When someone mentions "Virtual Reality," the first thing that generally comes to mind is that clunky head gear that was popular in the 90s. We immediately jump to the display part of the virtual experience.
It doesn't take long, however, to realize that the virtual experience is very far from immersive when you're only seeing through virtual eyes. To get to the "reality" aspect of it all you would need to have the full package. Smell virtual smells, feel virtual skin, taste virtual skin, and think virtual thoughts.
It is on that last point, thinking virtual thoughts, where Sensory Deception comes into play. This novel, authored by Ransom Stephens, may be a work of fiction, but its premise is undeniably the ultimate goal of virtual reality. In the novel, the latest virtual reality tech has the ability to let you fully immerse yourself in the experience of another being. Stephens prides himself on his science being plausible and researched experiments in virtual reality that show how, even with our relatively simple hardware, we can influence people's feelings and even their politics.
This quote from the preview of the book seems to nail down the idea pretty well: "I can't believe I ate a seal. And really enjoyed it."
The idea is that the character didn't just watch her digital persona eat a seal. She didn't just feel some kind of haptic feedback pressing on her mouth. There wasn't just some "fresh seal meat" scent device in the room for her to smell. While inside the system she was a polar bear. She wanted seal, she ate seal, and she enjoyed it.
The implications of this kind of experience are mind-boggling. We are, after all, the culmination of our experiences, aren't we? Could your experiences within the system change you forever? Could they drive you to behave differently? To love? To hate? I've felt how immersive the latest in virtual reality can be, and that is only a visual display! I'm eager to find out what Stephens has in store.