Visualising a humane future with Virtual Reality

Visualising a humane future with Virtual Reality

Should virtual/augmented reality traumatise you with immersive, shocking visuals of cruel, violent experiences that bank on fear? Why not creatively engage VR to visualise a future that is humane, collaborative and truly experiential?

This is the essence of futurist Monika Bielskyte’s vision as the creative director of multiple Hollywood sci-fi productions embarks on a humanising journey across platforms. In conversation with DH, she dwells deeper into a future that marries technology with culture, innovation with social context to truly unleash their full potential.

How do these connections show up in Bielskyte’s idea of a future city? Her current project, imagining Dubai’s next course through a ‘Museum of the Future,’ offers a glimpse. She explains, “A smart future combines with a creative future to form a regenerative future. Being sustainable is not enough. Mitigating the damage of the present is not enough.”

So a smart city will not automatically become a better city if the people’s miseries remain unaddressed. “It is about building collaborations between cultures, generations, human and machine intelligence.” Such collaborations would mean, for instance, immersive experiences of climate change made to look real through artificial intelligence. Looking not more than 20 years ahead this way, Bielskyte visualises a post-gender, post-race and post-nation state world. “Climate change can be tackled only as citizens of the world, not one country.”

Bielksyte sees striking differences in how people in the West and the developing world visualise the future. “In the West, they have apocalyptic visions like alien invasion. But those in India and Brazil have visions of hope.”

These cultural boundaries can be bridged only through a collaborative, shared vision. Drawing parallels with technology, she says: “The reason there is little truly extraordinary augmented reality (AR), VR or mixed reality (MR) content is because we are all working in boxes. Engineers with engineers, game people with game people, directors with their producers.”

She is a vehement critic of violence and horror-based VR experiences. “We must aim to create experiences that open people up, not close them down. Enough of the claustrophobic tricks — don’t want experiences where we are made to move by fear — fear of action closing in on us.” Zombie-mania, please stop.”

The road ahead? Bielksyte instantly points to ‘Avatar,’ a Hollywood sci-fi film with an environmentally immersive vision that struck the right note with audiences worldwide.

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