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Lions Roar : January 2016
Virtual reality has been around for decades now, but it’s in the last few years that we’ve seen real breakthroughs. Shrinking computer components and next-generation smartphone screens are combined in wearable headsets that cre- ate immersive visual and auditory envi- ronments and place us “present” inside them. As VR develops and improves, the applications will only get more mind- blowing. We’ll also see these tech- nologies affect how many of us connect around and practice dharma together, changing our experience of the Bud- dhist community as new contemplative “PRESENCE”—that’s the term used by the makers of virtual reality (“VR”) to describe how immersive it feels when you’re in one of their simulated three- dimensional environments. It’s the vis- ceral feeling of actually being somewhere. I experienced this myself when I tried the Oculus Rift (a VR headset technol- ogy that Facebook recently purchased) and found myself actually leaning over to peer under a digital table. FROM WHERE I SIT Ready for Another Reality? It won’t be long before you can slip on a headset and enter a new dharma realm. But, says VINCENT HORN, we should watch our step. technologies take advantage of VR. We’re also likely to see new challenges and problems unique to these technologies. Some of these challenges might best be understood from a dharmic perspective, as they’re intimately tied to our sense of identity, as well as to its potential fracturing. So what does the future hold? Dharma in the Cloud Many geographically based sanghas already have a virtual component: they share their teachers’ in-person talks online or use the web to get out infor- mation about their activities. Some are CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE VINCENT HORN is a cofounder of Bud- dhist Geeks, which asks, “How can we serve the convergence of Buddhism with rapidly evolving technology and an increasingly global culture?” MAKSIMLOGINOV SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2016 13