Six Degrees of freedom

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How free are you? I have spoken before about VR (virtual reality) one of the concepts in VR is 6 degrees of freedom (6DoF is the abbreviation) it refers to the controls used to operate your movement within the virtual world: up and down, side to side, forward and backward, a total of six; hence six degrees of freedom. Are you all asleep yet? Well wake up!

I was thinking about this the other day. What I love about VR is that freedom of movement which I lack in the real world. I can zip forward and back, side to side and even up and down many feet; that’s something beyond most people’s jumping ability. What is missing in these six degrees of freedom is the ability to teleport. Any fans of Star Trek, I know that’s everyone, will have always wanted to teleport. To be able to press a button and transport from one place to another in an instant; the stuff of sci-fi and fantasy. Well in the VR world you can do just that. There is an App called Wander which is basically Google Earth on steroids, in it you can just appear anywhere on Earth in an instant. It’s like beaming in from outer space. Then you can even time travel; if Google Earth covered the place you visit at different times. You can view it at that time.

In the VR world you have a home. Not very earth shattering I know. Most people have a home anyway. But the VR home is massive. My home is far too small for my wheelchair, I am always bashing into things, scratching doors etc. Apart from the fact that I am not in a wheelchair in the VR world, the house itself is gigantic. Not that it is a problem getting around it; you just teleport from place to place. No wheeling or walking needed.

An aside; when you play some games in VR, Star Trek for instance, you become a character in that game. You look down at yourself in the game and see who you are. In the loading part of the Star Trek game, as the shuttle is flying towards the main ship, you look down and find you are wearing a short skirt. But that’s OK because you are a woman, what am I saying! It is very strange in VR sometimes. Anyway, back home before we all need therapy. In your virtual home you can choose what it looks like and where it is; space, another planet, the past, a mountaintop hideaway (if you’ve always wanted to be a Bond villain) etc. You can even decorate it. Although that’s where the 6DoF gets a bit tricky. One of the features of 6DoF controllers is that they enable you to have virtual hands in the VR world. I think that practice must make perfect, because I have yet to master picking things up and moving them around. I can do it with my real hands; just.

I started by asking how free are you? That was a question that has a serious answer, even though I have gone off on silly asides. Freedom can be the physical limitations of our bodies, the limitations of our finances, our mental wellbeing, the social situation we are in and even the very buildings and infrastructure around us (something very much in the news with the push for more accessible housing).

Freedom is not a simple concept. We perhaps think of it in relation to our gender, social background, disability, race, finances and surroundings. But we forget that it is also a state of mind. Do not misunderstand me, I agree that the main limitations are very much social background, race, disability and gender. Although each of these will cause debate as to there degree of limitation or even if they should be included and some might want to include other things.

What I am saying is that on top of these limitations, our attitude and outlook affect our perception of freedom. You could have every advantage going and yet not be free if you have a closed in viewpoint. There have been those in history who have been imprisoned, oppressed and persecuted and yet they have found inner freedom.

I do not advocate that there should be no change to society to make things better for the oppressed and marginalised. Anyone who reads my blogs will know I champion change. What I am suggesting is that while we await that change, we can still find a degree of freedom with our limitations; maybe not six degrees of freedom, but some relief and freedom. Change can be slow, but we need not spend that time focussed only on how limited we are, we can look to a wider vista and see freedom within our limitations whatever they are for you.

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