Virtual reality: New social impacts or new dangers?

As a new type of technology, what aspects of our lives has it affected?

Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos on Unsplash, all rights reserved.

When we mentioned VR, most of us immediately think of a person wearing a thick pair of glasses and doing his entertainment in the virtual world. In recent years, the technology of AR/VR has come into people’s field of vision, VR Games, VR glasses, VR News, this series of new technology has come into us, let us begin to have the curiosity and interest of VR technology. The advancement of virtual reality technology has brought more possibilities and diversity to media presentation and brought more convenience to life. Today, the traditional way of screen presentation cannot meet People’s performance for the media, and people have always had visions and fantasies of virtual worlds.

This article will describe the historical development of VR and the main application places and beneficiaries of VR now, to represent that as a new intelligent technology, Virtual Reality brings new ways and influences to entertainment and society. However, at the same time, it also brings hidden dangers, there is still a gap between it and the real world.

What is VRHow did it develop

Virtual reality aims to help people interact in a digitally created world or simulate the real world (Fuchs,2011). Furthermore, it can help people escape the real world for a while and enjoy the virtual world’s pleasures and inauthenticity. Although virtual reality’s central technology is created in the digital world through computer science, it combined coupling human sciences with engineering. “the whole video space loaded with an artificial world,” so that the audience can perfectly enjoy the immersion brought by VR glasses (Jones,2019).

“Immersion and interaction are two of the keywords in VR technology.”——-Fuchs(2011)

Although VR technology has only been known and used by the general public in recent years, the development of VR technology has not been short-lived.


In 1935, The concept of VR first appeared in science fiction, Stanley G.Weinbaum written In his novel, Weinbaum describes virtual reality glasses that pioneered virtual reality devices (Stanley,1935, p.2).

In 1984, Jaron lanier invited a virtual reality device called the Eyephone, compared with previous devices, this device has been significantly improved, and it has more advantages for people’s psychological and physical (Chuck et al.,1990 ).

In 1991, the development of VR technology led to a new era, with the official emergence of VR games, the virtuality 1000 CS released by the W industry.

In 1995, the most famous game company Nintendo launched a 3D graphics VR game: virtual boy. Nintendo has given great expectations to this new virtual game. However, due to the immaturity of early game technology and the high price of equipment, VR games still do not resonate with the public. This can be regarded as a failure of the VR game, so this has also caused the delay of VR to enter the public’s field of vision. Until 2014, when Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion and became determined to develop VR devices, Facebook founder Zatberg wanted VR devices to become a common entertainment device, not just for playing games and watching movies, but also for the way we interact with others(Minsker,2015).


Social and economic impacts brought by VR

In recent years, with the full penetration of wireless networks and VR equipment’s price more and more people-friendly, VR’s popularity should be to get a peek (Tankovska, 2020). Virtual reality has recognized the potential opportunities presented by the rapid development of smart consumer electronic devices, like smartphone devices, and VR electronic devices are striving to become more widespread in people’s lives through an immersion in entertainment, lifestyle, etc. The development of virtual reality in theatre, gaming, etc., is growingVirtual Reality Market Size, 2020.

 Overview of the VR Market Insights, we can see that commercial applications dominate the VR market with a 52.5% shareVirtual Reality Market Size, 2020, the entertainment industry, such as games and movies, occupies the primary market of VR, and more people want to buy VR equipment mainly because of its entertainment nature. 

Fig1. Global VR market share, by application, 2019 (Virtual Reality Market Size, 2020.) some rights researved.


  1. Game/Entertainment

VR’s transformative impact makes gaming an immersive experience. Japanese video game development company Bandai Namco Entertainment has launched Mario Kart VR (Byford, 2017). This new VR game allows people to feel an immersive gaming experience by wearing a VR device that is more exciting and realistic than traditional video games.

This video shows the process of Mario games through VR.

Source: (Tech insider, 2018, standard Youtube license)


The advent of VR technology has helped further digitize collections, and virtual museum exhibitions have been instrumental in preserving cultural heritage(fotis,n.d.).The use of VR technology to convey information and photographs of the exhibits more interactively and realistically will be a great way for people, especially children, to learn about cultural heritage, and the perfect balance between learning and leisure(fotis,n.d.). Museums such as the Louvre in Paris have also launched programmers to view world-class paintings in VR, allowing people to learn about the culture and experience a different visual experience simultaneously.

This video shows the Louvre museum’s VR display of the famous Mona Lisa, bringing the audience a new visual experience.

Source: (HTC VIVE, 2019, standard Youtube license)

3.Tourism Economics

VR immersion is particularly suitable for the visualization of spatial environments, which can be viewed from a myriad of different viewpoints, making VR extremely useful for urban, environmental, and architectural planning (Guttentag,2010). Discussed from an economic point of view, VR can help attract tourist attractions by providing potential customers with attractive sensory information and helping them define their tourism expectations(Guttentag,2010).VR is very helpful for the development of the tourism economy and the development of diversity.


VR marketWho occupies the main market

VR as the 21st-century electronics market-main development object, electronic equipment manufacturers are interested in it, Samsung, Sony, Oculus (Facebook) Microsoft, are the major manufacturers of VR equipment.


Fig.2. Estimated VR device shipment share by vendor worldwide in 2018 and 2019 some rights reserved.

As VR devices become more and more recognized for their entertainment and practicality, occupying a larger and larger market share, there are bound to be more electronics manufacturers to carve out this market.


Hidden dangers behind Virtual Reality

  1. lack of authenticity

The beneficial effects of VR on our society are visible, but the problems that VR brings cannot be ignored. New technologies are bound to bring new limitations(Fotis,n.d.).In the application of VR to museums, as the construction of a virtual digital museum requires the scientist to build it using computer graphics, the scientist brings a certain amount of subjectivity into the process, which results in a lack of realism in the final VR representation(Fotis,n.d.).When the audience uses VR, what they see are not entirely authentic cultural relics.

  1. The gap with the real world

As VR evolves, its immersive and interactive experience allows the eyes and ears to experience VR at a high level, where sight and sound are satisfied. However, other sensory organs are still not immersive. Taste and smell are still not available in VR(Guttentag,2010), limiting the development of VR in tourism and education and does not allow for a perfect 1:1 replication.

  1. The disease of smart technology products: privacy leaks

Facebook (Oculus), one of the major producers of VR products, has been exposed to using its news feed to find out what its customers like, monitoring everything online users, and pushing content by tracking users to influence their moods(Pesce,2017). As a new type of smart internet tool, VR glasses can track and record the user’s online behavior, resulting in a loss of privacy. Like our smartphones, emotions and behaviors are recorded, While virtual Reality is more built to please users(Pesce,2017), so it also lacks some authenticity.


In conclusion

This article describes the origins, development, and applications of VR technology and describes its two main characteristics: immersion and interaction. As new technological equipment, virtual equipment has brought new influences to society, but its hidden dangers cannot be ignored. Virtual reality development is more and more in line with mobile devices and mobile phones because the public increasingly recognizes their immersion and interactivity. However, it cannot perfectly replicate the real world, and there is still a big difference between the virtual world and the real world.








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Irene Ding
About Irene Ding 5 Articles
Digital culture and Visual arts student in USYD.