VR and the Subconscious

Could virtual reality have an effect on the human subconscious more profound than any other form of communication?

Last night I saw a thread on Facebook involving some local cool VR people. Willard Williams, an architect with a badass profile pic, posted the following:

I overheard someone after the ‪#‎WINHUGR‬ meetup talking about how people who are just getting into VR/AR have no idea what they are getting themselves into. He said that after two or more years of testing various VR apps and devices he started having dreams in VR. I thought that was interesting but hadn’t ever experienced that myself. But last night after beating ‪#‎Fragments‬ https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-holole…/…/apps/Fragments and having to deal with that crazy last chapter. I went to bed only to wake-up in the middle of the night with a hologram sitting on my bed. It was so incredibly believable I threw my clothes on and laid awake for a little while. But what’s real? What sort of PTSD, if you would call it that, have others had with VR or AR?

Game designer Eric Nevala chimed in to say that he was recently able to lucidly manipulate a dream about ice fishing, and in the dream he wondered if he more “suitably adapted” to navigate a dream world.

A couple months ago I interviewed Scott Bennett, the VR artist, for my Seattle Met article (hitting stands any time now). He mentioned that his immersion in VR seemed to be having an effect on his dreams, too. He wondered if maybe VR was a tool that we could use to influence deeper parts of our minds.

Elizabeth Scallon, the associate director of CoMotion Labs, jumped on the thread and offered to introduce me to a neuroscientist who is working on VR applications. I’m looking forward to (wait for it) picking this scientist’s brain about how VR alters our minds.

PP56023This is a topic that gets me excited. I’ve been fascinated with the subconscious since I was a teenager. As a creative writer, I started to understand at an early age that there were things I could do to influence how my subconscious provided me with ideas for stories. I developed a relationship with my writing like that of a friend and have always treated my writing as if it were a sentient entity. I realize this may simply be a mental trick I play on myself, but it seems to work to keep the words flowing.

I’ve always loved art that leaps past our conscious filters and engages us on a level we’re not quite aware of. Haruki Murakami’s novels, David Lynch’s films, the art of Neo Rauch and Henry Darger all do this for me. Maybe VR has the potential to engage the subconscious in ways we have yet to discover. Does VR promise not simply a new entertainment platform, but a new way to engineer the human mind? What happens inside a brain that’s experiencing VR? How can artists craft VR storyscapes to deliberately influence dreams?

If you’ve experienced stranger than usual dream states that you feel are the result of VR, please let me know. I’d like to write more about this topic, and know there is so much more to discover.