Virtual worlds and their problems…

So now Meta has also unveiled new VR glasses. Regardless of whether it’s the Meta Quest shown yesterday or Apple’s Vision Pro – the topic of virtual / augmented / mixed reality is finally here!

The technical advances and the quality of the experience appear to be impressive and such virtual experiences will very soon be indistinguishable from “real” impressions. To paraphrase Mr. Spock: “Fascinating…!” I’m very excited about the devices.

However, I think that the possibilities presented on all sides to capture “real” experiences and “relive” them virtually are worth discussing. Dangerous limits can be crossed very quickly here. Because once we are able to make beautiful moments happen again and again in a quality that feels realistic, there will be many people who lose themselves completely in the virtual world.

My grandma, for example, is. 92 years old and lost her husband last year, to whom she had been married for over 70 years. I’m sure if you gave her a pair of 3D glasses with a “best of” from their moments together, she wouldn’t take them off. She would be happy, content and would immediately prefer the virtual world to the real one.

Immediately afterwards, the next question arises: what if someone does not (or no longer) want another person to be able to “relive” personal/intimate shared moments over and over again? What if these are possibly even distributed further? Such scenarios are already causing serious psychological damage to those affected (keyword “revenge porn”). In combination with deep fakes, anyone will soon be able to generate such personal moments with any other person. And – as the past and present unfortunately show time and again – what can be done technically will be done by someone.

I don’t think we should rely on the big tech companies to ensure that issues such as privacy, data protection, e.g. the right to delete digital memories, etc. will be regulated in the interests of users. We need a joint, interdisciplinary approach (IT, psychology, law, legislation). And yes, it will be difficult to reconcile all the interests, currents and lobbies here.

Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch: on Monday, for example, the A very good workshop was held with representatives of the European Commission to facilitate and structure partnerships in the field of virtual worlds. This could be a suitable platform to sensitize and prepare politicians for the topic.

But the fact is: we cannot and must not duck away here!