What Should I Do with My Holodeck? Exploring Virtual Reality for Evangelism

Brian Klebig (Okemos, Michigan USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

Brian Klebig graduated from Bethany Lutheran College and Seminary, and served as an ELS parish pastor from 2008 to 2012. He achieved an MA in Communication from the University of Central Florida in 2014, and is presently working toward a Ph.D. in Communication at Michigan State University, after which he has been invited to join the faculty at Bethany Lutheran College. He has published articles on the influence of moral intuitions on media enjoyment, and on effective communication behaviors for instructors. He also published an article in the Lutheran Sentinel about the zombie apocalypse. He and his wife Dawn have two daughters.

I don't know what to do with my brand new holodeck.

Actually, let me back up. This summer I was able to participate in the construction of a new laboratory at Michigan State University, which is where I'm working on my Ph.D. in Communication. It's called the Center for Avatar Research and Immersive Social Media Applications (CARISMA) Lab, and it's amazing. It has full motion capture capability, including real-time facial replacement and retexturing. It has virtual and augmented reality, meaning that not only can we simulate an artificial environment which you can move freely through, you can also manifest and manipulate virtual objects in the room. Soon a portion of the Lab will have omnidirectional moving floors so that participants can move freely and infinitely through virtual environments. I'm dating myself, but think about the holodecks from Star Trek: The Next Generation, where flawless computer-generated environments could be created and used. CARISMA is about as close as we can get to those without having the actual U.S.S. Enterprise in the building. It's amazing, and we're only just beginning to explore its capabilities.

The thing is, I'm a pastor, so I always tend to think about things in terms of how they could be useful for spreading the Word to those who haven't heard it, or delivering it more effectively to those who have. And that's where I'm a little bit stumped. I have at my disposal this incredible piece of technology, and I am short on ideas for how I can employ it to spread the Gospel.

I don't know what to do with my brand new holodeck. I'd like your help with that.

This may represent a very special opportunity for Christians. We have traditionally had a very mixed relationship with new media. Christians did an excellent job taking advantage of radio, allowing the message of the Gospel to be spread farther and to more ears than ever before. My grandmother was brought to faith when the message of the Gospel was delivered to her through the radio, and three generations of Christians in her family have followed as a result. Film and television caused more difficulties. Christian messages were often watered down, replaced with moralism, or drastically altered when they were presented at all. The quality of Christian-produced film and television media has varied wildly, and they often failed to capture the drama that such powerful events ought to communicate. Frustratingly, Christians really never got into the swing of video games. We played them as much as anyone, but in terms of content it was never manifestly obvious how to effectively communicate the message of the Gospel through games. Virtual reality (VR) might be an opportunity to rectify these shortcomings.

Presented here are some perspectives on VR as a medium for content delivery which may help guide thoughts that you can expand upon. In essence, the primary hope is to prompt discussion, both here in this GOWM forum and outside of it in our own circles, as to how the Gospel can be communicated through VR. The secondary hope is to inspire some of you to pursue the actual creation of content for this form of media.

This secondary hope is going to be particularly relevant for students. I can guarantee to you that there are careers to be built in this area. When I first stepped into the virtual reality simulator in CARISMA, I was blown away. It was not like watching a movie. It was not like playing a video game. It was something different altogether, and it was amazing. As the technology improves, these devices, already affordable at a consumer level (albeit pricey), will become less expensive and systems capable of running them will become more commonplace. I am comfortable practically promising you that this is the future of entertainment. However, there is very little content for it right now, and know-how in VR production is rare. If you choose to pursue VR content creation as an interest, you have an excellent chance at breaking into a burgeoning entertainment industry. If your current interests are centered on film or video games, I recommend that you at least attach VR as a parallel interest. It could prove lucrative for you, but even more importantly, it might prove very important to the work of the Church.

