As stated in the many posts before me, technological immersion often relates to virtual realities in which human users are consumed with digitally crafted worlds. Such realms are primarily created and realized through the advancing technologies of today’s day and age that include video games, films, the Internet. As Oscar states, virtual realities are the closest parallel to a totally immersive environment that society has encountered. And Alex and Tino point out the mistake in labeling something completely immersive when it is only partially immersive. I agree with these statements and it is clear that true immersivity is a subject difficult to define.
Leonardo Online asks, “Can we swim with data?” Swimming, being surrounded and pressured by the weight of the water, sets a strong comparison to what we as humans consider created immersive experiences. As my classmates have stated, we very much like to think that we come close to this enveloping experience through user and technology-based interaction.
I think that digital immersive experiences are, as Leonardo Online suggests, a creative accomplishment. While it is true that time spent on the Internet, immersed in was appears to be reality but truly isn’t, can make the time fly by without any tangible rewards, but there is too much available for users to write it off as a waste of time. The way that one uses the Internet is what not only makes it immersive in a sense, but determines its benefits. And the same goes for video games. Video games are called games for a reason: they are entertainment. They are an immersive environment, partial, complete, or not at all, that allows people to engage in a distracting activity in a similar way that movies and television divert our attention.
While researching, I found a very interesting documentary that chronicles the use of virtual reality in helping young burn victims during very painful procedures, known as “virtual reality therapy.” Developed by Hunter Hoffman, a University of Washington based cognitive psychologist and research engineer, VRT patients wear virtual reality helmets that give the children the illusion that they are “throwing snowballs at snowmen, igloos, mammoths and penguins during medical procedures.” If this process can lessen the pain of a child’s already traumatic experience, then this definitely deepens my belief that immersive environments are a creative accomplishment.
Immersive environments can also be used as teaching and learning tools, as demonstrated by Case Western Reserve University. Stacy Williams, an assistant professor explains that immersive environment applications when implemented into educational institutions can not only explore, but teach interpersonal communication skills, take students from learning environments to the professional world, and create virtual field trips for students from kindergarten to grade twelve. Two recent research projects saw her team “targeting the use of second life in the fields of communication disorders and dentistry.” From this point of view and that of virtual therapy, a constructive use of virtual reality can be seen and appreciated.
For use of entertainment, health, education, or whatever they may become in the future, I think that immersive environments are a positive creative accomplishment.