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Virtual Reality

Date: 04-16-11
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Jim Blascovich, Jeremy Bailenson, George Hardy

Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson, two pioneering experts in the field of virtual reality, joined Ian Punnett to reveal when we all might be living in the Matrix. "Virtual reality, for us, is any reality that's not a person's grounded reality," Blascovich said. We go back and forth between virtual and grounded realities all of the time, without the use of technology, through our mind wanderings and dreams, he continued. "There's different types of virtual realities and there's even a lack of separation among them," Bailenson added, citing how the digital environs of the online role-playing game World of Warcraft reportedly seeps into the dream lives of hardcore players.

According to Bailenson, we are at the cusp of a future where virtual reality is commonplace. New 'glasses-free 3D' autostereoscopic displays (as seen in Nintendo's 3DS), suit-less movement tracking (similar to Microsoft's Kinect), and advances in artificial intelligence, will combine to allow people to do things they could not actually do in the physical world, he explained. For instance, a person conducting a digital meeting or teaching a virtual class can program an avatar (graphical representation of a user) to maintain eye contact with every single participant, which focus attention on the speaker, Blascovich noted. Bailenson offered a more insidious example of a person morphing the appearance and sound of an avatar to ingratiate and manipulate different audiences.

The two also commented on how virtual reality may be utilized by the porn industry as well as delved into the concept of digital immortality, where one's avatar continues beyond its user's physical life. Bailenson pointed to a commercial for microwave popcorn that uses a digital recreation of deceased founder Orville Redenbacher, and imagined a day when grandchildren could interact with digital versions of their deceased grandparents. Virtual reality does not allow a person to actually live forever, nor will it ever replace one's consciousness, Blascovich added.

Revisiting Troll 2

In the first hour, dentist and actor George Hardy talked about Troll 2, a '90s horror movie so infamously bad it has been chronicled in the recent documentary Best Worst Movie. The story is about a father, played by Hardy, who takes his family on vacation to the town of Nilbog ("goblin" spelled backwards) where malicious vegan goblins seek to turn them into plants and eat them. Despite its flaws, the low-budget film has become a cult phenomenon around the world. It has been translated into 20 languages and is still being screened in theaters, Hardy said. He also mentioned his cameo roles in the upcoming movies, Junk and Ghost Shark 2: Urban Jaws.

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