VR, as a medium, might lend itself to communicating powerful Christian messages more readily than radio, television, film or video games. During my first experience in the CARISMA lab a human-sized robot came lurching toward me, gears grinding noisily and sparks flying from its appendages. I knew that this was a digital construct which had no capacity to hurt me, but that rational voice in my head was a whisper against every physical impulse. I don't jump at horror movies. I comfortably play unsettling video games. But when that robot came tumbling out of the room at me, I staggered backward. When it looked up at me, I said, out loud, "It's not real. It's not real. It's not real. . ." Virtual reality provides a highly immersive experience, delivered in a very intense packet. This may provide opportunities which have long eluded Christians in media.

VR's primary power is that it is highly experiential. It does not seem to require the same elements that other narrative media require. Video games need objectives. Movies need a discernable story. VR only requires an environment. One of the most meaningful experiences of my life was a trip to Israel. I got to see what Jesus saw when He delivered sermon illustrations. It dramatically enhanced the Bible for me. VR affords the potential to put someone in ancient Israel, let them see and move about the Mount of Olives, and there may be tremendous value in this, even apart from any other content. However, VR allows for certain experiences to open up as well. Imagine experiencing being on the boat when Jesus calms the storm. Imagine being in the garden near a sleeping Peter, James and John while Jesus prays quietly nearby when the sounds of an approaching troop draws nearer, their torches gradually coming into view. Imagine drifting over a dark mass and suddenly hearing, "Let there be light." For believers these could be incredibly moving and instructive experiences. For unbelievers these could spark the kind of interest that prompts questions. Christians can leverage the visceral reactions that VR inspires to infuse a depth of meaning and understanding that traditional media has had difficulty communicating.

The highly intuitive nature of VR also may lend itself to a special presentation of Christianity. Films and radio programs with Christian messages are typically very weighty and verbose. This may be well and good for the Christians in the audience, who are prepared to dedicate the cognitive resources required to get the presented message, but the utility for those who do not have that level of motivation is probably very limited. VR programs, thus far, have tended to be short, singular experiences. A person who would have laughed at the idea of watching a movie about the Garden of Eden may very well be willing to stand by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil while the snake whispers the message that dooms mankind. Individuals who would never have had the patience to sit through a viewing of The Passion may very well be willing to stand on Golgotha and watch as Jesus proclaims their absolution. There is a tendency to criticize the short attention spans that TV, games and Internet have fostered, but consider how Jesus tended to communicate. He often chose short, vivid illustrations or brief, immersive stories, and seldom opted for lengthy, weighty soliloquys. I would suggest that VR provides a forum which more closely resembles how Jesus spoke and taught than radio, film, TV, or video games do.

I don't know what to do with my new holodeck, but I know that I want to see it used for God's Kingdom. VR is still the Wild West. There are no clean roads or accepted paths as yet. My hope is that together we can begin to see what this new media landscape has to offer and produce quality messages for it, so that visitors to this new digital land will find steeples there.

[ Listen to a 13-minute interview with Brian Klebig about his presentation, conducted by Andy Bates on KFUO-AM radio on his "Faith 'n' Family" program, September 28, 2016. Audio courtesy of Worldwide KFUO. ]

