Guinness World Records, an organisation journalling the extraordinary (and often insane) stunts people will pull for notoriety, and now the book has its first virtual reality entry. Watch as Derek Westerman swaps reality for Tilt Brush inside the HTC Vive and stays there for 25 hours straight.
It’s a desire most of us hold, to do something extraordinary in life. For the most part however, we’re generally content to achieve this by parenting children, going bungee jumping or backpacking around Europe. But there are a select few for whom only documented proof of their unique abilities and/or achievements is enough – they’re the record breakers, as documented since 1955 by Guinness World Records.
Derek Westerman from Super Deluxe, a YouTube collective dedicated to making “Funny and smart videos from funny and smart weirdos who are probably a lot like you”, now joins that somewhat elite (and sometimes dubious) collective. As of April 7th, he holds the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous virtual reality session, and he did it all whilst immersed ‘in’ a single application over a 25 hour period.
But why? Westerman elucidates for us. “While many people, especially gamers, have spent a lot of time in Virtual Reality, it seemed important to set an official Guinness record with our current “excited-about-VR” climate, so we essentially had an official bench mark to beat.”
Virtual reality has been around a while, but only available in consumer form for a matter of weeks. Therefore this ‘new’ technology is undergoing its largest field test ever, as more and more people receive headsets. No one really knows just what the use of VR over extended periods does to a person, simply because headsets have never been numerous or accessible enough to gain a large enough sample size. That Derek Westerman tried and succeeded in his bid – to spend a continuous 25 hours in virtual reality, without removing his HTC Vive headset – and without going ‘bat shit insane’, is encouraging. “As time goes on, more and more people will be spending a lot more time in Virtual Reality — essentially living in it. And I wanted to be a part of the start of that process,” says Westerman.
And whilst some of you out there may positively relish the thought of that kind of time to indulge in your hobby, consider one thing; Derek was only allowed to use a single application for the entire 25 hour stint, Tilt Brush. As incredible as the VR painting app is, he was still stuck for over a day in its grey void with only his digital, virtual creations for company. “Guinness has a whole set of rules and regulations, one of those being ‘one game only the whole time’. I wanted to pick something that gave me the most freedom,” Westerman says, “And painting in 3D space for 25 hours seemed like the best bet.”
Interestingly, Westerman realised that the key to ensuring time didn’t drag horrendously was to engage his creativity, with that in mind, Tilt Brush may well have been a very smart choice after all. That said, judging by Derek’s artistic output towards the end of the mammoth VR stint, I’m concerned as to which reality he may now have accepted as permanent. “There is a definitely a difference between my life before and after spending days in Virtual Reality. I was marked by it. And now, in an exciting way, everything feels slightly superficial or unreal.”