Can Right and Wrong be Learned by Children, Through the Help of VR?

By: Amanda Tong

VR, or virtual reality, is often conducted through the wearing of sensor headsets and hand-held controllers. They form immersive 3D images and experiences that bring users to another world.

When thinking of VR, people often perceive it as an entertainment tool and not as a guidance that can promote self reflection and growth. So this blog focuses on the hidden side of VR that is often buried in the shadows. VR can have so many possibilities and potential to be used as an effective aid in many fields, and we are going to emphasize on its educational purposes, specifically regarding moral standards. 

Let us start by asking one of the two most important questions: can we learn what is right and wrong with the help of VR?

The short answer is yes, but we need to prove that right and wrong can indeed be learned. 

Why and how?

Right and wrong can be learned, or have to be learned because it is a natural part of our cognitive development and understanding. Learning is an ability ingrained within us humans, and learning through observation is a primary behavior that is inherited down through our ancestors. Seeking (for food and water) became an unconscious yet instinctive behavior that happens naturally. We mimic the ones around us to learn, usually at a young age. It just happens vicariously, and the same applies to moral standards.

Society won’t function without moral and ethical manners; contrary, moral and ethical standards are made by society, therefore people are forced to have morals. Every generation of us goes through this process and needs to confront these norms. Thus the unconscious mind of humans influences the future generations to do the same.

Then the rest is then simpler to understand; younger children are implicitly subject to the influence of some older people around them to learn about rightness and wrongness. Morals are learned through socialization, the interaction with other people, with the outer world/environment; these characteristics shape our inner sense of rightness about our own behavior and of others. 

Don’t believe me? Let me give you a proof.

In 1961, Albert Bandura, an American psychologist performed an experiment on children’s interactions with dolls to investigate if social behaviors (aggression, in this case, sense of wrongness) can be acquired by observation and imitation. The experiment is conducted as such: 20+ kids are made to watch an adult attack a toy named Bobo Doll, another 20 kids are kept in a neutral environment that witnesses nothing. Then they are all led to another room filled with different kinds of toys including a tea set, crayons, and of course, a bobo doll. 

Guess what? (connection to the idea of observational learning.)The group of kids that witnessed adults kicking and hurting the doll started to do the same thing. They learned from adults that doing so is okay, acceptable, will likely to not be punished, and they start similar behaviors. This says loudly and clearly that not only actions can be learned, the thinking underlie, the thoughts that “hurting is okay to do”, the moral of wrongness can be built within the kids too. Easily, I would even say.

Back to the societal topic though, there might be technically no such thing as definite personal and complete independent morals. Think about this, does a kid growing up from an isolated room, no communication with other people at all and there is no pathway for them to get a hint of the outside world, do they know what is right and wrong to them? 

No! Because the kid has no one to observe, they do not have anything to learn from, simple as that.

Next comes the second part of the question: how is VR used to learn then, especially to learn moral standards that are unique to humans? 

The answer will be surprisingly easy: the same way people learn in real life!

I propose a scenario: there is a young boy who has been trapped in VR headsets his whole life, the VR mimic exactly about how the world works, and due to coding/programming, he is able to learn about moral standards through the use of technology, this so-called immersive yet “fake” VR world. And suddenly one day he is released and goes into contact with the real world, he makes friends with other “real” human beings, and what will happen to the boy?

Nothing! He is interacting with others the same way he did in the VR headset, it is the same, his behaviors will not alter because this is the way he has been taught to behave and he clearly knows that, the rules of human interaction and societal function between the worlds (real and VR) are the same!

For this reason, VR remains to be a useful and powerful tool that helps people “learn” or even adapt to what is right and wrong. Without disturbance to the real world, it provides multiple and never-ending opportunities to allow people to “try again” and improve, plus, no one is going to judge others from making mistakes in VR. 

Speaking of which, my personal visit to Studio X located at University of Rochester is a great example of demonstrating infinite possibilities of VR. With the help of 3D scenarios, a group of professionals developed the real life Trolley Problem that one can personally experience the dilemma with a shift of perspective. In this scenario, I become the person who has to make the decision. I witnessed the train, switch, track, and people as if I was reincarnated to another soul and saw all of it happen. This makes me wandered off a little, the resemblance of the VR world to the real world brings an interesting and novel experience to my brain. This consequently made me more free in making my decisions, to think more thoroughly in my actions because I now have that confidence gifted by the VR world.

In the Trolley Problem, there is no such thing as right and wrong, it depends fully on one’s personal beliefs, but as the claim went, VR provides multiple chances for people to experience, allowing them to make mistakes on a trial basis, and thus reflect upon their choices and behaviors. Through 3D characters and images, VR lets users to physically transform their identity and “step in other’s shoes” let them realize the existence of compassion, empathy, and therefore the sense of rightness (moral).

VR also supplies experience. Hauser, in his book Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong, argues that experience alters people’s moral behaviors, experience guides what we do. This is totally true, there are many restrictions in people’s lives that prevent them from doing what they want to do, and VR can offer the possibility for them to gain this freedom. VR offers a more receptive attitude towards people’s mistakes, yet what is learned in VR can be taken away as a lesson in the real world, proving that VR is a useful tool for educational purposes. VR supplies opportunity with chances of trial and error.

In conclusion, we can learn what is right and wrong through the use of VR because the ways of learning through VR do not differ much from the various approaches in learning through our real life experience. In fact, it is done already: in the Frontier article Enhancing Our Lives with Immersive Virtual Reality, it mentions multiple ways of how VR is already used in the psychological and education industry. VR is slowly coming into our normal lives as a powerful tool to design or even create new ways of learning for the younger generation, and trusting it with the job to teach moral standards is not an impossible task.

It is safe to claim that people are able to learn not only what is right and wrong, but also through the help of VR experiences.

APA Citation: 

Slater, M., & Sanchez-Vives, M. (n.d.). Frontiers | Enhancing Our Lives with Immersive Virtual Reality. 3. Retrieved September 6, 2023, from

Hauser, M. (2006). Moral minds: How nature designed our universal sense of right and wrong (pp. xx, 489). Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers.

Singh, O. (2023). What is extended reality (XR), explained. Cointelegraph.

5 Tips for Cultivating Empathy. (2018). Making Caring Common.

Begley, S., & Kalb, C. (n.d.). Learning Right From Wrong. Retrieved September 28, 2023, from

Decety, J., & Cowell, J. M. (n.d.). Our Brains are Wired for Morality: Evolution, Development, and Neuroscience. Frontiers for Young Minds. Retrieved September 28, 2023, from

Limone, P., & Toto, G. A. (2022). Origin and Development of Moral Sense: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Psychology, 13.

Mcleod, S. (2022, November 3). Bandura’s Bobo Doll Experiment on Social Learning.

Whitman, M. (2018). 1.3: Can Morality Be Taught? Humanities LibreTexts.

Introduction of StudioX presentation with Writing 105-Uncertainty class. September 12, 2023.

With the help of Spelling and Grammar Correction Tool from Google Docs.

Long-Distance Relationships and Virtual Reality

screenshot from Wander. shows a residential neighborhood.

