Imagine being able to "walk" into your computer and interact with any program you create. It sounds like science fiction, but it's science fact. Surgeons now rehearse operations on computer-generated "virtual" patients, and architects "walk through" virtual buildings while the actual structures are still in blueprints. In Virtual Reality, Howard Rheingold takes us to the front lines of this revolutionary new technology that creates computer-generated worlds complete with the sensations of touch and motion, and explores its impact on everything from entertainment to particle physics.
About the Author
Howard Rheingold is author of Tools for Thought, Excursions to the Far Side of the Mind, They Have a Word For It: A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words and Phrases; coauthor of Higher Creativity and The Cognitive Connection; and editor of Whole Earth Review. He is multimedia columnist for Publish magazine and has been consultant to the US Congress Office of Technology Assessment. He has written for the New York Times, Esquire, Psychology Today, Playboy, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Omni.
Read an Excerpt
I had traveled to North Carolina because I had heard about people who are already creating medicines by using their eyes, ears, and muscles as well as their minds to invent new chemical compounds. I tried my hand at puzzling out a molecular docking problem with the ARM, the same way chemists at this lab do. It's part of something called "virtual reality", also known as "VR." Although I lacked the knowledge that distinguishes an expert in a field such as chemistry, I did not lack for skill at sensing my own way into the problem. Because the apparatus had made aspects of molecular docking directly perceptible to my eyes, ears, and hand, I was able to use all my experience in the world of gravity and manipulable objects, my gut-feel of the world, to advance a hard problem farther than most chemists could have done without the aid of computer modeling. For a truly skilled chemist, it must feel like an intellectual power-too. I was beginning to understand why so many of the researchers in VR talk about the field's potential with such fervor. But the molecular level isn't the only place this new technology is creating a new kind of window on reality.