Take a Vacation From Your Living Room With Virtual Reality Tourism?

Samsung to release virtual reality service Milk VR in US by Samsung Newsroom is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things about how we live. Almost every one of those things is something that the progressive movement has high on its agenda.

Less commuting to help the environment, more dependence on central government, the end of small businesses who tend to vote conservative, the consolidation of only one acceptable point of view and belief system.

The shift from real work to digital work has long been a goal of modern neoliberals, who want to move into the “future economy” as soon as possible.

Now virtual reality companies are also bragging about how people in the future won’t physically go on vacations, they’ll just strap on their VR set and travel from their living room.

It will be super “sustainable” and awesome, these so-called experts say.

Travel the World…in Your Head

As lockdowns and border closures continue, VR companies like Oculus see a major opportunity. Oculus recently came out with its Quest 2 VR system where you can travel around the world looking for penguins as part of an epic VR adventure.

“In this time of social distancing, people are looking for different ways to stay entertained, connected and active, and VR offers that. Whether you want to transport yourself to different places in the world, play with friends, get fit or just hang out together and feel like you’re in the same room, people are realizing they can with VR,” said a representative for Oculus.

Another popular VR program called We Stayed Home lets you explore the most amazing cities of the world basically with completely up-to-date streets, locations and scenery. Wander lets you explore Egyptian pyramids and go around the world to see its wonders and discover whatever you want.

Europe Jumps Onboard

You can always count on Europe to be one of the first places to embrace any new fad and Germany’s tourism board is already cooperating with VR to do all sorts of new locations that citizens can visit and cool beach vacations.

Ralph Hollister studies tourism for an organization called Global Data and says the trend will likely continue.

“I think the increase will be sustained, especially with the Gen Z and millennials in coming years, as they move into higher-paid jobs, and marketers take them more seriously as a consumer group,” Hollister said.

VR is currently used to help show clients a preview of tours before they buy tickets, but if VR tech keeps improving it definitely seems possible that it could become a viable and popular alternative to actual trips.

And that’s kind of sad.

Woman using a virtual reality headset by marcoverch is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What’s it Like on a VR Vacation?

One man who tried out a VR vacation snorkeling and diving with sharks said that it’s very realistic and your brain almost starts to believe it’s real. He’s also played poker at fascinating historical locations in China, and rock climbing on Europe’s tallest mountains. When you step out of the VR you feel fairly confused, he said, because your brain has to readjust to what’s real.

VR is an impressive technology, but it’s sad that humans are losing the connection to each other and to the real physical world. As our tech overlords encourage us to stay apart from each other and embrace their “brave new world” it is a good idea to remain skeptical and careful.

If there’s a future in which almost everything is digital and we are all surveilled 24/7 and have our behavior and thoughts controlled we will lose the last shreds of freedom that still remain. An organization with the power to trick your brain into reality also has the power to change that reality and your position in it. How long could it be before people get locked in virtual reality jails they can’t escape from for expressing an unpopular political belief or protesting?