By: Paula Lopez

In my personal experience, I tend to struggle a lot in my quest to get to the point where I feel completely used to interacting with the people I love through a screen. I can assure you, it would only take a couple of seconds of talking with my friends and family about me to realize that I am a total disaster with my phone. I have this really bad reputation for answering texts a week later (if they’re lucky). In short, I guess we could say that my mind subconsciously seems to have some kind of rejection towards adapting to these technological means of communication. If it were not for the instantaneous feature of texts, I would much rather communicate through love letters. 

As if destiny was plotting so that I could finally face this issue of mine, my partner and I had to embark on a new adventure of having a long-distance relationship. If you have ever seen a Disney movie, you will know what I mean when I say that love can be magical enough to make you want to do crazy things you never thought you might be capable of doing (in the best way possible). Consequently, at this point in our lives our mission is to explore all the different tools and options that can help us get over the big challenges of long distance. Hence, after visiting Studio X  and learning more about Virtual Reality (VR) in general, this crazy innovative tool sparked my interest. Most of all, it  made me wonder whether I think VR can serve as a tool to make long-distance relationships easier and better. Therefore, this is what I will be aiming to explore. 

Being in a long-distance relationship is not an easy mountain to climb. In your path you come across feelings of anxiety of being so far away, not being able to hug somebody that you love so dearly and actually be with them physically in the same room. After doing some research on VR looking for answers and possible solutions, I encountered some very interesting testimonials regarding experiences with VR and long-distance relationships. Nathan Grayson, in his post “Long Distance Relationships Suck, But VR’s Made It Easier”, shares how he came up with the idea of using VR in the hope that it could replicate physical presence in better way than video calls could, and he concludes by saying “We weren’t exactly reunited, but we didn’t feel so far apart anymore.” (Grayson, 2016). It is true that one can never compare what it is like to have their loved one sitting next to them, or feeling the warmth of their embrace, the connection while holding hands or the magic of a kiss. Nevertheless, when confronting the situation of having to be geographically separated from your partner, having this new opportunity to at least visually live the experience of going out on a date with them can bring so much hope, help relieve the anxiety of being far away, and unite that couple even more. 

Grayson shares this during one of his dates with his girlfriend in VR: “While other people were talking, we got close, held hands, and looked into each other’s soulless virtual eyes. My brain filled in the gaps, and for the briefest of moments, it felt like she was there. All her unique motions were there, the familiar little quirks I love.” (Grayson, 2016). Monica Chin, in her publication “Virtual reality might save my long-distance relationship” describes her experience with VR in a very similar way: “Her avatar blinked, her eyes and eyebrows fluidly guided her face as it transitioned through expressions. I didn’t just feel like she was there: She was there, with me, in the glowing virtual wilderness.” (Chin, 2017). This without a doubt shows that for some couples the experience of using VR as a tool has significantly made a difference in feeling closer to their partner; feeling that connection in a much more “realistic” way.

During my visit in Studio X, I got the chance to try out one of the headsets and the different apps that they have. It was a little bit of a shocking experience for me, but in an exciting way. I think the part that striked me the most was when I tried the app called Wander. This is an app that is basically like living the experience of being inside Google Maps—that function where you can look up a place and see your surroundings as if you were there in real life. I played around with it a little bit, traveled to some of my favorite places and also discovered new ones that I had never even heard of. It is genuinely impressive how seeing those places through the VR headset makes you feel so immersed into your surroundings. 

Screenshot from Wander. Shows a residential neighborhood.
(Wander – Oculus Quest Review, 2019)

This brought me back really strongly to that feeling of how much I wish my partner could be here so that I could take him to all the places I go to every day. To physically make him part of my everyday life. And the same thing the other way around. I would love to see those places where he grabs coffee, visit the streets where he walks his dog, and look at the view that he can see from his window. Today, using VR, this is completely possible! That feeling that it gives you to be able to see and feel like you are in those places where your partner is. Feeling a lot closer, connected and even more involved in his own world at the other side of the Earth. Additionally, exploring this tool or even other fun games inside VR could help keep the relationship dynamic and fun. This is another way in which VR could be a really great tool for couples that are in a long-distance relationship.

It should not be ignored, the fact that it is true how VR cannot mimic physical touch, which carries a lot of weight in romantic relationships, especially for people who have physical contact as one of their main love languages. Ophelia Deroy, in her publication “Why You Need To Touch Your Keys To Believe They’re In Your Bag” introduces a very insightful idea regarding the sense of touch in VR. She talks about the phenomenon of reaching for something with your virtual hands and not being able to actually feel anything, and how “you are left with the ghostly feeling that things are not so real. Impalpable objects are not convincing.” (Deroy, 2017). By using the word “ghostly”, it definitely guides you to think about how this lack of sense of touch could generate a kind of frustration of feeling so close to your loved one—maybe starting to feel a little too inside the illusion—and then realize you cannot actually touch them. 

Another very interesting concept to consider is something that for me at first sounded like an aspect of VR that did not sound very inviting for helping you ease your experience in a long-distance relationship. This was actually something that my partner thought about and we found it to be a very interesting hypothetical scenario regarding avatars in VR. If your partner one day asked you that for fun you picked a different avatar, something completely different that what you look like, this could potentially be a situation that created insecurities on the person that is receiving the comment. Nevertheless, after reading something that Grayson said, I realized that it would not necessarily have to be that type of situation. Sharing his own experience looking at his girlfriend’s robot avatar, he said “In front of me was a floating ball robot that I’d taken to calling Ball-E, but in that moment, her robot face was just her face. It was astounding. […] It’s weird how quickly physical form ceases to matter when the voice and gestures of somebody you know is coming out of it. VR is strangely intimate, especially once you start viewing people’s bizarro avatars as, well, them.” (Grayson, 2016).

Collage of three different virtual reality scenes. Two show robots.
(Caruso & Lizardi, 2023).

In conclusion, I believe that VR really can be a wonderful opportunity for couples that are in a long-distance relationship. It is true that this may not apply for everybody, and for some it may be more helpful than others, but overall I feel like it is a very positive thing to consider and try! As Grayson rightfully stated, “[b]reaking and testing the limits of this foreign reality is a great way to bring people together.” (Grayson, 2016). I feel like this is especially true for couples and from personal experience, I can attest to how impactful it could be. Looking for new adventures and trying new things with your partner can keep the relationship very dynamic and fun, and bring them joy and union in discovering new things together—which is something that is sometimes lacking when you are on the other side of the world, in a new place, discovering new things on your own. I am definitely open to trying this and exploring all the different things that VR has to offer—perhaps not on a daily basis because this exceeds my limits of camaraderie with technology, but once in a while, I am indeed signed up to embark on that adventure.


Caruso, M., & Lizardi, B. (2023, June 7). The Best Free Games For The Oculus Quest. TheGamer. Retrieved September 28, 2023, from

Chin, M. (2017, December 9). Virtual reality might save my long-distance relationship. Mashable.

Deroy, O. (2017, November 29). Why you need to touch your keys to believe they’re in your bag (N. Warburton, Ed.). Aeon.

Grayson, N. (2016, May 9). Long-Distance Relationships Suck, But VR’s Made It Easier. Kotaku.

