Two years ago I wrote to Dr. Jerald, VR-expert, and asked for some general reactions to my futuristic ideas. He wrote me back shortly afterwards. Here is my email to him:
Dear Dr. Jason Jerald,
I am an elderly author and artist in Oslo, Norway who is reading your book “The VR Book: Human-Centered Design for Virtual Reality” with great interest. If find it to be very inspirational and informative.
I know little about VR, AR or MR other than what I have been able to read on the internet, and now in your excellent book. I am trying to say that I am not a “techie”. I have, however, had an idea / a vision of another way of writing and experiencing literary prose which is more non-linear and more interactive with the reader, and which includes his/her own memories and experiences etc. I would love to write a full-scale MR novel; along the lines of theater plays with alternative endings or video games with multiple endings — this in order to more fully enable the reader to write stories together with me. I already do quite a bit towards that end in my books but my dream is to escape the physical book altogether and enable re-creation of stories with mixed reality/five dimensional technologies.
I do not have the technical language to explain this idea properly but please bear with me. This idea of moving literature off of paper and ebook formats into a Mixed Reality experience does not merely concern the quantity of descriptive and connecting words vs. the more sensual and cinematic experiences created by playing with their combinations and juxtapositions etc. In my thinking, mixed reality necessitates usage of and partial reliance upon symbols, tonalities, silences and coded triggers. These are all already in use in literature, art, music, etc., but their significance will be even more pronounced in mixed reality art and literature. Mixed reality gives us the possibility of personal transference of the author’s images into and then back again from the Reader’s own memory — based on real “perceived” recollections, dreams and fantasies. These may be in the forms of old photographs, bits of recordings, smells, a newspaper page, a paragraph from a textbook etc.
Many of these symbols are known archetypes, and others come perhaps even from other yet unidentified sources. They each have their own vibratory patterns, light and sound frequencies and collective-individual personal interpretations, associations and meanings. I use and create
archetypes, symbols, triggers, speeded up and slowed down sequences etc. often
in my literature and art, including some symbols from the Universal Language of Light: (see the
Universal Language of Light).
So, how will these Mixed Reality books of the future work? As I see it, there certainly will be many learning and entertainment system modules developed — ranging from the open room “Blade Runner” and “Matrix” ‘direct-brain’(?) communication types to the current glove, glasses or headset alternatives. The one that I envision for literary prose (novels, novellas etc.) entails a holographic cylinder in which the reader-actor is inside … dressed in a form-fitting lightweight skin with nerve-ending filaments sewn into it at strategic body points, and wearing contact lenses. The “story” is encoded into a computer with trigger points at which certain things occur, complete with sounds, smells, emotional and physical reactions etc. And then there is also another computer program which interfaces with the story — one which is a robotic encyclopedia of various generic associations, symbols, codes etc. as well as historical, collective and personal “memories” (various data, photographs etc.) which may be accessed. All of these elements work together to enable the “reader” to co-create the story — even choosing from alternative or multiple endings. These computer programs communicate with the holographic cylinder so that the individual inside is actually embedded inside of the “brain”. A long novel can thus be “read”/acted out in a fraction of the time needed today.
My question to you, Sir, is: is this at all feasible? I have this picture in my mind so clearly, and it has been something that I have been envisioning for decades. My own style of writing has also greatly changed to mimic the cinematic and dizzying qualities of such an experience.
Adam Donaldson Powell
And here is his gracious response:
Hi Adam. Thanks for reading the book and I’m happy to hear it is inspiring for you.
I agree completely that for MR symbols, tonalities, silences, etc can (and should!) be used to make experiences more engaging.
I like your holographic cylinder idea! That is probably a ways off, but like books a cool thing about VR is that you can make it all up and provide people with experiences that aren’t yet feasible. So while the feasibility of your ideas are probably quite a ways off, you could simulate all of it within VR. Then when the tech catches up then people would have a better idea of how it might actually work. Or you could argue you wouldn’t need to wait for the tech / physical interface to catch up since simulating it could be just as good.
Recent thoughts on virtual reality as literature of the future:
The concept of reality has mostly been rooted in the physical reality state of one moment — frozen in time and space. It is certainly not “real” and not the way we perceive ourselves or our environments. Therefore, multiple alternative realities are perhaps often easier to relate to.
All literature consists of stories and dramas — short or long-winded ones, and all rely upon words as abstractions which the mind converts into images, sounds, smells, touch etc. against a backdrop of the readers’ own personal life learnings and experiences. Cinematic and VR-writing changes up that process and frees the mind from most of the word abstractions. An otherwise long and wordy novel can now be fully digested using all our senses plus with the added benefit of interactive reading and co-creation of the story along with the author/designer. We already have alternative endings in plays and films. This requires authors and designers to break down the abstract ideas of the words into experiences which the reader can access or reject as s/he pleases. This is a new frontier and era.
The written texts will have to be reconstructed as images, sounds, smells, touch etc. with triggers. That is why I write prose as poetry — emphasizing color, intensity and speed of word combinations over lots of words etc. Most of the words get lost in reading so why not simplify the conversion to images?
I highly recommend this book. May it inspire several authors, artists, thinkers and scientists to work together in creating this fantastic new reality. But all advancements begin with visions and dreams by those courageous enough to persevere and demonstrate the creativity and ability to realize that which — to others — may be unimaginable. If you can imagine it then you can simulate it … and make your visions into reality.