VIRTUAL REALITY by Howard Rheingold


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 From the author of Excursions to the Far Side of the Mind (1988), an exciting and comprehensive update on the latest in interactive computer technology. William Gibson's novel Neuromancer perhaps best evokes Rheingold's topic here: the vast potential that resides in the development of virtual realities (computer-simulated, interactive, 3-D environments) that allow humans to enter the world inside a computer. The technology is now at the Kitty Hawk stage as experimenters don scuba-mask-sized goggles (``eyephones''), slip their hands into high-tech versions of the Nintendo Powerglove (``datagloves'') and not only wander through but interact with simulated worlds that range from their own bloodstreams to an architect's proposed office building to the outer edges of the universe. Based on the simulator technology used to train fighter pilots and astronauts (and that combines the ``Sensorama'' approach to video technology with updated computer digitalization), the systems being developed by self-described cybernauts, Rheingold explains, promise to revolutionize medical imagery, microbiological research, education, telecommunications, entertainment, and just about everything else. Students can learn through ``artificial'' experience; workers around the globe can meet face to face in simulated conference rooms; coupling human/computer actions to actual machines will allow operators to maintain space stations, accomplish deep-sea maneuvers, and conduct a ground war by remote control; and virtual sex can be experienced through ``teledildonics.'' Initially backed by the Defense Department, the nascent industry's major funding now comes from the entertainment industry (particularly in Japan)--but its potential remains universal. Easily comprehensible and contagiously enthusiastic--an excellent overview.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-671-69363-8
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1991


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