Wander – Oculus Quest Review. (2019, June 27). Oculus Quest Play. Retrieved September 28, 2023, from

Do Our Actions as Avatars Matter?

By: Risa Kunitake

The robot winks at me, holding out its hand invitingly. After I wipe the sweat off of my hand, I reach for it. The music starts. The robot is counting down. 3, 2,…

A dancing robot from a virtual reality game called First Steps.
The robot dances with the user.
Image source: Meta Quest

With my left hand, I swiftly take out the cassette, and I can see the tables and seats of Studio X again. I stand there dazed, asking myself, “Was I really about to dance with a computer-generated image of a robot?”

That was my first time interacting with the world of virtual reality. To be completely honest, I was pretty skeptical of the tool when I was first told that we would be immersed in “another reality” with an Oculus. After all, how is something made of computer codes “real”? 

But that turned out to be wrong; I was inside a whole new world. The ping pong ball I threw made a sound every time it bounced, and the paper airplane flew in the direction I aimed it towards. And the robot. I was ready to flail my arms and legs in the middle of Studio X, all because I would feel bad if I refused to take its hand. Then it hit me. I’m in a virtual world. It wouldn’t care if put an end to its silly actions by taking out the cassette. It wouldn’t know. It is not real.

One of the most interesting things about this experience was the constant shift between believing that the things I interact with are real and wondering why I keep following the directions of computer codes. I constantly questioned whether I should behave the way I do in the physical world or whether I should do whatever I feel like because of the lack of consequences in VR. You can probably guess the answer to that question based on the way I mercilessly declined the dace invitation by “ending” the robot’s life.

The case for my mischievous act was minor. However, could this virtual world, where actions barely come with consequences, be misused by users with malicious intent? The answer is a certain yes, and it even has a coined term in the virtual world—metaverse crime. 

What is “metaverse crime”?

Metaverse crimes, as described by Integrity Asia, include physical world crimes such as theft and harassment, the only difference being that they are committed in the virtual world. 

For example, “virtual rape” occurs when a user is forcibly put into a sexual situation against their will in the virtual world, according to the Freedom From Fear Magazine. In the metaverse, users are able to make avatars that live in the virtual space, and they can interact with one another. With the advancement in graphics and design, these interactions between avatars have become more realistic. While this may seem like an advantage to those looking for a more immersive VR experience, it has also created an opportunity for users with malicious intent to exploit the technology. 

In another instance, public riots in the virtual world have created turmoil in the metaverse. A recent virtual political campaign in Spain, for example, led to virtual riots and harassment between disagreeing political parties, states the Freedom From Fear Magazine

In a world that is built to mimic reality as accurately as possible, the occurrence of virtual crimes has become more common. As presented in these examples, the lack of consequences in VR and uncertainty surrounding the gravity of metaverse crimes has led to misconduct among users in the virtual world. 

Can actions in VR impact avatars?

VR avatars interacting in Facebook Spaces
Image Source: USA Today

However, some have argued that virtual crimes do not need to be considered real because after all, the “people” in the metaverse are solely avatars made up of computer codes, and a computer code cannot cause harm nor be harmed. The consequences of our actions in the physical world do not apply in the same way in the metaverse.

In order to answer the question of whether virtual crimes are real crimes, we have to consider this key question—is VR a real world? The answer has been widely debated, with some arguing that it is as real as the world we live in. For instance, David Calmers, author of the book Reality +, explores the philosophical nature of virtual worlds and argues that the metaverse is a real world where users can “lead a fully meaningful life.” Based on this argument, the interactions we make as avatars in VR should come with real consequences similar to those in the physical world. Therefore, crimes committed by an avatar against another avatar would be considered a “real crime.” Others counter that users and avatars are separate entities, and any actions imposed by the user will not have any effects on the avatars. In this case, any action that resembles a crime in the physical world would not get punished in the metaverse. If we were to come to a conclusion between the two, I would have to publish a book (or even multiple!) that considers the many components that make up “reality.” I will leave it up to you to decide on the answer to this question.

Based on my experience at Studio X, however, VR felt very real. Just the fact that I could pick up a ball, throw paper planes, and even dance with a robot, made me forget about my surroundings and the physical world for a while. It was to the point where I felt a slight sense of guilt toward a robot when I refused to take its hand for a dance. Now, imagine if there was a human being with emotions and feelings behind the robot. I know for certain that my sense of guilt would increase if I knew that a living person was offering me a hand on the dance floor. Although not everyone may experience these feelings towards avatars in the same way, actions committed in the metaverse can bring out real emotions in the user. This can also apply to metaverse crimes. A crime committed against an avatar has the potential to impact the user in control. It would be an underestimate of VR’s immersive nature to say that interactions between avatars do not affect human emotions. 

What can be done?

Unfortunately, the complete erasure of crimes in the virtual world is near impossible, as it is difficult to track every user and record all evidence of possible crimes. Although existing laws are sometimes considered in the punishing of metaverse crimes, the regulations are gray and not centralized, differing between metaverse platforms. Regulations alone will not eliminate all criminal activities in VR.

Instead of solely creating punishments for metaverse crimes, a better solution would be to prevent them from occurring in the first place, just as we do in the physical world According to Mazer, Meta has established a safety boundary to prevent avatars from getting too close to one another. Although this solution certainly has its limitations, further investigation of the root causes of metaverse crime will help us come up with improved safety protocols. By creating more preventative measures and enforcing stronger privacy systems, we can continue to exist in the virtual world, safely and comfortably. 

Works Cited

Integrity Asia. “Exploring Crimes in the Metaverse,” February 22, 2023.

Goodman, Mark. “Crime and Policing in Virtual Worlds.” Freedom From Fear Magazine (blog), January 16, 2014.

David J. Chalmers, Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy (Penguin Press, 2023).

Mazer. “Crime in the Metaverse,” September 7, 2022.


Oculus Quest | First Steps, 2019.

Cava, Marco della. “Your Friends (and You) Become Cartoon Avatars in Facebook Virtual Reality.” USA TODAY. Accessed September 28, 2023.


Thank you to my peer reviewers Will and Paul and my professor Kate for providing me with

feedback during the drafting process. I used Zotero to help me with the citations and Grammarly for

spelling and grammar checks. 

Simulation Theory — the Ultimate Existential Crisis?

By: James Kim

20 years ago from today, Oxford Philosopher Nick Bostrum first proposed the argument that “we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation”(Bostrum, 1), introducing several topics of intellectual debates, many of which are still ongoing to this day. From technicians in the natural sciences to philosophers and ethicists, multidisciplinary perspectives from esteemed intellectuals can be seen from just a few clicks away from your search bar, thanks to the universalized distribution of the internet.

