Dusk til Dawn
Full immersion virtual reality
Towards the end of this decade, personal computers are becoming sophisticated enough to bring full immersion virtual reality to the mainstream.
In other words, users now have the option of actually “being” in a video game and experiencing its graphics, audio and other effects (e.g. tactile feedback) in a manner that is practically indistinguishable from the real world.
This stunning breakthrough has been achieved through exponential trends in computing over the previous decades – including a billionfold improvement in processing power and price performance, combined with a 100,000-fold shrinkage of components and circuitry.
For the first time, human brains are actually being merged with computer intelligence. Rather than viewing games on a screen, users now experience the game from within their own nervous systems, as though it were an extension of their mind. Players undergo a simple, minimally invasive procedure, which inserts billions of nanobots (blood cell-size devices) into their bodies. These microscopic machines are self-guided towards the neurons in their brain responsible for visual, auditory and other senses. Constructing the connections to these areas, once complete the nanobots are absorbed by the body and the “cyberlink” is complete.
When the user wishes to experience a simulated reality, the user simply jacks in. The interface takes over, suppressing all of the inputs coming from the real senses, and replacing them with signals corresponding to the virtual environment. If the user decides to move their limbs and muscles as they normally would, the nanobots again intercept these neurochemical signals – suppressing the “real world” limbs from moving, and instead causing their “virtual” limbs to move within the game. This means a user can be sitting in a fixed position (in a chair, bed… or even a public location), while experiencing a high degree of activity and movement.
Although most people are initially wary of these devices, they have been around in some form since at least 2025 (e.g. for medical purposes) and despite years of testing, security and safety measures a person killed in the net is killed in reality. Software has been implemented for this latest generation to prevent such an event, however, it slows down the interface.
Full immersion VR isn’t just limited to games. With such huge creative scope, it is being used for a whole range of applications now – from business to education, training, healthcare, engineering, design, media and entertainment.
Tourism is being revolutionised, since people no longer have to travel great distances or spend large amounts of money to explore the sights and sounds of another location – they can simply go online. For this reason, a number of travel firms are going bust around this time, or else drastically changing their business models to account for this new medium.
Of course, that’s not to say these online holidays are intrinsically better than the real thing. Although on a different scale of technical wizardry compared to graphics of previous decades, they are still somewhat limited in their accuracy of towns and cities. At this stage, many of them lack sufficient AI, are often sparsely populated, and miss out vital details or subtle characteristics of foreign culture… things which make real-life travel such an enriching, worthwhile experience. Decades of refinement will be needed before VR is entirely convincing.
Nevertheless, this new phenomenon is so profound in its depth of interactivity – as well as sheer convenience, accessibility and ease of use – that it presents a serious threat to old-line travel agencies.
One way that the industry adapts to this is by offering more detailed, advanced and sophisticated holiday environments, for a fee. However, this becomes only a temporary solution, as certain users find a way to pirate these programs, which are then duplicated and shared online. The problem is exacerbated by groups collaborating to form their own free/open source programs, which combine the best elements from these and others, and are easy to customise by the casual user. In some cases, “hybrid” versions of holiday destinations are being created which offer wholly new, surreal and often bizarrely dreamlike experiences. One such example might be a recreation of New York with a tropical coastline, lit by an alien sun in a purple sky, with Egyptian pyramids in Central Park.
Just as the internet led to a decline in the music industry, the same is now happening to the travel industry. From the 2040s onwards there is a massive decline in air travel and overseas holiday bookings. The effects of climate change and worsening environmental crises are also playing a part here. A growing number of citizens are choosing to stay at home, with much communication and interaction being done online. The same is true of businesses – especially with regard to meetings and conferences, which are increasingly being held in virtual settings.
One area of commerce with no such troubles is the adult entertainment industry. Full immersion VR allows users to meet and interact with people in astonishingly lifelike ways. This includes virtual recreations of famous celebrities and film stars…
Universal translators are widespread
On-person devices capable of instantly translating speech, text or handwriting from any of the world’s 6,000 languages are widespread by this time. Every website, virtual environment and electronic publication now has this facility too. This is having the effect of speeding up many bureaucratic/administrative procedures in business and government – as well as improving trust and cooperation at both a national and individual level.
US population reaches 400 million
This compares with 309 million for the year 2010. Most of the population growth has occured in urban areas – especially in the northern states, which are more stable in terms of food and water production.