Compelling anthology series Black Mirror strikes yet again with its first installment in the fifth season “Striking Vipers”, revealing a much anticipated look to the future of virtual reality. Whenever the future of VR is mentioned, there’s usually a dystopian feel attached to it. Some could say that Striking Vipers shows yet another glimpse to the future where you are isolated from the real world, even disrupting relationships around us. However, a deeper and unconventional look into the episode reveals incredible possibilities of VR that might be considered ridiculous at the present state of technology. Then again people also believed that horseless carriages were impossible but now look how far we’ve come, carrying the world in our pockets.
No stranger to virtual reality, Black Mirror constantly explores what future holds for humanity and how humanity is changing technology, sometimes for the worst. However, Striking Vipers exposes a more involved look at virtual reality, painting the future with a more optimistic stroke of technology. When two roommates, Karl and Danny, reunite through a VR game, a confusing encounter within the game leaves them disconcerted.
Unlike traditional VR headsets, a small rounded chip is attached to your temple. It will simulate all types of physical sensations in your body, creating an environment that looks as good as real world. Only more, because you can do so much stuff in it that’s only possible in imagination. You could embody any personality, be anyone you want and wear any skin that appeals to you. True to its nature, virtual reality in this episode shows that inside the virtual world there are no disabilities. You can jump, kick and even fly despite any kind of disabilities you may have in real world.
As they continue to play the fighting VR game, an unconventional relationship unfolds between the two friends who appear to be completely immersed in their digital avatars. So much so that they forget their real world identity and become one with their virtual bodies, suggesting that it has changed the dynamics of our world. It’s hard to deny that immersive technologies can help us find ourselves, in more ways than we are currently able to identify with. This plot adds fuel to fire to the long-standing debate about technology, intimacy, and commitment. On one hand it raises questions about digital relationships, while on the other it draws attention towards the potential of VR in a different context. Particularly for people who find real life relationships and identities daunting.
It’s not a stretch to say that anyone who’s ever gotten emotionally invested in their virtual characters can imagine what embodying an avatar in virtual world may mean – the appeal of a world where you could play out any fantasy you want is quite frankly incomparable. Shows such as Black Mirror are not just arrows shot in the dark, there’s a lot of potential in what’s being projected on the screen. After all it wouldn’t be the first time someone takes inspiration from entertainment to create something in real life. As far as implications of VR are concerned, technology is never inherently evil rather it depends on who has the power to control it.