Similarly, virtual reality technology is developing in such a way where it is becoming more and more accessible to the general public. An Oberlo blog post summarizing this year’s VR statistics states that “14.94 million [VR] devices were shipped out in 2022, a 54.2 increase from 2021”(ICD, qtd. in Lin) with a prosperous outlook in market share growth in the near future. With VR technology already being used in several professional fields — even for casual entertainment, many observations within our modern society seem to hint the universalization of VR technology in our daily lives for a wider range of consumers. 

bar chart graph to illustrate the increase in revenue for the VR market. Starts in 2014 with 62.1 million U.S. dollars to 2024 8,770 million U.S. dollars.
(Fig. 1: Statista, VR Market Revenue in the U.S from 2014 to 2025)

Furthermore, the improvement in VR technology is also heading towards the direction of enhancing the graphical user experience of simulated environments. As a first-hand experienced user of the Oculus Quest 2 from Studio X, I was quite impressed by the ability of modern technology to represent an entire reality within just a tiny little headset. Even throughout my first few steps into the virtually projected world, the sensation of playing around with a punching bag never had a chance to remind me that I was being toyed around by a mere illusion. Observing the projectiles flying away from the muzzle of my lazer gun and hitting the targets was like being unified with an in-game character from a first-person shooter game. Walking through office walls and teleporting to designated locations gave me the feeling of dream walking with a clear mind, which indeed, was mind blowing as it sounds.

virtual reality shooter game.
(Fig. 2: MrCoolPotato, 4:29-5:45)

While gazing at the pinnacle of modern technology right in front of my two eyes was undoubtedly an amazing experience, the hyperrealistic sensations that I was able to feel throughout the gameplay also induced many questions concerning the development of human technology itself. Technological limitations of computations are progressively being lifted by the second, granting the ability to replicate not only the visual world but also other senses such as touch and sound with increased precision more than ever. And as the boundaries between the virtual world and physical world keeps on diminishing as so, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume the practicality of post-human civilization being able to simulate our universe?

As mentioned, the simulation theory has several different approaches to construct an argument. For instance, a natural scientist can refute the possibility of us being simulated by quoting human discoveries in quantum mechanics and particle physics; a philosopher may tackle this theory by contemplating fundamental questions about the nature of reality by discussing how we should define what a ‘real’ world is with existential introspection. Nevertheless, as most dilemmas are like, the interdisciplinary debate about this inquiry will most likely lead to an inconclusive conversation due to epistemological limitations — our ‘scientific’ knowledge and understanding of the universe are essentially “synthetic propositions [which] are inevitably fallible” (Barghyan et al. 2).

Therefore, my point of interest will be the impact of simulation theory on the general public. Given that VR technology devices will be distributed to a wider audience in the near future, more people will be exposed to these ‘technological uncertainties’ — the simulation theory, and despite its existence for more than two decades, it will become more and more prominent of a topic as the first hand experienced users exponentially increase in numbers. Will this, if any, have a significant impact on our modern society? Will social media or individuals somehow find a way to exploit this “pseudoscience [hypothesis]” (Hossenfelder) for one’s benefit, or even just for the sake of spreading existential crises? What will happen to all of our belief systems such as religions? 

I do admit that the simulation argument, at its first encounter, may be a source of psychological distress. Existential anxiety challenges our definition of a ‘real’ world and the meaning of life; the uncertainty to whether we actually do with the unprovable hypothesis is unsettling; the potential existence of a transcendental civilizations overseeing us induces cosmic horror. And if one would find themselves discomforted by these potential scenarios, how would they address this on an individual level?

My response would be that it doesn’t really matter. Whether we are made of flesh and particles or ones and zeros, would it make any differences in the choices we make in life at all? Several humans throughout history demonstrated that it is more than possible to live a good life in our world. Even Chalmers answered the “Value Question: can you live a good life in the virtual world?” as yes(Chalmers 16) in his book ‘Reality+’. If it is possible to live a good life in our current world regardless of the existence of an ‘external’ one (implied by the premise that we are being simulated), simply the possibility that we might live in a simulation won’t serve as a valid excuse to live a meaningless life. 

Hence, returning to the original question, will the development of VR technology induce more theoretical uncertainty regarding the simulation hypothesis within our society? Yes — more people will be exposed to first-hand experiences of VR equipped with more advanced replications of reality, thus leading more people to Bostrum’s argument. Will this create any significant issues such as destabilizing the psychological state of the general public? No — may we be forever uncertain about the conclusion of the simulation theory, the two possible outcomes are essentially inconsequential to our life decisions since both realities: either virtual or real, one can lead to one living a good, meaningful life. 

If you’re ever worried that you might be living in a simulation and that your entire life just might be an enormous Truman Show, always remember that your choices are still relevant, and they still have the power to influence your life. So try entering the ‘truly’ simulated reality through Oculus Meta Quest yourself! Experience the uncertainty of our living world firsthand. Indulge in the culmination of modern technology to ponder about our existence (just for a moment). And if we ever happen to prove that we are living in a simulation, maybe we should be grateful that our simulators had the willingness and ability to compute free-will! 

“Most importantly, let’s hope that no one will trip over the power cable”(Kurzgesagt).



Oculus Quest 2 First Steps FULL GAMEPLAY (No Commentary). Created by MrCoolPotato, Youtube Video, 2020,

Alain Lacroix. Fact and Belief.

Are We Living in a Simulation? – Zohreh Davoudi. Directed by TED-Ed, Youtube Video, 2019,

David J. Chalmers. Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy. 2022.

David Malet Armstrong. Belief Truth and Knowledge. Cambridge University Press, 2009.

James Ladyman. Reality Minus Minus – James Ladyman, Professor of Philosophy. The Institute for Futures Studies, Stockholm, 6 Sep. 2023

Nick Bostrum. “ARE YOU LIVING IN A COMPUTER SIMULATION?” Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 53, 2003, p. 14.

Sabine Hossenfelder. “No, We Probably Don’t Live in a Computer Simulation.” Backreaction, 15 Mar. 2017,

Anil Ananthaswamy. “Do We Live in a Simulation? Chances Are about 50–50.” Scentific American, 13 Oct. 2020,

Fouad Khan. “Confirmed! We Live in a Simulation.” Scientific American 1 Apr. 2021,

Lin, Ying. “10 VIRTUAL REALITY STATISTICS EVERY MARKETER SHOULD KNOW IN 2023 [INFOGRAPHIC].” OBERLO, 17 Mar. 2023,,Virtual%20Reality%20Growth,Grand%20View%20Research%2C%202021.

Ubrani, Jitesh, et al. AR & VR Headsets Market Share. IDC, 14 July 2023,

Is Reality Real? The Simulation Argument. Directed by Kurzgesagt, Youtube Video, Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell, 2017,

Sabine Hossenfelder. “The Simulation Hypothesis Is Pseudoscience.” BackReaction, 13 Feb. 2021,

Simulations as Agents of Change: Applying VR to Police Training

an illustrated comic of a person panicking about the trolley problem.

By: Lily Fitzpatrick

An illustrated comic of a person panicking while deciding to press a button for the trolley problem.
Illustration by Kyle T. Webster for “The Trolley Problem” by Brian Short, published on the University of Michigan’s Literature, Science, and the Arts website.

