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VWN Product Reviews: The Lawnmower Man

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The Lawnmower Man was a cult classic film that itself was responsible for a great deal of renewed VR research back in the 90s. Debuting in 1992, and starring Pierce Brosnan as a scientist, attempting to utilise brain adaptation technology for use in military technology. Direct brain manipulation made chimps smarter, able to use military equipment on suicide missions.

Faced with the loss of all funding unless he proves it works on humans as well as chimps, he co-opts a local gas station attendant, who is a mentally backwards boy, and begins to treat him as his new experiment.

Predictably, the experiment goes very wrong. The boy Jobe (Jeff Fahey) experiences massive gains in both intelligence and arrogance, with his IQ and speed learning abilities heading off the charts. He begins to develop telekinetic and telepathic abilities, and comes to see himself as superior?

Ultimately this film stands out for its integral and constant use of VR. The brain adaptation technology itself, is a combination of neotropic drugs (mind enhancers ? dopamine, seratonin and others) and total immersion VR which is used to provide the correct constant stimulation for the mind to grow.

The interface featured is the Flogistron chair, and it is worth noting this is the ACTUAL prototype flogistron chair that is used ? the interface is 100% genuine. It can simulate flying, floating or falling over the full body at will, You can tilt and rock freely, with the feeling of full freedom of movement with your whole body in a reclined and relaxed position.

The CGI of the movie for the VR interfaces was landmark, coming a year after T2: Judgement day, it shows the quality of that era, subtly enhanced and with soft swirling colour.

Many aspects of VR immersion are touched upon, from flight training and gaming, to the concept that if you are dealing with direct mental biofeedback anyway, the VR you travel can be the interior of each others heads in a shared emulation ? or even feel the sensation of sharing the same body as you fly. Ultimately it even showcases AR as elements taken from the VR world show themselves in the physical one.

Ultimately, the film is a poignant, well rounded look at the capabilities of the technology. Even the brain augmentation through VR is grounded in solid science, whilst the method would likely not work, the theory does. This film inspired a decade of VR research and many great ideas, it is worthy to be in any collection.

 

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