’t accept it. This doesn’t mean that it must be indistinguishable from the real world, but only that it must be detailed and believable enough for the user to form a meaningful attachment to the world and its characters.  Although they are important, convincing visuals alone aren’t enough to persuade a user that they are a part of a virtual world.

Another obstacle, which has largely been neglected, is the controls that we use to interact with computers. Even with the most advanced virtual reality display, if we still require the use of a keyboard to give instructions to our virtual character, we won’t be immersed. There has been advancement in motion-sensor technology, such as Microsoft’s Kinect, but such instruments still carry limitations that prevent authentic virtual interaction. First of all, there’s no force feedback, so the user must rely only on sight to determine whether or not they are in contact with an object. Second, these devices only capture motion from a static, unidirectional position, so the user must stand relatively still and face the sensor at all times, which leads to another serious limitation. If the user must remain in one place, then they can’t be directly linked to their virtual character’s motions. After all, the user can’t leave the room, so they must make their character walk by doing something other than walking. This forces users to either use a hand-held controller or symbolic gestures.

Yet another reason why virtual reality fails to persuade us is the fact that users must exit this reality in order to enter a virtual counterpart. Even if the simulated world’s visuals were convincing and the interactions were natural, users would remember that they’re in a virtual world because they must log in and out of that world. This doesn’t mean that the virtual world wouldn’t be fascinating and, to an extent, immersive but users would always know that the world is virtual, so it would be difficult to form emotional bonds with the world’s inhabitants. Without those bonds, users won’t behave in an authentic way, which is an integral component in virtual reality. Unfortunately, this disparity in reality is necessary because of the nature of virtual reality, which is that it is a separate and different world from our own. However, this is not true of augmented reality.

Augmented reality, although similar to virtual reality, is unique in the sense that it is not a distinct, fabricated world, but merely an altered or enhanced version of our own reality. It works by superimposing a virtual layer over the real world, much like the Enterprise’s holodeck , except it is not limited to a single room. This approach is inherently convincing, as the world with which we are interacting actually exists. It also completely circumvents interaction and character control issues, since the user never leaves the real world. However, unlike the holodeck, there are limitations. Augmented reality is simply a visual projection, so it can’t generate completely original objects with which the user may interact. Visually, a user may be instantaneously transported to any location in the universe, but they would still be surrounded by reality, regardless of what they see. Regardless of this adversity, the advantages of augmented reality make it an intriguing alternative to virtual reality. Unfortunately, current augmented reality programs are novelties that are neither expansive nor convincing. But let’s take a moment to imagine the potential that augmented reality can offer.

You wake up one morning, get off your noisy innerspring mattress and walk to the window of your second story, moderate-income apartment. You fumble with the blinds, momentarily pondering the absurdity of the controls, then raise them with the expectation of a gentle sunrise. But the day is not friendly, and it welcomes you with dim, miserable showers. Instead of merely accepting nature’s choice for today’s weather, you instruct your augmented reality system to make it a clear, sunny morning. And while you’re at it, why not change the view from drab industrial buildings and railroad tracks to a vast, serene ocean?

In addition to correcting the morning view, it would allow each user to experience the entirety of reality in their own way. The world would appear exactly as each person wants to see it, transforming each individual’s reality into a paradise. By simply downloading a program, users could change their house, car or even face and body. This would eliminate the need to waste time and energy maintaining appearances. After all, why put on makeup or exercise when your lover sees whatever they want to see?

But this might raise some concerns in those who are wealthy or beautiful in reality. After all, if everyone appears beautiful and wealthy, then this might make beauty and wealth meaningless. Also, if a user’s changes appear only to themselves, they would likely receive criticism from other users. To remedy this, the system could be regulated so that all users view the same thing. A fee could also be charged to download modifications, which would allow wealthier users to benefit from their success and hard work.

Advertisement would also be a big component in this augmented reality, since ads could be placed anywhere and changed instantly. If we fail to make payments, we might have to endure advertisements on our property or even our bodies. We also may be punished for our behavior by having modifications disabled, our property destroyed, or by being transformed into a hideous creature.

These ideas are interesting, as they cause us to question the importance of reality and of wealth, for if everyone could be virtually successful and beautiful at the click of a button, would it satisfy? Also, if everyone is equally wealthy and beautiful, then isn’t everyone is also equally poor and ugly?

Where Babies Really Come From

Want to know where babies really come from? This isn’t about the bedtime olympics or the migration of your micro-salmon up the fallopian river. This is about about how babies are built.