Inside the Trolley Problem–a VR-based research study that immerses participants in one of moral philosophy’s most famous hypothetical scenarios–I stood in a control room, surrounded by a dark, dismal industrial landscape. Between that and the robotic computer commands, flashing emergency lights, and alarming signals that a train was coming, I found myself a little tense (even with the volume set so low I could barely hear anything over the ambient noise of Studio X). When I had to stop the train by pushing a barrel of water to cause a temporary electrical short, I felt a genuine sense of time pressure and anxiety to save the five service workers on the track–even though they were animated. When my instructor eventually told the class to take off our headsets, I was in the middle of another life-or-death task–diverting the train to another track to save five different workers–and felt an initial impulse of reluctance to abandon it, despite my full awareness that it wasn’t real. I didn’t get far enough to face any moral dilemmas; early on in the study, the only choice is to save five people or sit back and let them die. But based on my experience thus far, I suspect that any future decision I made in the simulation would have seemed of the utmost importance (i.e. life-or-death), when it was really inconsequential. If I had, say, pushed one virtual person onto the tracks to save five others, I would have felt real internal conflict and real guilt, as if the lives of these nonconscious avatars truly mattered.

VR simulations, due to their immersive properties, have the ability to predict (within a reasonable degree of certainty) people’s genuine responses to given scenarios–an ability which will reach its full potential with continued technological development. Therefore, simulations may be an especially effective tool to train police officers in de-escalation tactics; experiencing virtual representations of real-life situations they will face, trainees can observe and receive feedback on their behavioral responses in a safe environment before confronting (and potentially harming) real people. Given the persistence of police brutality in the U.S., more departments should consider strengthening their de-escalation training programs with VR.

VR and the Prediction of Human Behavior

The potential benefits of VR in de-escalation training stem from the flexibility and immersive nature of simulations. As recognized in a paper by researchers Mel Slater and Maria Sanchez-Vives, titled “Enhancing Our Lives with Immersive Virtual Reality,” VR is a “powerful tool” that can be beneficially applied to the study of social and moral behavior. Besides simulating “extreme situations that are ethically and practically impossible in reality”–the Trolley Problem being a prime example–we can theoretically program virtual representations of any “real-life” situation imaginable (Slater and Sanchez-Vives). Therefore, we can simulate various types of police interactions with civilians, which officers-in-training can experience and respond to.

Still from the Divergent film, showing Tris Prior immersed in a highly realistic simulation where she must face her fear of drowning. Added by Olik008 to Divergent (film) Image Gallery).

In order for such simulations to serve as a useful training exercise, the trainee must truly feel immersed in it. In other words, the program must successfully induce “presence,” defined by Slater and Sanchez-Vives as a combination of place illusion (the feeling of truly “being there” in the virtual world) and plausibility (the “illusion that the events are really happening”). The extent to which participants’ behavior in VR models how they would behave in real life relies on presence (Slater and Sanchez-Vives)–and conceivably, as VR technology continues to develop, its presence-inducing capabilities will become increasingly advanced, causing users’ responses to become increasingly authentic. Perhaps our simulations could eventually be as sophisticated as those represented in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, with non-animated environments that the user’s senses cannot distinguish from real ones–but would we really feel emotions just as intensely as we would in real life? Would we behave exactly as we would in reality? Even if, in a refined version of the Trolley Problem simulation, I had the impression of touching the trolley controls with my own fingers (as opposed to glowing blue ones, devoid of tactile sensation), and even if the people on the tracks had not been animated, I would still retain the knowledge of being in VR, needing only to refer to my memory of putting on the headset and entering the program–and, as noted by Slater and Sanchez-Vives, such knowledge can “dampen down [participants’] responses.” 

While it’s true that my anxiety to save the virtual people in the Trolley Problem was much milder than it would be in real life, it seems to me that the program’s inadequate presence-inducing capabilities–as opposed to my knowledge of being in a simulation–played the primary role in causing that disparity. There were significant weak points in the creation of both place illusion and plausibility, including a glitch that periodically made the virtual setting disappear to reveal my real surroundings. In the absence of such weak points, I doubt that understanding the artificiality of my environment would have, by itself, significantly influenced my responses. I was already fairly invested in this imperfect program, and if my presence had been magnified to a sufficient level, I imagine that the illusion of reality would have been strong enough to make me respond exactly (or nearly exactly) as if it were real. Still, as Slater and Sanchez-Vives point out, we can never guarantee how closely one’s virtual actions align with their analogous actions in reality (assuming we’re studying a situation where no “real-life” data can be collected), which means we cannot generalize VR-based data with absolute certainty. Nevertheless, when we simulate events that naturally occur in real life (rather than highly unlikely hypothetical scenarios like the Trolley Problem), we can “construct predictive theory that may help us understand how people might respond in reality” and later assess its validity by observing people’s behavior in real-life instances (Slater and Sanchez-Vives). Thus, despite their knowledge that the VR simulations are not “real,” officers can use them to predict their own behavior in the kinds of situations they will face (assuming the simulations have sufficient presence-inducing capabilities, which continued advancement should ensure). They can then make necessary adjustments before those predictions are put to the test.

Lt. Juan Avila wearing a VR headset that the University of Wisconsin Police Department is using in de-escalation training. Tim Elliott. From “UWPD Using Virtual Reality to Train Officers De-Escalation Tactics,”  published by NBC 15 on Apr. 27, 2022.

The Emerging Use of VR in De-Escalation Training

In order for the police to effectively perform their duty–namely, to “protect and serve”–they must be well-equipped to prevent and avoid violence, whenever possible, through de-escalation. They must be prepared to use appropriate strategies and to overcome any emotions or attitudes (such as fear and bias) that may drive them to use unnecessary force. VR simulators like Apex Officer are designed to optimize such preparation. According to an article covering the use of Apex Officer by a police department in New London, Connecticut, the technology allows fellow officers to construct situations for trainees so that, “just like in real life, officers don’t know what they’re stepping into” (Hartz). This system ensures that the VR scenarios are sufficiently realistic (given their basis in real police experience) and novel to the trainees. Furthermore, VR training is “always followed by a debriefing session where officers receive feedback and consider what improvements they might make” (Hartz). The way trainees conduct themselves in a simulation may predict how they would act in real life at that point in their training, but these regular debriefing sessions provide the opportunity to shape their behavioral tendencies over time. Repeated practice with the simulator–during which officers “test out nonviolent strategies, try new ways of gaining voluntary compliance and improve decision-making” in a low-stakes environment where no one can be harmed (Hartz)–when accompanied by self-reflection and insight from outside observers, seems certain to lead to improvement. This depends, of course, on departments taking a thorough, serious approach to the training–but given the high cost of VR equipment, those who make the investment certainly have an incentive to do so.

According to the Apex Officer website–on which, despite the disturbing presence of the Blue Lives Matter flag in promo, the company appears genuinely dedicated to helping officers “make better decisions,” act with “appropriate discretion,” and treat “all people with respect and dignity”–thousands of law enforcement agencies, including Colorado State Patrol, Richmond PD, and New York State University PD, already use this particular simulator in their training programs. Presumably, in our capitalist economy, many competing products will emerge; competition will likely encourage technological advancement, which should give rise to increasingly immersive (and thus, increasingly effective) platforms. Therefore, police departments should continue investing in VR-based de-escalation training; the more widespread its use, the more widespread its benefits to new officers (and, by extension, the communities they serve).


Hartz, T. (2022, December 11). Conn. Police Using Virtual Reality to Train Officers in De-Escalation Tactics. Police 1.

Slater, M., & Sanchez-Vives, M. (2016). Enhancing Our Lives With Immersive Virtual Reality. Frontiers in Robotics and A.I., 3.

