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Man spends 48 hours in VR, survives existential crisis

Since the early days of the Oculus Rift DK1, one of the biggest drives for commercial VR ventures has been in making VR a nausea-free experience. Just a few years later, with improved frame rates, better lenses, and many other clever visual tricks, it looks like we’re getting much closer to that ideal. A recent demonstration of these advances was provided by Thorsten Wiedemann, founder of the “A Maze” festival, who spent 48 hours inside an HTC Vive.

Wiedemann wasn’t looking to test the strength of his stomach with this virtual trip, but instead wanted to see what it was like to spend an extended period of time inside virtual reality. The half-experiment, half performance-art event took place at the Game Science Center in Berlin earlier this month, in a showcase called Disconnected.

While it is now seemingly strange to cut yourself off from the real world in such a fashion, Wiedemann doesn’t believe that will be the case in the future. By 2026 he said, people will spend a lot of time in virtual reality, meeting up with international friends and family to take part in group activities as varied as watching movies and slaying dragons.

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Throughout the 48-hour period, Wiedemann relied on Sarah Lisa Vogl, the co-designer of VR experience Lucid Trips, to guide him through his virtual exodus. She loaded up experiences for him and helped keep him motivated, walking him through her own game, as well as Hover Junkers multiplayer, Tilt Brush, VRLympix and a variety of other experiences.

He also spent a lot of time in social VR applications, which are quickly gaining traction as an interesting way to interact with others in a virtual space.

Of course he couldn’t spend his whole time playing games, and he found nutrition through water, tea, as well as easily eaten foods such as chocolate and bananas. And all the while he took specially chosen medication to keep him bunged up and therefore without the urge to complete his normal functions, which would have interrupted the experiment. Some things can’t be done virtually.

Wiedemann even had a place to sleep thanks to Vogl’s developing skills. She built him a cave inside her Lucid Trips experience in order to relax and get some shut eye. Apparently Wiedemann managed to get around five hours of sleep throughout the experience.

Although waking up in a virtual world might itself be strange, the stress of being unable to leave did hit home for Wiedemann around the 25-hour mark, where he suffered a panic attack, but quickly overcame it.

“I had no physical problems, no burning eyes, killing headaches, or nausea,” Wiedemann said (via Vice). “The path to the future is now prepared — we only need specially-designed content to get a full immersive experience, and this will take probably until 2026. But what is time? [So] I will experiment more in this direction.”