We all know that a baby comes from cells that multiply and divide (which, mathematically, should produce net 0 increase in babies) and how the baby matures during the trimesters in the womb, but where does the matter come from to make a baby’s body?

Imagine a young woman, about 25 years of age. She’s 5’6″, 135 lb and not pregnant. After some late-night antics with her young hubby and nine months of gestation, she’s now a whopping 160 lbs, and about 8 lbs of that is baby. What was that baby made from? There’s only one possibility, and it’s the one way that we take matter into our bodies: food.

Babies are made of food.

When a woman gets pregnant, her body is transformed into a factory which takes in raw materials, such as cheese, bread, Doritos and ice cream, and constructs a baby from those materials. It is likely that you could eat only pizza while pregnant and still produce a marginally healthy baby. If you did, then that baby would be made entirely out of pizza.

So all you pregnant or soon-to-be pregnant ladies should remember that your baby is what you eat… err, your baby is made from what you eat.

Possibility vs. Probability

Have you ever wondered if there’s another world out there with intelligent life? Of course not, but some people spend a lot of their time wondering just that. One of the methods they use to calculate whether or not this is possible is known as the Drake Equation. The equation works by multiplying together the likelihood of each variable necessary for us to discover intelligent life. These include the chance of life arising on a planet, the chance of it reaching intelligence and the chance of that life existing at the same time as us so that we might encounter it.

Besides this equation being, as T.J. Nelson states, “worse than useless,” due to the impossibility of calculating any of the probabilities involved, it also falsely assumes that our ability to imagine an event indicates that the event is possible.

If we are speculating on any probability that deals with infinity or near-infinity, such as the number of planets in our universe, we must understand that possibility does not mean inevitability. An example of this is the ever-growing idea that there are an infinite number of universes in which every possibility has taken place. A fascinating idea, but think for a moment, every possibility? So there’s a universe in which every coin flip in history was heads, one where everything is the same but all cars are lime green with five wheels, and a world in which JFK survived his assassination attempt, resigned as president and went on to write a series of children’s novels starring a giant blue raccoon named Brad? But here’s where the unfathomable magnitude of infinity actually begins to stretch our minds: there isn’t just one universe where each of these things has happened, but an infinite number of universes for each possibility.

So do these universes really exist? Well, even though all of the physical forces necessary for these outcomes are present, and we may even be able to use a sort of Drake Equation to determine their exact probability, they are not possible. But why? How can something that is probable be impossible?

The answer is that there is more to these possibilities than chance arrangement of matter. Thoughts, behavior, patterns and constants govern our universe and ensure that these possibilities never happen. That’s why a tornado blowing through a junkyard will never assemble a working automobile and why everyone won’t pick the same winning lottery numbers in the same draw. Events like these seem unpredictable, but they are far from it.

In order for an event to have a chance of occurring – to be possible – it must comply with the forces of the universe. Although our choice of lottery numbers appears aimless, just as the way a tornado scatters debris is seemingly random, these events most certainly adhere to a pattern. A tornado curls and spins in a way that is likely too complex for us to understand. Likewise, the reasons behind our choice of lottery numbers may be obscure, but it’s not random. After all, it would seem foolish for us to choose the lottery numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, but they have the same likelihood of winning as any other combination.

Just because something is vast and inconceivable, it doesn’t mean that its causes are not ordered. This order is what prevents probable events from occurring.

The Father of Invention

You’ve likely heard it said that necessity is the mother of invention. Well, if invention has a mom then it must have a dad, unless words are asexual, which seems unlikely. It appears that although invention inherits its genetic code for motivation from its mother, the DNA for creativity are passed down from its father, restriction. Yes, restriction had word-sex with necessity and impregnated her. Let’s find out how it happened.

Pretend for a moment that you work for the local paper, editing the sports section or something other useless topic. One day your boss pokes his head into your cell and asks, “Hey could you do me a favor real quick?”

“Ya, what is it?”, you reply with hesitation, knowing full well that you won’t want to do it, but that you’re going to end up doing it anyway.

“Bill’s got the flu, can you write the comic for tomorrow?”

You agree to it, and immediately brilliant works of comedic gold don’t come rushing into your brain.

After staring at your stapler for an hour, trying to imagine possibilities for characters, backdrops and punch lines, you conclude that you are not a creative person. What’s wrong? The necessity is there, but you can’t produce anything. Invention needs a father.

