Virtual versus Real

I had planned this time around to be writing about how Speekee combines the real world with a virtual counterpart as a great way for kids to learn Spanish. I’ll save that post for next time though because for now I’d like to delve a little deeper into the topic I introduced in my last post entitled Gotta Catch ‘Em All.

What is Virtual reality?

Wikipedia tells us:
Virtual reality (or VR) is a computer technology that uses software-generated realistic images, sounds and other sensations to replicate an a real environment or an imaginary setting, and simulates a user’s physical presence in this environment to enable the user to interact with this space

The word Virtual is elsewhere described as: not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so [emphasis mine]. Its root is in the Latin word Virtulis, which means ‘possessing of virtues’.

To summarise, then: Virtual reality is the replication of the real. As such it is NOT real and nor can it be because it is always a version of Reality itself. It is also, by its very nature, always going to fall short of providing for us in the same way Reality does, as I shall explain later.

In my last blog post I took a brief look at the new Pokémon craze. It’s a game about hunting down virtual characters in the real world, using your smartphone, and in my piece I suggested that virtual reality seems to be catching up with Reality.

Since writing that post I have seen many children – and many not children – glued to their smartphones as they walk along my street (a small street in a town in southern Spain, hardly a metropolis!) in search of these virtual little critters which can appear just about anywhere on a map which represents the immediate physical reality of the gameplayer. Quite a potent mix, then, of real and virtual.

Is it a dangerous mix?

I have said that Reality must stand alone when compared to its virtual counterpart, but I also said this in my previous post: At some stage will it [virtual reality] not draw level, then actually supercede the real, rendering the world we have always known as superfluous?

Even if the answer to this question cannot be a resounding Yes due to the Virtual’s perennial limitations – more on these in a moment – at least a part of What We Know could be under threat (though I have seen no sign of any group standing up for the continuation of this reality we humans have known for thousands of years; a reality which has always rather gently provided our species with all it needs for a happy, healthy life).

No problem, of course, if virtual reality were able to provide us with all we need, but it cannot. It will never feed or clothe us, nor provide us with shelter. The basic requirements for humans to be able to survive in the world are rooted in Reality, and this can never change.

What can change, and what is changing, is the extent to which Virtual reality is overlapping with Reality.

This is connected to human desires rather than human needs. If it were a question of needs, we would all be hurtling headlong towards a virtual world; not just some of us!

Will sufficient balance be maintained in the medium to long term? Comment below…

Until next time,


Jim Porter is a co-founder of Speekee®, the most comprehensive Spanish for kids learning program ever to appear online. Jim’s work includes this homeschool Spanish curriculum and this homeschool Spanish curriculum (not a misprint – he wrote two!) and this Primary School Spanish curriculum.

Jim began his Spanish learning journey in 1990. He has been a language teacher since 1994 and he lives in sunny southern Spain with his two bilingual children. Loves it! More…


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