Is Virtual Reality the Next Step to Improving Our Classrooms? 

children trying virtual reality.

By: Will Fallona

children wearing virtual reality headsets with delighted expressions.
EdTech Magazine

Is virtual reality the next step to improving our classrooms? With the increasing development of XR (extended reality) and more specifically VR (virtual reality), products such as the Meta Quest headsets or the HTC Vive XR Elite headset could become a useful tool used in classrooms to expand learning opportunities for students. The extended reality they can create will provide both students and teachers with new tools to examine or explore things in a way that hasn’t been possible before. I believe that virtual reality is the next addition to our schools because of the new learning opportunities it creates, the interest and motivation it can bring to learning, and the efficient stress-relieving environment it can provide.

One of the driving factors supporting virtual reality’s entry into schools is the new learning opportunities and experiences it creates. With virtual reality, students are able to travel to places to learn in environments that their school otherwise could not provide, and the study, “Impact of virtual reality use on the teaching and learning of vectors” by Esmeralda Campos et al. shows just that. Campos’s study consisted of trials in which the experimental group of students was provided with virtual reality headsets to immerse themselves into simulations, and a control group without the virtual reality. The experimental groups with virtual reality access had continually outperformed the control group. Thus proving the immersive simulations of complex physics ideas that virtual reality provided improved the understanding of the lesson; and according to students increased interest and motivation in the subject. As a former physics student myself, I can certainly say some concepts that we simply cannot recreate in the classroom were very hard to wrap my head around while trying to picture all of the moving parts with a 2D sketch. I can relate to this and say an interactive environment or even just a 3-dimensional image would have been very useful and effective when learning something like the structure of electromagnetic fields or the different types of forces. The use of these tools has also become a new step for training in hospitals and medical schools in recent years, and experiences like Osso VR have certainly impressed many, including surgeons themselves.

Osso Virtual reality headsets on a table.
Osso VR at AAOS 2021 | Recap 

On top of learning physics concepts, the headsets have also provided a way for children in Topeka Elementary to “take field trips across the world”. 

Children wearing virtual reality headsets.
 Topeka elementary school students take field trips across the world thanks to VR

The benefits of this immersive tool apply to many classes. Whether its use is needed for viewing 3-dimensional simulations, traveling to places without leaving your seat, or understanding unobtainable objects.

In addition to the new learning opportunities virtual reality provides, it also has the capability to increase interest and motivation for students. The other day my writing class took a field trip to Studio X to explore the virtual world on the Meta Quest headsets. I can say even as an 18-year-old old I was very excited to immerse myself into the virtual world for a class. My interest was struck again by the many programs Studio X provides, and just as Campos describes in her article, the immersion and hands-on feel of virtual reality can give you a perspective like never before. I enjoyed Virginia Tech’s “Trolly Problem” experiment and spent my time as a rail switch operator facing moral decisions on whose lives to save. It was an awesome experiment and I was happy to contribute to Virginia Tech’s research data. If the experiment had just been questions on a sheet of paper, I can certainly say it would not have been close to as appetizing as the hands-on world they created in virtual reality. It’s important to keep students motivated, especially at the younger ages, and If virtual reality is a way of keeping them motivated and developing interest then it is very important that schools take advantage of that to help excite and inspire the motivation for learning in younger students. 

On top of the interesting academic benefits virtual reality provides, it is also capable of creating a space where students can step away from the classroom and relax. The ability virtual reality has to immerse students into a new learning environment can just as well take them to a calming stress-free world. In Studio X with maybe 15-20 other people, I felt so isolated I completely forgot about my surroundings even with 30 people in the same room as me. It was such a nice break from the stresses of packed school and game day, and I was happy I had the chance to try it out in that setting. I know once homework and social stresses begin to take over students’ lives a virtual escape could be just what one needs to clear their mind and relax. This experience was introduced to me last spring when I was exposed to the soothing effects of the Recharge Room. While volunteering to sort donated clothes, I had the chance to check out a “Recharge Room”, which was a physical place at the compound of the Dartmouth graduates leading the donations. The Recharge Room was a well-kept-wooden shed full of greenery with a very casual setup that felt very natural and outdoorsy. Inside was a big screen, cool air, natural smells, and the sound and projection of some real meadow, forest, or beach for just 10 minutes. It was a way of reducing stress and relaxing students or anyone in a short time. I loved the Recharge Room and I believe virtual reality could be a smaller, more affordable, and efficient way to give students the same stress-relieving effects. 

A child wearing a virtual reality headset interacting with the solar system.

While these headsets offer many educational and social benefits for students and teachers, there are notable concerns to consider as well; these being the distractions, frustrations, and discomfort the devices have the potential to cause. According to  “One week working in the metaverse led to 19% more anxiety and 16% less productivity”, an article on Yahoo finance by Tristan Bove, full-time use of the headsets can actually increase anxiety and decrease productivity as presented in the title. Though later in the article survey results showed that 71% of executives believe that the metaverse will have a positive impact on their company. However, it is clear that virtual reality will not be productive as the primary platform for work. This concept can easily be translated to schools as similar hours and tasks occur. Therefore it would be unhealthy for students to spend their days primarily on virtual reality. On top of this, the headset’s immersive experiences may become a distraction for younger students, whether that is due to motion sickness or addiction to the virtual world.  

However, as I mentioned above, having access to the headsets for part-time use or specifically for certain areas of study would certainly be beneficial because of the extended resources it provides. On top of that, just like me, with time and use especially for younger students, it won’t be hard to overcome the distractions or discomfort the headsets may bring. I know in Studio X, many of my classmates felt motion sickness and discomfort with the headset or with the virtual world. These were all symptoms I experienced my first few times on my friend’s old headset, but after only a couple of times using his the only issue I had was that I couldn’t take one of the virtual lightsabers home with me. Now even with some of the frustrations and discomforts that come with the headsets, they are only present for new users adjusting to the experience, and these headsets are getting better every day. All factors considered, virtual reality in classrooms has the ability to extend students’ learning opportunities, increase interest and motivation in schools, and give students a quick and easy way to relieve stress. I believe with Meta, HTC, and other determined virtual reality brands, in the near future virtual reality could have an extremely positive impact on the education of all students.

Works Cited

“One Week Working in the Metaverse Led to 19% More Anxiety and 16% Less Productivity, New Study Finds.” Yahoo Finance, 21 June 2022,

Campos, Esmeralda, et al. “Impact of Virtual Reality Use on the Teaching and Learning of Vectors.” Frontiers in Education, vol. 7, 2022,

Can VR Solve Cancer?

person in virtual reality practicing surgery.

By: Anushka Dey

Even though I was originally skeptical of how engaging VR was, as I was hitting the virtual tether ball on the VR starter application “First Steps” for 5 minutes straight, I was entranced and fully enjoying myself. Even with the headset feeling a little too tight around my head, the controllers being tied a little too loosely around my wrists, and a little too much outside noise around me, I was immersed in a separate reality, momentarily overlooking my prior knowledge that none of what I was experiencing was real.

Video illustration of VR Application “First Steps” (Oculus Quest).