The problem is that you have no restriction. Without restriction the human mind has no aim, no focus. Thoughts are like a garden hose, you have to stick your thumb in it just right to get it to shoot properly. Wait, thoughts are more like a laser beam, they need to be refracted perfectly through a series of lenses.

Creative thought is like water. It pools in your brain, waiting to rush out when you think of a good idea. The problem is that the reservoir of thought in your brain doesn’t know which way to spill out. Restriction gives it a direction. Restricting your thoughts gives walls to a river of creativity that cannot be halted.

Back to our example. If you were told to write a story right now, you would likely sit in bland silence, possibly drooling, for two minutes and then quit. But if you were told that this story’s setting had to be a backyard garden, suddenly you are a bubbling fountain of ideas.

So if you’re ever stuck on a subject for your paper or a concept for your art, merely restrict your thought to a narrow, specific idea. Here are some examples to get you going: sewage, the zoo, a harp, Jack Nicholson, headphones, Siberia, a television remote, apprehension.


Weak motor skills restrict your mobility, rendering you unable to care for yourself. You cannot walk or even feed yourself and you depend on those who love you to survive.

What is being described is not merely a stage in every person’s life, but two stages in every persons life.

The existence of a human being is, in many ways, palindromic – the former and latter halves mirror each other. Let us examine some aspects of our lives that reflect this phenomenon.

We can’t argue with facts because they aren’t alive. But if they were alive, rest assured that in this case we wouldn’t want to.  Many more graphs could be drawn, plotting anything from diaper usage to how often people say we’re cute. It’s undeniable, your life is a palindrome.

The Red Pill

If there was a pill that would cause you to never sleep again, would you take it?

This pill wouldn’t cause insomnia in the traditional sense, instead removing the very need for sleep. Before you answer one way or the other, let us ponder a life without sleep.

First of all, your life without a compulsion to sleep could be much more productive. With twenty-four waking hours to spend every day, you could finally take those guitar lessons, finish that degree and learn Japanese. It’s often said that there aren’t enough hours in the day, and now there’s more.

But before you get too carried away with imagining living two lifetimes in one, lets think about some of the potential baggage that could come with a sleep-free lifestyle.

One problem you might encounter is a lack of appreciation for time. As with immortality, the idea of more time is attractive at first, but can render existence meaningless. Without scarcity of time, one could lose appreciation for time and grow to loathe it’s passage. The scarcity of out time makes it precious.

Another issue could be the lack of sleep blurring the separation between days. Without a definitive end to each day, our biological clock would likely be going cuckoo. This leads to our third and final potential threat.

A sleepless existence might leave a residual longing for the undulation between activity and inactivity. Because we’re no longer physically required to wind down and take a break from our tasks, we may question the purpose of our continual labor.

Now what if the entire world ate this pill? This is where a powerful imagination can run wild.

First and most importantly, a world without sleep would have no rush hour because no one is waking up. Work can begin and end at any time because there is no beginning or end to our days.

We would work more, too. We already spend a great deal of time working or doing some work-like task, such as schooling or caring for loved ones, but now we will likely be expected to do something productive with the extra hours. Fortunately, businesses will have no reason to close at night, so there will be plenty of opportunities to schedule in a new full-time position.

Another major change would be our diet. The three meal per day schedule is out the window, since our bodies would be active around the clock. This would result in an increased demand for nourishment and thus additional meals. But what do we call the new meal times?  Dusk dinner? Night breakfast? Dark lunch?

Night will be a more active time for humans, so we will need more light. Because of the increased demand for electricity, we will likely need to improve our infrastructure and consume more coal, natural gas and other resources. The increased use of artificial light during the night will also produce massive amounts of light pollution, so we will need to pay people to clean it up every morning.

Rule of Seven

Seven simple ways to make the world more efficient:

1. Switch all clocks to twenty-four-hour time.

2. Bring about overdue reform to the alphabet. Letters which do not produce a unique sound, such as c, x and q will be fired. A close eye will be kept on j, y and z.

3. Stopputtingspacesbetweenwordswhentyping. Studiesshowthatthisincreasestypingspeedbyfifteenpercent.

4. Change to the metric system. No one knows how many pecks are in a bushel.

5. Cars will be regulated to near-extinction. Each vehicle may only produce a horsepower-to-kilogram ratio which renders the act of driving unexciting. A sedan with a speedometer that can reach 260 km/h is about as helpful as a speaker that can deafen its listeners or a television that can blind its viewers.

6. Place a moratorium on treadmills pending further investigation into aimless exertion of energy.

7. Ban blogs. They are responsible for countless hours wasted by posting semi-useless information.