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Judy Kuster 2016-10-12 1:03:40am
Brian - As an old trekkie (or trekker) the holodeck always fascinated me. Some of Rodenberry's ideas became reality. I don't know how far virtual reality can go. You describe being "transported" elsewhere to be able to observe events - maybe touring Luther's Wittenburg or Solomon's temple, or even the ark. But you also described an interaction -- a robot chasing you. Do you think it is possible to manipulate virtual objects - e.g. could you have touched the virtual robot? Or hit a virtual baseball? Or swatted a virtual fly?
Brian Klebig (Michigan State University) 2016-10-14 10:12:58am
Yes to all of those, which is one of the reasons I find the tech so interesting. Not only are objects in a virtual environment able to be manipulated, but because there's a measure of forced feedback through the controls, you get certain tactile responses when you interact with them. That tech is still very much in its infancy, but it's getting better all the time. We're going to be getting some gloves soon that will be even more of an improvement on old controllers, since now you'll manipulate objects the way you normally would in actual reality.
Additionally, because the feedback is so fast, you can have two people in VR headsets passing a real basketball back and forth between each other, and only seeing it through VR they would still be able to catch it. So the interactions with virtual objects that we can produce are pretty true-to-life, even if it is rather obviously not reality.
So yes, there's definitely a participatory element that ought to be employed in making messages. I think that even more than touring Luther's Wittenburg, I think it'd be entertaining to help him nail the theses to the door, or somesuch. That's the experiential nature of the media that particularly excites me.
Jas L 2016-10-13 1:06:54pm
I like the idea of the immersive Bible experiences - from Jacob's ladder to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to the sermon on the mount. What a powerful teaching tool. It would also be cool to sing the Hallelujah Chorus with a virtual mass choir (as long as nobody could hear me). What about singing "God's Word is our Great Heritage" or "In Christ Alone" with a crowd of people from different times in history and places on the globe? Since studies have shown important links between music and memory in people with Alzheimer's, dementia, or stroke, I'd be very curious about their response to a virtual worship environment. Exciting new territory!
Brian Klebig (Michigan State University) 2016-10-14 10:18:06am
It's a pretty exciting thought to consider what kind of a worship service you could assemble using VR, particularly if you were able to get a lot of participants who also had access. For example, think about how meaningful it would be at a mission rally to have a VR program that allowed you to be at a divine service in Africa or Ukraine. I think it has the potential to really influence how people think about the body of believers. Now, it would be a lot of work to produce that program, which is why stimulating interest is so crucial right now. We need the people to produce the content.
James Heichelbech (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-17 8:19:07pm
Hi Brian, this presentation surprised me! I had no idea anyone was even thinking about this. I think this is a very neat way, to say the least, to draw people in. This technology is brand new to us and I believe it would capture a lot of young peoples attention just because it is a "hip" new thing on the market. Families could all experience what it could of been like to be in Bethlehem or wherever else they might want to go. I do have a concern though. What if people do not agree with what they see? Everyone has different perspectives on what the Bible says. It could push some people away from VR because they do not like the programmers interpretation of how is might of been way back then. I don't know if what I said makes any sense to you but if you do it is something to think about. Overall, this is a very new and interesting way of learning!
Brian Klebig (Michigan State University) 2016-10-26 10:15:08pm
I hear you about the not agreeing with what you see. There's the part of me that says, "Well, there's nativities and so forth. Those aren't all the same, so people must be malleable in their ability to envision events." Then there's the part of me that's been doing a little light storyboarding on a Jonah encounter. How do you portray the sea creature? My personal preference would be to have it be an absolutely immense sea monster (probably in part because that'd look extremely impressive in VR), but I wonder if you'd get people who felt very passionately about whether it's a whale or a fishy-looking fish or that sort of thing. My gut tells me that people have become increasingly accustomed to visual presentations of Biblical stories and are prepared to accept some variations in their appearance in a simulation against their appearance in their imaginations, but I don't have any data to support this. It may be worth looking into, actually, to see if there's any good information out there about how people process media that is not precisely parallel to how they imagine those events.
That all said, being epic causes the forgiveness of a multitude of sins. The charge on Helm's Deep in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was not at all how I imagined it having read the book. All was forgiven, though, because the way the creators imagined it was also fantastic. My hope would be that Jonah's experience would be relayed with the treatment it deserves, and people will be similarly quick to forgive. Perhaps that's what it all comes back to: Christians, maybe more than any others, have to pursue quality in their work.
Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-23 12:10:39am
I saw a TV news report today about a VR Halloween experience somewhere. They were charging people $50 to go in, put on the goggles, and get scared by virtual ghouls and monsters. It looked like they had a lot of business. This technology is coming fast.