Virtual reality, otherwise known as VR, is a form of technology that allows users to enter a virtual world. While still a work in progress, VR has progressed so much over the past couple of decades to the point where it can often mimic the world around us without us noticing errors. Because of the progression and promising nature of VR, it has been utilized in many different fields, including the ever-growing sector of healthcare. From ethical medical training to spurring medical innovations, VR has been utilized in many approaches to improve medicine and healthcare. In this blog, I will be discussing how VR is essential in revolutionizing the future of healthcare throughout the world and then will be touching upon the necessity to increase funding and efforts of VR used for medicine.

When I go to the doctor’s office, there are a lot of thoughts running through my mind. Did I gain weight? Will the doctor tell me to exercise more? Or worse, will I need to get a shot? While there are dozens of things I worry about when going to the doctor’s, I never think about my doctor’s qualifications or whether they have the appropriate skills to diagnose and discuss my medical problems. Others might also take this aspect of healthcare for granted but for many people around the world, having quality healthcare might be hard to guarantee. Sadly, in the United States, it is projected that by 2024 there would be a shortage of more than 100,000 qualified physicians and specialists (Joseph). With a trend of fewer healthcare professionals in the future, the effects can be disastrous as less people get access to proper healthcare. To address this gap, virtual reality solutions, such as Talespin, are becoming incredibly popular in providing accessible training to medical and health students. Moreover, it is essential that these students learn doctor-patient interactions, especially in difficult situations. Fortunately, VR is able to train students to deal with simulations of different patient interactions for the students to become better communicators and empathizers towards their patients (Slater and Sanchez).

a person in a virtual reality headset practicing a surgery on a patient.
Health student using VR for health training (VR Medical).

Before a test, have you ever wanted to obtain the test questions beforehand? I definitely have. Especially if the test was extremely important for my grades, I wanted every hint and potential question that might show up on the test before I actually took it. Doctors want the same thing. Before a surgery, doctors want to know exactly how the surgery will go and exactly how to best treat the patient before actually performing the surgery. Doctors can try to achieve this by years of medical training, in-depth analysis of the data, and experience. However, despite the training and practice doctors have, there are still many hospital deaths. Specifically, it is estimated that around 8 million patients lose their lives during surgeries or due to complications post-surgery (Dobson). As of now, there is simply no way to ensure that a surgery goes perfectly every time. But with VR, we might get closer than ever to providing a constant flow of successful surgeries. While medical training can act as a lecture before a test, VR can act as a cheat-sheet with all the test questions for the test. Essentially, before the surgery, doctors can utilize VR to visualize and “virtualize” the surgery to test out what surgery procedure works best for the patient (Joseph). By receiving a bunch of the patient’s data to recreate the patient in a virtual world, doctors can practice and experience the surgery in a less stressful environment to understand how best to save the patient (Joseph). This has indeed aided in the success of surgeries as a study done by UCLA showed that there was a 230% improvement in surgical performance after practice surgeries were conducted with VR.

While the previous examples focused on helping current healthcare with prior healthcare and treatment knowledge, VR also has applications in finding solutions in new illnesses and diseases that have yet to be completely cured. Because of VR’s ability to create “interactive, 3D models” of the disease, scientists and researchers have an easier way to visualize the problem and find the cause of it (Researchers are Using). Moreover, researchers are free to completely use their imagination in VR and try to come up with innovative solutions, even if it isn’t feasible in the real world yet. In that case, VR could potentially be the backbone to many diseases being cured in the future such as cancer or dementia. 

Assistant professor of biological sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, Yongxin Zhao, explaining how VR can help provide solutions to prevent disease (Carnegie Mellon University).

There are a lot of ways healthcare can be improved. With a lack of medical professionals, millions of deaths due to failed surgeries, and many other problems, it is clear that healthcare has a long way to go. Fortunately, VR has helped with a lot of these problems and can continue to aid healthcare through training in virtual worlds, virtualized surgeries, and allowing for medical innovations. However, further funding towards VR directed at healthcare is essential to expand the benefits that VR can produce in medicine. Best articulated in a paper written by Tayebeh Baniasadi of Indiana University and her co-authors, there are many challenges and shortcomings that VR in medicine have that prevent widespread accessibility and usage of the technology such as a lack of VR regulation, the cost, and usability. To address all these problems, so more lives can be saved through VR implementation in healthcare, it is vital that more funding is put into the technology to ensure a better future. The concept of VR has much potential which can lead to a lot of benefits and huge change in several sectors throughout the world like the healthcare industry. With a careful and effective integration of virtual reality application into healthcare, more lives can be saved and we might even be able to save one of the most prevalent diseases of our time, cancer.

Works Cited

Ambinder, Edward P. “A History of the Shift Toward Full Computerization of Medicine.” Journal of Oncology Practice, vol. 1, no. 2, July 2005, pp. 54–56,

Baniasadi, Tayebeh, et al. “Challenges and Practical Considerations in Applying Virtual Reality in Medical Education and Treatment.” Oman Medical Journal, vol. 35, no. 3, May 2020, p. e125,

Carnegie Mellon University. Microscopy and VR Illuminate New Ways to Prevent and Treat Disease – Mellon College of Science – Carnegie Mellon University. $dateFormat,

Joseph, Tony. “Augmented Reality in Healthcare: Use Cases, Examples, and Trends.” Fingent, 22 June 2021,

Oculus Quest | First Steps. Accessed 29 Sept. 2023.

Researchers Are Using Virtual Reality to Help Treat Cancer | Patient Care. Accessed 14 Sept. 2023.

Slater, Mel, and Maria V. Sanchez-Vives. “Enhancing Our Lives with Immersive Virtual Reality.” Frontiers in Robotics and AI, vol. 3, 2016,

VR Medical | Arch Virtual VR Training and Simulation for Education and Enterprise. Accessed 14 Sept. 2023.

New Possibilities that Virtual Reality Provides

trolley in a city.

By: DJ Concannon

Virtual reality is still a new resource. It has limitless potential that we haven’t even scratched the surface of. People can be exposed to experiences that they never would have had in their ordinary lives. It will have the ability to change people’s perspectives on issues, explore new worlds, and learn more about our world. The range of possibilities will cause people to question both the physical and virtual world. Virtual Reality has the ability for us to discover things about ourselves that otherwise we wouldn’t have. 

Virtual reality allows people to be transported into a computer generated world. They enter an entirely different space to be lost in. Currently we are limited by the technology of virtual reality which is still in its early stages. The headsets are bulky and the graphics are subpar. It is easy to remember that you aren’t really somewhere else. Even with those limitations virtual reality is still a space that is easy to get lost in. For example, recently I tried using VR and took part in the trolley problem.

The experience started out slow with me receiving instructions from a computer on how to operate the trolley tracks. Throughout the experience was immersive with signals going off and the train getting louder as it became closer to me. It felt like I was really in a control tower going about what would have been my normal job. The experience showed me the different ways to stop the trolley before giving me a moral dilemma. I was presented with the option of pushing a man off the side of a building in order to stop a trolley from running over a group of men working on the track. In your head the decision to push the man off feels obvious because then less people will die. But in the virtual world the decision was harder. Even though I knew it was a fake person I’d be pushing off the building it was hard for me to bring myself to do it. It made me actually think about if I would kill one person in order to save a bunch more people. On top of the fact that I had to kill him it felt different because I was physically closer to the person on the building compared to the ones on the track. I felt closer to this person compared to the workers that were on the track. In the end I didn’t push the man off the building. 

