Wednesday, March 17, 2010

thurs 1pm section, the cave

Before visiting the cave, all I could think about was Plato’s scenario of the cave in “The Republic.” In this representation, Plato describes prisoners chained down in which all they could see are shadows on the wall. According to Plato, a philosopher frees him/herself from this pseudo-representation and walks outside to experience the real world. When reaching 180 George Street and experiencing the cave here, I still saw similarities between the two. The cave I experienced, with the “shutter” glasses, was of course trying to simulate a three-dimensional world in which, quite cleverly, the viewpoint changed according to the direction of the glasses (with the magnet). The experience was the closest to a virtual reality I have ever been in. It was when I took off the glasses in the middle of a simulation that I felt deceived. The images then felt flat and blurry, like shadows on a wall. While the prisoner’s in Plato’s cave have seen nothing else but the shadows on a wall, a person who has seen nothing else but this simulation cave would certainly believe this is reality. Then, according to this person, the cave is as real as it gets. It was when I ignored the cave’s limitations that I fully began to appreciate it.

I also started thinking about what it takes to create this world in our minds. In the real world, light bounces off objects and photons enter our eye. From there the brain processes the images. In the cave, however, a projector bounces light off the screen at a flicker, the light enters the shutter glasses synchronizing in flickering, and finally the light enters our eyes. As real as the image will look in years to come, the fact that another screen (the glasses) is put in between the object and the viewer makes it hard to fully accept this form of media. The three-dimensional view is in fact deceiving only when the viewer realizes the glasses are there (i.e. sees it in his/her periphery). I also spent some time thinking whether this was augmented reality or virtual reality. In augmented reality, computers are used to change the live image before us. In this case, I would feel the glasses are playing that role.

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