We discussed a “shared dream” approach to immersive VR starting with this post – if you haven’t already, you might want to read that thread, which is much shorter than this one.
Step 1: develop technology to partially override the brain's sensory signals
Step 2: make this technology socially acceptable for commercial use
Step 3: incorporate into games, and make damn well sure it's free of brain damaging bu
Step 4: wear headphones hooked up to mmorpg
Step 5: fall asleep/somehow forcibly get into a lucid nightmare
Step 6: have the program tell you that you're in the game
Step 7: have the program tell you through headphones what's happening
A neat feature of this approach is that dreams already have a mechanism that “overrides the brain’s sensory signals”, and also suppresses its motor nerves, so your steps 1-3 are already done without any artifice.
I’m fond of the idea, mainly because of personal experience: fairly consistently, when I fall asleep consuming any sort of non-interactive media – books, audio-video, audio only – my dreams are a fairly seamless continuation of the media. Since this is an unintended side-effect of the media – it’s not purposefully designed to guide dreams – I wonder if a purposefully designed, interactive system could work much better.
My major qualm with the approach is that, from personal experience and very fringy literature, I’ve not seen much evidence of awake humans being able to guide the dreams of sleeping ones, using audio or any other sensory input. Also, the goal is not only to use the neurological mechanics of dreaming as something analogous to a computer game system, but for the experience to be multi-player, that is, shared, requiring a much higher degree of control over the dream than simply prompting a dream that resembles some media.
A guided dream approach is attractive, still, because preliminary research can be done cheaply, and without very technical knowledge. Though I suspect a dream-based true “full dive” VR system would require intrusive brain activity imaging technology as advanced as that needed for a “NerveGear”-like system, with careful, well-controlled methodology, a person with little more than good technique could learn a lot about externally-influenced dreaming.