|Buddhist monks staring up a the Washington Monument... and a teeny, tiny Lincoln Memorial in the background|
The beginning of the year always seems to turn my thoughts to the future. What does 2016 have in store? What will it be like when my kids get older and the family trip becomes optional for them? How will my travel style change when it's back to being just hubby and I exploring places? My youngest is only 10 years old, so I'm really getting ahead of myself with that last question.
I took the photo at the top of the post as I was exiting the Washington Monument in November. After spending so much time in Asia taking photos of Buddhist monks at temples, I enjoyed seeing them being tourists just like me. I also bet that this was the first time some of the other people at the monument had ever seen a monk.
On the same trip, I was disappointed that we were not able to get tickets to tour inside the White House despite requesting them months beforehand. My daughter said offhand that she'd already "walked around" the interior via Google Street View. To do it yourself, go to the White House in Google Maps and drag the orange stick figure onto the building.
A few months ago, I picked up a Google Cardboard viewer, loaded a virtual reality app with a Paul McCartney concert onto my iPhone, and felt like I was standing on stage during the middle of a concert watching him play "Live and Let Die." I could look up at the ceiling or down at the floor. Turn my head one way to see Paul on the piano or the other way to see the screaming audience. It was Ah-Maze-Ing! Interactive echnology is letting us have a more heightened sense of experience than just looking at a picture or watching a video.
Ready Player OneI've been immersed in reading the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It's set in the year 2044 when the world is three decades deep into an economic Great Recession. However, there's tons of pop culture references to the 1980's which is what initially drew me in. With the world's supply of fossil fuels practically depleted, it's near impossible for people to commute into town daily for work, much less go on road trips or jetting around the globe. Instead, most people escape into a massive multiplayer online game on virtual reality steroids called OASIS. A visor and earbuds provide remarkably realistic sight and sounds. It's like you are really there. You can walk through a place, turn your head, and the image angle changes accordingly. Haptic gloves make you feel as if you are truly touching things. With the microphone, motion sensors and avatars, people can interact with others in this imaginary realm.
Wade Watts, the teenage protagonist, attends a free public school inside the OASIS game. In World History class, the teacher shows simulations where the class experiences Egypt in the year 1334 BC one day and then the discovery of King Tut's tomb by archaeologists in 1922 during the next class. (If you're a Star Trek fan, just picture the Holodeck.)
What if this is the future of travel?What if you could go anywhere and any time via virtual reality? No more dreaming about your bucket list. Just do it. Just go there. It's so real that it's like it actually happened. In many ways, the pleasure that I get from reading other travel blogs is vicariously experiencing a place. Wouldn't virtual reality be merely another way of accomplishing that?
Would it matter to you that it didn't really happen?
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