Trying VR and Psychedelics at the Same Time
In the early days of virtual reality, developers for the most part were not taking drugs and exploring virtual environments together. Instead, those two interactions were separate experiences. Speculated reasons for this stem around the amount of time and effort needed to load up VR worlds on the original, rudimentary hardware. Attempting to transport oneself into old school VR demos on heavy doses of psychedelics sounds like a daunting task, to say the least.
However, now that the technology systems for virtual reality have become increasingly streamlined, the barrier to entry into computer generated experiences is at an all time low. VR is essentially ‘plug and play’ now, allowing people to turn on the headsets/computers and teleport themselves into immersive realms fairly quickly. This has caused several communities engaged in bringing VR and psychedelic substances together to spring up; particularly online.
An early collection of individuals created a forum on Reddit called ‘Trees3D’ for those interested in testing out 3D and VR demos while stoned. It attracted a few hundred readers with posts occurring every few months. Another subreddit under the name ‘RiftIntoTheMind’ formed under similar preferences, amassing users fairly rapidly. As the group’s description states, the community is “dedicated to exploring the wonderful worlds created in VR whilst on psychedelics.”
In combinations between ‘Trees3D’ and ‘RiftIntoTheMind,’ plus the more popular subreddit ‘Drugs,’ captivating stories within the communities suddenly arose online. One question was posted in 2014 asked if anyone had used an Oculus Rift while on psychedelics. This led to a conversation and a photo of a guy who ate 4.0 grams of psilocybin mushrooms the weekend his first DK1 headset arrived. To the uninitiated, the amount he ingested is considered by most to be a heavy dose. 
Another question posted by myself in the Oculus subreddit gathered up a few stories as well. One person talked about an experience they had that multiplied the levels of presence felt inside a demo.
I have used the rift to play the Leap Motion VR demo (specifically the demo where streams of particles follow your hands) multiple times (5-MAPB, bk-2c-b, 2c-c, and mushrooms) and each time found it to be incredibly engrossing. I would spend an entire hour playing around in that single demo feeling a bit like I could do magic; a most excellent trip toy.
I also felt a far greater sense of ‘presence’, which sounds odd using a demo with IR pass-through, but more specifically the closer my hands were to my eyes the more readily I accepted the 3d skeleton hands superimposed over mine as my hands. – VR redditor
Someone else (who created a throwaway account just to post on the comment thread) shed light into what would make for great VR demos specifically for drugs use. These ideas spawned after consuming a moderate dose of LSD and trying a couple of virtual reality experiences, including one called “Sightline: The Chair.”
Bottom line is if something was created for tripping in the rift it would be fantastic. But current demos are too full of purpose for your tripping mind. You just need lots of colors and sparkles. The first scene in Sightline was the best actually, before the grass comes in after the old school 3d glasses disappear and you are in that dark space with the dancing blue and red lights. – anonymous VR user
VR would still be here even without psychedelics; but it wouldn’t be the same.
Originally, concepts of virtual reality surfaced into the public consciousness through science fiction authors like William Gibson and Vernor Vinge. People like them essentially laid down the foundation for technologists to come in and create what those writers had envisioned early on. From there, engineers and researchers could look at the “blueprints” of virtual reality systems described in books like Neuromancer and develop the original ideas into fully-fledged, functional VR platforms. The world of science fiction novels was already out there, and it probably would have simulated the medium, regardless of psychedelics.
However, being that a lot of the work in virtual reality was being done in San Francisco, it was only natural that the two realms of psychedelics and technology would eventually collide. The mind-expanding basis that is psychedelic drugs opened up people to the exiciting possibilities of what VR could be used for.
The fact that psychedelics was heavily present in San Francisco gave the culture a unique perspective. It was easy for enthusiasts to compare VR to an acid trip because a lot of people around the area at that time had tripped because it was an organic part of the environment.
Celebrities like Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna, who were actively experimenting with psychedelics, were a huge reason VR was brought out of the labs and onto the streets. Without people like them, the medium may have taken even longer to hit the market; and it might not have had the “wow” factor that it has now.
No matter what happens next in the industry, the history books will have to acknowledge that virtual reality was in fact influenced by psychedelics. The connections between them are too strong to be overlooked. So, as the medium takes off like never before, remember that psychedelics indeed influenced VR, and it will continue to do so from here on out.
*Featured image originally created by artist Anastasia - source