As with all technology, costs are high at first, then drop. Brian, are you permitted to reveal how much Michigan State is investing in your VR installation?
Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-23 8:40:14am
Supplement to my own post... This morning's Minneapolis Star Tribune has an article about how visitors to a Tourism Conference in Stockholm, Sweden, were able to visit the Mall of America via VR. It said, "Now, the staff can take people on a three-minute virtual reality experience that includes the Ferris wheel in Nickelodeon Universe, the 300-foot ocean tunnel in Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium, a view of the swanky Cedar + Stone restaurant in the new J.W. Marriott, the mall’s atrium and its endless corridors of stores." People were waiting in line to do this.
Brian Klebig (Michigan State University) 2016-10-26 10:24:33pm
Sure, I can give you a window into the secret garden!
The overall budget for all renovations was 10 million dollars, but this covers an absolutely massive, multi-floor, inter-departmental overhaul of the building itself. A basic VR setup which could perform essentially the same VR functions currently available in the laboratory could be done (with no pre-existing equipment, not even computers) for around $2500. That would allow you to move around a room by actually walking (with your movement tracked by dual laser cameras), have a forced-feedback controller for each hand to allow you to fully interact with the environment, and of course give you the goggles and a computer capable of running the system.
The nerve-center of the CARISMA Lab's research, where we are putting together integrated VR, augmented reality, and motion capture, will probably run about $350,000 once the last check is signed, with about $600 per year equipment replacement costs (I'm not including the cost of staff, of course). Definitely expensive, but probably not impossible for our institutions, either.
Max G (Bethany College) 2016-10-24 11:37:16pm
Hello Brian, I too have been interested in the technology of virtual reality. I think it's a great idea that one would use this technology to help teach the word of God. I think the use of different perspectives of each of the disciples would be a cool thing to do. For example, get the perspective of different disciples that were at one location experiencing the same thing. It may be tough to know how their perspectives would have been, but maybe display it based off what we know about them from the Bible. It would help teach people about the disciples and get to know them better, as they played a big role in spreading the word of God.
Brian Klebig (Michigan State University) 2016-10-26 10:40:19pm
That's a good thought! I also think a lot of the differences could remain implicit rather than explicit. Think of how it would be to do a rapid-fire recreation of Christ's arrest and crucifixion. The user would, at the start, be Peter. There'd be the violent encounter with Malchus, fleeing, disowning Christ in the courtyard, seeing his look. Then you might snap over to John, negotiating his way into the temple, seeing Christ on Golgotha, having Jesus entrust the care of His mother, et cetera. Without having to actually say what they're feeling or thinking, a user would definitely be able to infer, in a very graphic fashion, the emotions of the day.
Joe and Emily (Martin Luther College) 2016-10-25 1:58:24pm
We both lie in complete awe that this is actually taking place in our society today. The growth of virtual reality taking place is something we can't wrap our heads around but do want to learn more about. When it talks about the images we could see like, "Imagine being in the garden near a sleeping Peter, James and John while Jesus prays quietly nearby when the sounds of an approaching troop draws nearer, their torches gradually coming into view. Imagine drifting over a dark mass and suddenly hearing, "Let there be light." It becomes much more real to us and that we can see this taking place with the new advancements. For years we have been told the stories over and over and been taught to accept that this is truth and that it truly did happen. With this new opportunity we can "relive" these moments and see them for ourselves to help us grow in the faith and see that these did take place.

