Like many people, Michael Abrash is a fan of The Matrix. Unlike most people, he's trying to bring some of its core principles into reality: Abrash is the chief scientist at Oculus VR, Facebook's virtual-reality arm. And he spends a lot of time thinking about The Matrix. Today at the F8 developer conference, Abrash delivered a monologue from the film to explain why virtual reality can feel so much like the real thing.
Quoting Laurence Fishburne's character, Morpheus, Abrash spoke the words familiar to anyone who's taken a college philosophy class in the last 15 years. "What is 'real'? How do you define 'real'? If you are talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then 'real' is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain."
How do you define 'real'?
Abrash proceeded to deliver an extended and fascinating talk on how the brain interprets reality, both virtual and actual. He suggested that Oculus was making significant progress in being able to fool the brain into thinking that a virtual world is as real as the actual one. It's inevitable, he said. "Unlike Morpheus, I'm not offering you a choice today," he said, standing in front of a slide showing a red pill and a blue pill. "No matter which pill you pick, we're all headed down the rabbit hole together."