This is an example of virtual reality immersing us in a different world and the possibilities it opens up. The moral dilemma would not have been the same for me if I was just asked the question of what to do, or if I was even just playing a video game version of it on a TV. In the moment I felt like I was really there and the choice I made would have actual weight. Philosophical questions like the trolley problem are able to be explored deeper in the virtual world. You can put people in the actual position where they need to make an important decision in a position of moral quandary. This will allow people to experience uncertainty in a way that is impossible in the real world.

Another example of ways we can experience uncertainty in the virtual world is given the book Reality+  by David Chalmers. He talks about how in the future we will be able to use AI and virtual reality to run and experience simulations of the past. We can see what would’ve happened if someone different had won an election, if the Nazis won World War II, or if some technology was discovered sooner. The possibilities are endless.  We could use these simulations to help us make better decisions in the future. By figuring out the mistakes we made in the past we could use that information to help make decisions for the future. We can also use VR to run simulations of different possibilities for the present. We could use it to get firsthand experience of the effects major decisions we make would have.

Virtual reality is currently a vast place full of infinite opportunities. What we do with these opportunities are up to us. It allows us to experience things we never could in the real world. We can put ourselves in places and learn how we would react in different situations. It can be used to simulate different possibilities of what could have happened in the past. It also can be used to look at how the decisions we make could effect the future. Virtual reality gives us the ability to live new experiences. 

Exploring virtual reality and written arguments with WRT 105

Person in a virtual reality headset in front of a vibrant yellow background.

Each semester, Writing 105: Uncertainty begins by collaborating with Studio X. Students are invited to explore uncertainty by testing ideas about how extended reality technologies impact our communication, senses, and understanding of our world around us. This fall, 2023, Assistant Director Meg Moody presented an excellent “Intro to XR” workshop where students learned about the history and applications of these technologies. Following this presentation, the Studio X team helped students try out VR experiences, many for the first time. The VR experiences offered included an introductory experience, first steps, a VR version of the trolley problem, and virtual roller coasters. Kate Phillips, the instructor for WRT 105: Uncertainty, asked students to put these experiences into conversation with work from philosophers, psychologists, and other researchers in order to develop arguments that respond to questions such as “What, if anything, can we learn about what is right and wrong through using VR?” and “Will the proliferation of virtual reality technologies create more or less access (to experiences, opportunities, etc.) and equity?” Students are invited to modify the questions, or create their own with the goal of developing their own unique arguments that contribute to our understanding of these technologies and emerging debates about them. Please enjoy reading their thoughtful creations!

Virtual Reality in Work and School

By: Anonymous

Over the past several decades, there has been an exponential growth in technology that humans use to make their lives easier and more efficient. One of the newest and most interesting technological developments in recent time has been virtual reality technology. While many probably see this as just a new way to play video games and explore virtual worlds, many believe that the virtual world can be the home of future workplaces and schools. While this would be a remarkable advancement in the way our society functions, there are numerous reasons why I do not believe this advancement is feasible quite yet, including issues concerning physical and mental health, reliability concerns involving the virtual reality technology itself, and concerns about the economic impacts of metaverse work and school. For these reasons, I believe that virtual reality technology is not yet ready to be widely used to take the place of traditional workplaces and schools, but hopefully will be in the near future.

On the surface level, using virtual reality to take the place of in-person work and school sounds like a remarkably innovative idea that would make these institutions more widely available, especially for those in remote areas of the world that are not in close proximity to many important industries that provide large numbers of jobs and great educational opportunities. For example, the African country, Niger, which is listed as having the worst education system in the world, with only about 15% of adults being able to read and write, might greatly benefit from the introduction of school in the metaverse (O’Neill, 2016). This would allow the people of Niger to access education without having to travel long distances, which is why many cannot access education. Many people, including myself, were very captivated by the introduction of this “metaverse” idea by Meta (Facebook) founder Mark Zuckerberg, and while it is an amazing idea that is without a doubt the future of communication in our society, there are problems that make it hard to imagine the widespread use of the metaverse in the immediate future. For example, there are obvious health concerns with using virtual reality headsets for several hours at a time, as would be required on a day of work or school. Many virtual reality users experience motion sickness when using virtual reality headsets, sometimes even after only using a headset for a short period of time. From my own personal experience, I had a childhood friend whose parents got him the original PlayStation VR for Christmas one year, but he ended up being unable to use it because he experienced severe motion sickness after using the headset for longer than a few minutes. Additionally, another major concern that exists with using virtual reality in work and school is that since it is such as new idea, it is still hard to predict what the effects will be mentally on individuals after working or going to school in the metaverse for a long period of time. An important aspect of the work and school experience is being able to build relationships with co-workers and classmates in order to develop a healthy social life. Will the people be able to build these same relationships in the metaverse? I do not believe there has been enough testing to definitively prove that this is the case. We can use experiences from online school during the COVID-19 pandemic to get a sense of what kinds of effects metaverse schooling could have. From conversations I had with multiple educators, academic performance declined during online school and students were less engaged when they returned to in-person school. Several of my peers described my school as somewhat of a ghost town when quarantine was lifted. So one could only imagine what effects metaverse schooling and workplaces would have on people’s real-life, face-to-face, communication skills.

Another major concern I have with the expansion of virtual reality into work and school is the reliability of the technology itself. It seems that right now, much more work needs to be done to improve the reliability of the equipment. Just the other day in Studio X, the headset that I chose to use was not working. When I turned it on it was just stuck on a black screen even though I could hear the audio coming from the headset. This makes me ask the question, what is one to do if this happens when they are about to have an interview in the metaverse or have an important virtual meeting with their boss?  Developers of virtual reality technology need to be certain that their technology will be able to run for hours without malfunctioning before we start using this technology in professional and educational settings. Furthermore, another topic of discussion is the economic aspect of virtual reality technology. I am nearly certain that virtual reality developers are on the cusp of developing a cutting-edge headset that could be used in work and school right now, but it surely will be unaffordable for most of the general public. A study that was conducted to test metaverse workplaces recently intentionally did not acquire the best headsets for the participants to simulate the experience for the average person who cannot afford a highly expensive headset. The study showed increases in rates of anxiety, perception of workload, and frustration with the inability to complete work, as well as a decrease in productivity (Bove, 2022). If these are the average individuals’ consequences for using metaverse technology, then it is obvious the technology is not yet ready for widespread use. This disparity in quality of virtual reality equipment would only worsen the existing divide in education quality in rich and poor areas, as well as aid the productivity of large corporations while making it more difficult for smaller businesses to keep up.

For the reasons stated throughout this blog, including concerns about physical and mental health, reliability of the technology, and economic impacts, I believe that virtual reality technology and the metaverse are not yet ready to be used in a widespread manner to replace the traditional workplace and school. However, I do believe that with increased research, regulation, and quality, we will be able to make the use of the metaverse in professional and educational settings possible in the near future.