A question that arose while reading this article was, should this use of virtual reality be available to us? Does God truly want us to use our advancements to dig so much into His Word or are we using it in the right way to help us benefit and learn more about what has taken place in the past? We don't want to try and infer too much so then we end up questioning our faith. With all of these interpretations taking place we have the difficulties that may arise with trying to explain questions being asked that God personally does not ask in His own work. We don't want to spread any message that isn't truth but do have to use some background to show our belief we have in God.
Brian Klebig (Michigan State University) 2016-10-26 11:05:00pm
The proper role of media in the Church is something that has been grappled with since the Iconoclastic Controversy, and although the mediums and language changes, the core concerns tend to remain pretty similar. I'm not trying to sound dismissive with that, they're legit concerns, but while VR might not have easy parallels for content creation, I think familiar solutions to this concern probably apply. So, for example, consider nativity scenes. They frequently include the wise men. The wise men, of course, weren't there. The stable almost certainly doesn't look like how the stable looked. The manger almost certainly doesn't resemble the manger. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph almost certainly don't look at all like Jesus, Mary, and Joseph did. I would contest a number of things about these inaccuracies. 1) They cause no damage to anyone's faith. If someone claimed to have lost their faith when they found out the wise men weren't at the manger, or that Jesus probably wasn't quite as white as their porcelain figurines made Him out to be, I'd probably start digging for the real reason for their falling away. 2) They provide an opportunity for discussion and explication. The nativity is not the entirety of the message, it's the illustration. Even its flaws are a basis for conversation, and redirect viewers to the Bible. 3) Media can be highly impactful without being elevated to the level of canon. Scripture is always the basis for our faith. You can be moved by a particularly beautiful piece of music with lyrics that speak to your struggles. It's not Scripture, it's not canon, but it's extremely edifying and useful, and we don't confuse the two. VR is no different.
Now, all that being said, I definitely think that any representation of Scripture, be it through music, theater, film, game, or virtual reality, ought to be conducted with the care and attention that its subject matter deserves. One nice thing about VR is that, with current production standards, it will be very unforgiving of errors. You might be able to get away with having the wise men on your nativity set, but they'd better not come walking through the entry of the stable in a VR simulation or everyone will immediately cry foul. The realism of VR creates a need for accuracy in its experiences, so I think the medium itself gives a better opportunity than usual for faithful retellings and recreations of Biblical events.
Does that more or less address your question?
Andrew, Julia, Jacob (Martin Luther College.) 2016-10-25 3:46:23pm
"However, VR allows for certain experiences to open up as well. Imagine experiencing being on the boat when Jesus calms the storm." We find it cool that hopefully someday we could be able to experience the Bible stories we've learned about in religion classes in school and Sunday school. Through pictures, and skits, and videos, we can imagine what these stories were like, but with VR, it's amazing to think that these stories could be demonstrated so completely.

We like the idea of VR, but it seems almost to good to be true! What could be the main arguments of people who are against using it in the church? We had a difficult time imagining downsides, and wondered what possible dangers or disadvantages you had considered in your work.
Brian Klebig (Michigan State University) 2016-10-26 10:33:34pm
I think that the dangers and disadvantages are familiar ones in Christian media: inexperienced personnel (or volunteers), inadequate funding and attention, hurried products, cringe-worthy writing/acting, shabby final products, the urge to moralize, etc. VR sidesteps some of these by not demanding the same kind of narrative that a film would require, but the threat of low-quality products is one that I think does, indeed, loom.
One other potential objection that I've not heard, but could envision, is the potential to not give much care to the images we produce. We spend a lot of time hammering out terminology so that it's specific and understandable, I think a good deal of consideration should be given to our visual messages as well. I think that will also help address the quality problem. The quality of our visual messages should match the importance of the content.
Brian 2016-10-27 8:51:56am
Just a few thoughts for pondering...
I think a great direction to approach VR as a tool for evangelism in an ever growing secular society would be to integrate VR with concrete biblical history. I think one would need to be very prayerful prior to undertaking the task of re-creating any particular biblical stories. A far broader spectrum with a historical foundation could provide more benefit with a wider reach in audience. Such examples could include...
- Recreation of the original old testament temple, or second temple based on archaeological evidence. You could actually walk around and explore for yourself.
- Recreation of the old testament arc of the covenant, Holy of Holies, etc.
- Ancient city of Jerusalem at the time of Christ. Imagine walking around as an observer watching actual people, speaking, conducting business, worshiping, etc.
- Virtual rendering of all Christian artwork in a virtual museum done to scale. Perhaps visit the museum and see different art from different time periods and pick up actual copies of original extant documents.
- Tour of modern day biblical historical sites without having the expense of traveling.
- Virtual meditation with praise and worship songs integrated with artwork.
- An interactive map campaign where a user to watch and interact as time elapses and territorial boundaries change and empires rise and fall. This would certainly help with context when studying scripture. Imagine the ability to zoom in by moving your hands to see further details of individual cities and larger biblical events with a chronological context.

