Virtual reality is now becoming mainstream. What was once a popular topic for science fiction, virtual reality is now becoming – for lack of a better word, a reality. The Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Microsoft HoloLens, Jaunt, One Plus, Sony PlayStation VR, and Google Cardboard are just a few of the popular VR headsets that are near release or currently available on the market.
Eagle Flight allows you to fly over Paris in a virtual world. If that’s not your style, you can walk a tightrope between skyscrapers with The Walk. Still not your thing? – become a quarterback for your favorite football team with VR Sports Challenge. These are just a few things you can now do with a virtual reality headset. Consumers often report an extremely realistic experience thanks to the ever-increasing high resolution displays that are released each year. Some players of The Walk recall the difficulty one may face when it comes to taking that first step on the tight rope when you feel as if you are walking hundreds of feet in the air (despite them knowing that it is fantasy). Some have reported wobbling and shaking of the legs similarly to what they would experience in real life as a result of their overwhelming fear of heights. Many players begin to sweat and experience symptoms of anxiety as they attempt to take part in the high-wire task.
Sure, this all sounds like fun and games – but what happens when virtual reality grows past its infancy stage and begins to cross into what some may see as unethical territories? Many of these questions have been showcased in The Nether, which is a play that recently began its debut at the Woolly Mammoth Theater located in Washington, D.C. In this performance, the main character used advanced virtual reality software to create an environment where adults are able to molest and kill young children. You might be asking yourself how this could ever happen – unfortunately, going from tightrope simulation to virtual pedophilia and murder is probably closer to the realm of possibility than we might automatically believe.
Today, simulations such as these don’t exist – but the available technology is probably capable of producing such a program. We have to ask ourselves, should there be limits on human fantasies if the majority deems them immoral, illegal, or heinous? Personal fantasy may soon be extended to virtual reality in the not too distant future. Will we continue to see fantasies that remain in the private realm of someone’s imagination as being free from the rules or regulations of the government or society? We currently have no problems with violence when it comes to video games – one shining example that comes to mind is the Grand Theft Auto series, where players can steal cars, hire prostitutes, and commit murder. Will this all change with virtual reality? There are limits on children purchasing certain video games, but adults can have their pick. Should this apply to virtual reality scenarios? Should someone be allowed to create a game that allows for the molestation and murder of young children, as found in The Nether? Or will we limit it to the hiring of prostitutes, car jacking, and murder of police officers like you can find in Grand Theft Auto?
As the modern world paves its way toward a feature filled with virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and automatic machine learning, we have to figure out how to apply our laws to these virtual realms. These questions are no longer based on science fiction and become more important each year that passes. Criminal law is only one area of the law that will need to play catch up with advancing technologies.