Summer, it seems, has come to an end – traditionally, for those in the US of A, summer ends with the recent Labour Day holiday, whilst here in the US of GB, it’s not so well-defined. Generally, summertime can be considered to have turned up its toes when it’s no longer possible to get the barbecue charcoal to light, even with a gallon of petrol. Since this can happen any time between June and September, it’s a rather imprecise science; in fact, barbecue season in Britland is one of those mysteries of nature – when it occurs, and for how long, simply can’t be calculated. The other sign that summer has come to an end is the subtle, but unmistakeable change in the quality of the rain – respite from the summer rain can be found in the simple form of an umbrella; winter rain requires wetsuits. Occasionally, summer rain will relent for long enough for us to optimistically start draining fuel from the car, to be used as kindling, and towel-off the charcoal… winter rain never relents, (except to allow it to snow).
Today we had winter rain and, of course, i had to walk home from work in it.
Now, you may be under the impression that i’m no fan of wet weather – summer, winter or otherwise – but you’d be wrong: i really don’t mind it at all. Even today, bereft of umbrella, wellies or wetsuit, i really didn’t mind getting soaked – it was refreshing, energising and after i’d arrived home, dried myself off, slipped into a warm dressing gown and curled up with a hot cuppa, i really had very little to complain about. A good soaking i find, is good for the soul, as is a bracing walk on a frosty morning, gettting blown about in a good old gusty wind, and trudging through the ice and snow.
You may think me odd, but it’s precisely these sort of things that i sometimes find myself yearning for in sl – strange that it may seem, in a world where we can find pretty much any sort of weather we fancy, with a bit of ingenuity, or even control the elements ourselves, i find that there’s something lacking… i have sound, i have vision, but what i don’t have is that singularly primal feeling of being able to get in touch with the natural world. All of which, i suppose makes sense, since sl is, of course, not even remotely natural, no matter how carefully the virtual environment might be crafted.
There’s a limit to how real a virtual world can feel and although we may do our best to fool our minds into believing it’s the real thing, there are some things we simply can’t do. Technology is doing its best to compensate -there’s much excitement about the Occulus Rift right now, and how it’s going to make sl so much more realistic, for example, although i’m of the opinion that much of this is misguided hype. It will probably make for a more immersive experience – although this is only going to work in well-designed and uniformly proportioned sims – but what is probably far more likely is that we’ll see an upsurge of people throwing up over their keyboards and falling off their seats as they try to grapple with motion sickness and master the art of exploring sl in what seems to be proper 3D. That’s fine with me, but it’s unlikely you’ll find me jumping onto the Rift bandwagon.
What i would love to see in sl is something that really would make it seem every bit as real as the living, breathing world around me, but it’s not going to happen – at least not until somebody finds a way of directly hooking up the sensory centres of my brain to my PC, via USB.
Imagine being able to wander around a forest in sl and not only experience the sensory delights of sight, sound and movement, but also the feel of the moss under your feet. Just think what it would be like to tramp across the wastelands and feel the heat of the sl sun on your back, or imagine switching on a weather HUD for a good old downfall and experiencing the feeling of getting soaked to the skin?
That’s what i’d love to have in sl – not just so see and hear the virtual world, but to be able to feel it interact with me and experience what it’s like to touch and connect, in a very physical way, with the virtual environment.
The trouble is, who’d want to leave?
And as I watch the drops of rain
Weave their weary paths and die
I know that I am like the rain
There but for the grace of you go I.
Simon & Garfunkel – Kathy’s Song