I believe all of the above are would appeal to larger audiences, could be used from a university/academic setting, all the way down to a youth group or private biblical study usage. With a larger audience including academia I think more funding and better research would be available with a marketing push with much farther reach over the long haul.
Judy Kuster 2016-10-29 11:44:19am
Fascinating, Brian!! I can't wait!
Brian Klebig (Michigan State University) 2016-10-29 1:23:26pm
I think those could be really successful simulations. There are already some virtual meditation programs, though I can't vouch for the quality, and I am certain the theme isn't Christian in them. What I would really like to see is some teams capable of programming these experiences. Could all be very useful. And cool. Thanks for the thoughts!
Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-29 7:37:41pm
And what would be involved in "programming these experiences"? Script writing? Coding? Both? More? How is a virtual experience created? What skills do we need to develop?
Brian Klebig (Michigan State University) 2016-11-02 12:01:28am Presenter
They are, unfortunately, tremendously complicated programs to write if you're trying to do them well. The skills required depend heavily on the nature of the program. I've never compiled a list, however I think now is as good a time as any to begin doing exactly that, especially given your incredible gift for bringing people of a variety of talents together for the work of the gospel.
People needed for VR experiences:
Script writer/Storyboarder
Programmers with knowledge of C# and C++ (maybe Java if someone is a beginner looking to get into this, but always with the objective of learning C# and C++), as well as training in Unity, Unreal Engine, Vizard, and Python (doesn't need to all be the same programmer, I would anticipate a small team).
Programmers with MotionBuilder and Maya experience to create the human animations
Digital design artists who can also work in these programming languages to design and finesse skins.
Camera operator who can capture the required real-world images.
A mathematician who can assist with the physics mathematics wouldn't hurt, depending on the experience being programmed.
Audio engineer

