Let me tell you about my first time. The first time I tried virtual reality, that is. I was 26 years old, and I was watching Star Trek: The Next Generation for the first time. And, all of a sudden, there she was. The Holodeck. The first glimpse of VR storytelling that teased my imagination. I couldn't stop thinking about the Holodeck. A virtual room designed to relieve stress, train for missions, live adventures, and even fall in love. It was magical.
Do you believe in destiny? I do. And you know why? Because my destiny revealed itself to me when I left South America, I arrived in Europe, and shortly after, I met an extraordinary Austrian man who ended up working in... guess what? VR! I asked that guy to marry me after dating him for 6 months. Life is too short not to make it epic. We never really talked about VR until the moment he told me about his first VR job. Since that moment, we would talk about VR for hours – about how ever since the beginning of VR in the early 80s until today, VR creators are still searching for that one single elegant definition of VR, and how the search for that answer usually ends up in long, delightful nights of philosophy, nerdiness, and lots of wine. For the pragmatic ones, VR was a computer-generated experience in which one could interact with a simulated world. For the romantics, it was intentional dreaming.
Getting the theory was great. But I yearned for some action. I asked my man, "Hey, can you find a way for me to try VR? The good stuff?" He told me, "Say no more, sweetie. I know just the right guy." On a Friday night, we go to his friend's place. He owned a recently released Oculus Rift DK2. A top-tier piece of VR technology back then. He looked into my eyes as if he could see my soul and asked me, "Where would you like to go.?" With no hesitation, I said, "Space." He kindly invited me to sit down and relax, and with a calm, almost paternal voice, he asked me, "Are you ready?"
After a broken "yes," he places the headset on my head. I was so excited that I closed my eyes. I couldn't face this power. I wasn't worthy enough. Until the little astronaut girl in me who once convinced her father to send her to space camp at NASA whispered inside my mind: "Open. Your. Eyes." And there I was. Floating in the unknown. At that moment, there were no memories of computer screens, headsets, or the digital world. It was only me, amongst a sea of stars. A voluntary out-of-body experience. Lucid dreaming on demand. Is this a dream? An illusion? Or is this me witnessing the fringes of perception? Up to this day, I get a knot in my throat when I remember the first moment I looked at my body in VR and thought to myself, "I'm beautiful." I am the most beautiful, slimy reptilian alien I've ever seen in my life.
Suddenly, my mind raised shields and called for a red alert. How can technology dictate what I experience? How can it be powerful enough to make me live an illusion that my brain will later recall as a place I've physically been to, although this place never existed beyond pixels and computer code? Has it ever existed? Does it exist? Is it... real? I stood there with a blank stare into the vastness of digital space. And then a thought struck my mind like a lightning bolt: Why can this ...not be real?
I surrendered my senses. I abandoned all logic and gave up trying to define what I was experiencing, just like it happened since the early 80s. This was real because it was real to me. And part of making it real was later deciding to found my own virtual reality company with the man I love. The company in which you're reading these words right now. A place where I could create and share these dreams with others. In and outside the headset.
Throughout these years working professionally in VR, I've learned many things. But let me share with you today, my fellow hunters of wonder, the biggest lesson of them all. If you plan to lose your VR-ginity anytime soon, please be responsible... and always... wear... a headset! Now, the real lesson. When you're wearing that headset, remember that VR is beautiful precisely because it isn't everything. Don't expect to find all the answers you're looking for in a virtual world. Technology is not and will never be the ultimate answer. Nonetheless, it will help you get to know yourself to the very atoms of your existence. The greatest answers to our deepest questions are where they've always been. Not in technology. Not in perfect digital versions of ourselves, but amongst each other.
I hope to see you soon in VR. In the meantime, keep keeping it real.
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