Up is Down and Down is Up

The unlimited possibilities of VR turn out to be a problem from me rather than a liberation. As times passes and I have to come up with more and more ideas about VR I am realizing how limited my mental space has become. Although, I have always been on the creative side in writing, coding, creating in any possible way, my brain has become limited by the limited resources that I have (I guess that is just growing up and facing reality does). And now this new VR opportunity presents a mind-bothering issue.

I mentally went through any superpower and magical thing that I can think of and then on my own found them all to be already existent in one video game or another, not necessarily in VR. So, I set out to think of something which would engage more senses in VR and would thus make use of how real it all seems once you put the headset on. Seeing and hearing have been engaged for decades now, movement is engaged in HTC VIVE as well. But I wanted to dig deeper, engage the unseeable – our sense of spacial position and balance.

Readily in my mind came the movie Inception and how by manipulating spacial position the characters were able to do many things. And then into mind came the concept of the impossible staircase.

July 1953

The only way to go through this maze is if you are able to rotate your space according to the position of the next staircase. “Up” and “down” become not something set, but something you have control over. In this manner one becomes more aware of their vestibular sense. In real life almost no one (except of aeronauts and people using fly machines) pays much attention to this sense because special equipment is needed in order to affect it. For us the sky is always up and the Earth is down. However, like everything these concepts are subjective and not set, but for evolutionary purposes we have gotten used to calibrate according to these two big objects that are always in sight.

Thus, a game that makes you break the tradition of up and down can cause some trouble for most people. It is incredibly important for coordination and balance to know which is where, so when this certainty is removed many people might feel sick. But just like any other sense or muscle you have to go through the pain and trouble in order to improve. So, I feel like this has an application in body training and also poses a challenge.

It is also a challenge to make. For the past week I have been trying to create a level of impossible staircases and it is very hard for me to imagine everything in 3D while imagining to change my spatial rotation. Using other softwares like TiltBrush allows me to better imagine how it might look like, but it is still a struggle to open up my mindset to remove the usual concepts of up and down. Which makes me believe even further that having a way to learn it (like in such a game) will bring us closer to unravelling our full human potential.

As a second interaction me and my group discussed scaling of the world, similar to the beginning of Alice in Wonderland. This makes the design of the level even harder; however, it also works very well to present an “out-of-the-box” way of thinking. It is an interaction that again messes with one’s mind-set about position and control over the world that they are in.