That's what jumps to mind, though I'm certain I'm not considering some elements. In discussing the production end with some people I've heard the same thing over and over: basically the best way to do it is to go horns down, anticipate lots of mistakes, and fill in gaps as you go. I know that doesn't sound like a recipe for a high-quality product, but I think it's a necessary ingredient to get things going.
Katie Waskow (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-11-01 12:37:31am
I think the idea of using artwork with virtual bible meditation of scripture is a very fascinating idea. I would love for the artwork to help me really connect God's message with an emotion and feeling. I think it would be interesting to use artwork to help us "feel" more connected to the Word. I also know many individuals with mental disabilities that may not be able to handle an entire church service. I think VR would be a good tool to use to help reach those who may not be able to understand the more complex and lengthy church sermons.
Brian Klebig (Michigan State University) 2016-11-02 12:13:38am Presenter
Definitely, and I think there are VR experiences that could be generated that would utilize artwork in a very interesting way. There's a VR experience for the HTC Vive called "The Night Cafe: A VR Tribute to Vincent van Gogh." It takes his artwork and uses it to create the environment. So you enter a cafe that's been designed according to his style. You look out the window and there's Starry Starry Night, you see his sunflowers, you even see him in there, assembled from his self-portrait.
Could be very cool to use that for a Christian experience.
Judy Kuster 2016-10-29 10:58:01pm
There are Dream Vision Virtual Reality Headsets on sale at ShopKo so I was looking for VR sites online and many, many sites had URLs that are no longer working. Do you have any VR sites that you can recommend?
Brian Klebig (Michigan State University) 2016-11-01 11:41:08pm Presenter
I'm afraid I don't know too much about the devices that convert your phone into a 3D viewer, however I think that's definitely a market we could jump into. At present it definitely has a further consumer reach. The experiences themselves won't be quite as impactful, and probably cater more to a Christian audience, but that doesn't mean they couldn't be very meaningful.
But, shorter answer: I'm afraid I don't know enough about phones for VR to be able to point you in a reliable direction for links that aren't dead, EXCEPT to type "VR" into Google Play or the App Store. That'll give you quite a gigantic number of listings.
You've piqued my interest though. I'm going to investigate this topic a little more thoroughly. I have used a phone-based VR in the past, I wonder what it would take to make & program an app for that. Definitely worth taking a look at.
Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-30 1:16:33am
Aren't we talking about two kinds - maybe two levels of VR here? The first is the experience provided by a "movie" taken with a 360-degree camera. NY Times has been making these available for a while - see http://www.nytimes.com/marketing/nytvr/ and you watch them by downloading the movie onto your smartphone, and popping it into the goggle device you can buy. It's more of a passive experience, that is, the story line is provided by the movie, but it seems like "reality" because you can turn around and look behind you, and up and down, and so on, like you are present inside the movie. But there is no real interaction with or control over what you are seeing. I think Brian Klebig's lab at MSU goes beyond this, by putting the viewer into a virtual environment, where she can walk around, explore, pick things up, and control the experience. Right, Brian? In the applications we are imagining here, which of these two levels of VR are we talking about? What is better to do with one, and what is better to do with the other?
Brian Klebig (Michigan State University) 2016-11-01 11:35:07pm Presenter
I think we may be talking about a variety of quality levels which exist along a spectrum for certain, but I think you bring up an extremely good point. There are very low-level consumer devices which are essentially holders for smartphones that can create a pseudo-VR experience. It's considerably lower quality and less "immersive" but yes, it would effectively be like being inside a movie, and you'd have very limited control over your environment. I think it would DEFINITELY be worth our time to investigate applications for this low-level VR, especially for some of the basic things like recreations of Jerusalem in the first century and so forth.
However the quality difference between this and an actual VR system (like the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift) is gargantuan. Even for simple experiences which would only involve viewing and very little interaction the difference is dramatic. A 3D movie that takes place around you is pretty cool, but it's not VR where you stick your hand out and forget that an object isn't actually there. Additionally, I do think that interactivity plays a pretty key role in VR experiences, especially in involving the viewer/player/actor in the action.
That said I think there's a lot of application for experiences all along the quality continuum. Unfortunately the production means differ somewhat, but I'll need to do some research before I know whether there are ways to adapt them so you don't need to survey Jerusalem twice, for example.
Nikilette Cottini (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-31 1:19:02pm
The CARISMA lab sounds amazing I would love learn more about the program, I have been thinking about continuing my education and going to grad school for communications. Being a communication major I always think about the message that I want to get across how other people can interpret it differently or how other peoples communication style may be different from mine.
Brian Klebig (Michigan State University) 2016-11-01 11:42:20pm Presenter
If you're looking to get into grad school for Communication I would definitely invite you to contact me via e-mail. I'd be happy to try and point you in the right direction for your interests.
Katie Waskow (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-11-01 12:27:57am
Brian, I think it is interesting that you brought up the fact that Jesus often used short visual illustrations instead of lengthy messages. I think this is interesting to think about along with the fact that the world becoming more technologically invested and with less attention spans. I think this would open up the message of Christ to many more people who would have not given it a try otherwise. I have never experienced VR and would be very interested in experiencing the stories of the bible to better relate and understand some of the Bible's teachings. Would VR uses turn Jesus into more of a "superhereo" given VR's game-like atmosphere?
Brian Klebig (Michigan State University) 2016-11-02 12:07:39am Presenter
I don't know that I'd describe VR as having a game-like atmosphere, it really depends on the experience you're programming. Additionally, I suppose it depends on what you mean by superhero. Jesus could walk on water, raise the dead, cast out demons, turn water into wine, and burst into transcendent divine glory... I think VR could communicate the awe of those events pretty effectively. I'm not sure that turns Him into a superhero any more than He already is a superhero.