I walk the streets of Helsinki in the morning sun and find my way to Start-up Maria around half past nine on Thursday. I have been contacting a few speakers for an interview and one of them will be the first keynote speaker. He is Dong Il Dillon Seo, a co-founder of Oculus Rift and the CEO of his own company VoleR Creative that creates an immersive dating simulation based on Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence.
Seo talks about how Virtual Reality can revolutionize peoples’ lives. It is fascinating how trough VR we can be anything, be anywhere and do anything. Time and space will no longer limit us. The new user interface will change our experience from seeing to feeling the things happening around us. “VR is a tool, a way to express our imagination”, he summarizes as an answer to the moderators question about wether VR itself is a product or a platform. As an artist myself I am mind blown by the thought. Who wouldn’t want to visit another person’s imaginary worlds in such an immersive environment?
As we later on sit down to talk, Dillon Seo tells me about how he got started with virtual reality and Oculus Rift.
“The concept of virtual reality has been around for a long time. Many movies and books had played with the idea, but the technology to make it real was missing.”
He tells how the founder team of Oculus Rift were all involved in gaming and wanted to play games in virtual reality.
“So we wanted to build a headset for ourselves so that we could play virtual reality games and then the whole thing kind of exploded”
It turns out that a movie, “Her”, has been an inspiration for his new business idea. “Her”, is a story about a lonely introverted guy who falls in love with a female operating system. There are a lot of similarities with the story and VoleR Creative’s business idea.
Seo describes how the problem with the artificial intelligence (female OS) in the movie is that she doesn’t really have a look or a physical form so the guy needs to imagine her. In one of the scenes female OS hires a prostitute to visit the guy so that they could also have a physical relationship. The girl’s appearance doesn’t really match the mental image the guy has created so the whole situation turns out quite weird.
“That for example won’t be a problem with our AI, since they will have an appearance from day one”, Seo explains.
Dillon Seo believes that virtual reality will struggle a couple of years until there will be enough content to attract critical amount of users. But then it can transform our society and people will start to live in virtual reality more and more.
“Think about it – time and space will no longer limit us, neither our physical condition or appearance. Real world is not fare and we are all born with different conditions. But think about gaming world. It is fare. Mr Nobody in the real world can be Mr Somebody in the gaming world if you just put in the hours. No one knows or cares about your appearance or social status.”
So it all comes back to the compelling idea of getting to be who we have always dreamed to be and to do what we have always wanted to do.
But doesn’t it feel a little sad to know that all that beauty and success is not real? Isn’t it scary if we in the end isolate ourselves and loose the real life contact with each other?
“We are already isolated. We can sit by the same table and message each other about going out for a lunch instead of just opening our mouths. It is safer. We want to keep our personal space.”
But why is that so important?
“People are afraid of emotions.”
As terrifying as it sounds, I cannot disagree with him. It just feels sad to think that people rather distance themselves from others than take the risk of being rejected.
Our conversation leaves me both tremendously inspired and thoughtful. Virtual reality will help people to be present at events and in situations that they would have missed due to distance, lack of time or physical restrictions. It can help us keep connected in a holistic way and be a platform for creation and expression. But there is also a problematic side to it, which might push us even further away from each other. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.
The fascinating fact is that virtual reality will give us a possibility to express and experience our wildest dreams.