When D.W. Griffith introduced the extreme closeup in movie theaters in 1911, people were reported to have ran out of the theater screaming in terror. Others complained that the public wasn’t paying to see part of an actor’s body. Sounds weird, huh?

Rheingold posited that, “we understand what is represented by disembodied ‘talking heads’ on a screen today because it is part of our perceived reality template, our collection of learned perceptual rules that help us make sense of our stream of sensations.” (66) The early moviegoers that Griffith scared away had no proper representation of “talking heads” and thus resorted to defensive fear when presented with a giant screen showing an extreme closeup.

I remember my first time trying a VR horror game. It was on my friend’s Google Cardboard and his iPhone in my freshman college dorm on a rainy afternoon. The app was a walkthrough story of a haunted house, with jump scares that suddenly made the 360 degrees of freedom burdensome — there was always another corner to look at. I screamed very loudly and physically jolted away from a ghost girl who suddenly appeared in front of me in the VR game. It felt so real. I had headphones in and the Google Cardboard had a head-strap, so it was easy to forget that I was in VR when the game intentionally evoked a chronic feeling of suspense and dread.

Griffith’s introduction of the extreme closeup in early cinema made me think of that rainy afternoon in my freshman college dorm. Just how far can we go to build new representations of our reality? I’m just curious to see when we’ll reach a point in VR that surpasses the human ability to comprehensibly experience what’s going on. We can already kind of see that with impossible illusions — our brains are simply unable to put one thing with another and is left at a loss. I’m sure that VR will reach this kind of sensory limit eventually, as games and experiences become more complex and realistic.

Cool Stuff on VR

HTC Vive eye tracking looks amazing.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” in VR? Whaaaaaaaat.

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