I had XR-vu, and I liked it!

XR-vu“, or “VR-vu”…whichever term comes into vogue in the near-future, i want to go on record as saying that it happened to me a few weeks, ago, and I liked it–a lot!

Me wearing a VR headset in the middle of the street, illustrating just how wild and crazy VR experiences can feel? Or, posing for a photo-shoot we did at Pixvana so that we had interesting pictures of people in VR headsets, for blog posts like this, illustrating our experiences in VR! Actually, a very good image that conveys my astonishment at feeling XR-vu for the first time.

Yes i’m playing on the word “deja-vu“, that oh so fun feeling of experiencing something and having a sense of foreboding or otherworldly prescience, as though you’ve previously dreamed of the moment or even lived the moment, in a different state of consciousness? Well play with me for a moment–take that feeling, and now imagine what that feels like when it arises because you HAVE experienced the moment before… but in Virtual Reality or another form of XR (extended reality)?

That’s what i experienced a few weeks ago when I visited Ollantaytambo Peru, a lovely Andean village about 2 hrs outside of Cusco, the former empire capital of the Incas. I had been to the region before, about 30 years ago when i was backpacking for 18 months after college. However, i had never been to Ollantaytambo’s ruins–not in person. But I did visit Ollantaytambo in Virtual Reality, in a detailed, compelling experience that was built by Microsoft as an example of how tourism and travel might be conveyed using VR. It shipped as Microsoft HoloTour, a demonstration app that launched in 2017. This technical document describes what the team did to build the Holotour experience of Ollantaytambo–quite interesting mix of techniques to photographically capture and convey the site.

Unfortunately i couldn’t find any images to illustrate the experience in the headset–suffice to say that in Holotour, i experienced standing in the midst of the Ollataytambo ruins… and when i visited these dame ruins in April of 2019, i had a triple-take moment that flooded my brain with a sense of *very* strong “deja-vu” like cues. Have i been here before? Why does this place seem so familiar? Did I dream it?

Here I am in Ollantaytambo’s Inca ruins, marveling at the beauty of the region, and the astonishing stone-work that pervades Inca sites.
This rock formation is what strongly triggered my sense of XR-vu, as it was prominently featured in the Microsoft Holotour visit to the same site.

No, i had never been here. But yes, i was here in Virtual Reality! Wow. WOW. It was all the fun of deja-vu, times at least 5x… or maybe 10x. It really showed me the difference between seeing a picture or a movie, and having been immersed and felt the unique compelling experience of *presence* that is the hallmark of XR/VR, which triggers activity in the human brain that forms actual spatial *memories* that i was then recollecting/remembering, as though they were real. I don’t know if this feeling would always be as strong, say, if i had felt this sensation many times before? But it was incredibly interesting, and i wanted to first at the podium to share it and i look forward to writing about it more and discussing it with others as they have XR-vu of their own!

Anyone else experience XR-vu of VR-vu?

A wider view of the amazing, beautiful Inca site at Ollantaytambo.

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