Lets talk virtual reality (VR). Most of you have heard of or play with hardware devices the like of Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, Google Daydream, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR, PS VR, Microsoft HoloLens, Windows Mixed Reality, and many more. The buzz is way up there.
So what’s this new thing called virtual reality? Or is it really a new thing? Well the for one, the buzz is a thing.
Though not exactly sure of origins, it is believed to have first mentions dating back to the 1860s where French avant-garde playwright Antonin Artaud took the view that illusion was not distinct from reality, advocating that spectators at a play should suspend disbelief and regard the drama on stage as reality.
Pygmalion’s Spectacles; a short story published in 1935 makes mention of our modern concept of VR describes a virtual reality system using goggles that feature holographic recording of fictional experiences that includes smell and touch. The rest is history as they say.
In 1962, Morton Heilig built a prototype of his vision called the Sensorama. What was the vision? An “Experience Theatre”. A theatre experience that draws in all the senses on a human being into the act.
From that time there have been innumerable attempts to polish and further define these immersive experiences. All that brings us to modern times where we can define virtual reality with our own technological touch.
So What Exactly is Virtual Reality Today?
We would have to take a second look at the first paragraph of this article to get a hint. Today VR would be best described as a computer technology that uses Virtual reality headsets. Depending on the intended degree of experience, it can be combined with physical spaces, multi-projected environments and other physical peripherals.
These are combined in order to give the illusion of realistic images, sounds and other sensations that immerse the user into the virtual environment. Some of these hardware inclusions can pass additional signals such as vibrations and these devices are called haptic devices. It may also be known as as force feedback especially when it comes to medical, video gaming and military training applications.
These environments allow the user to look around the scene, interact with actors in the environment using hand held devices, treadmills and other similar forms of hardware.
With virtual reality one can also interact over distances such as through remote communication environments which makes telepresence and telexistence possible.
Where do we Find VR in Use?
Now that we has a respectable understanding of what virtual reality is, let see the areas where humans have found some use for this technology whether its life saving or just an excuse to kill time.
Video Game Industry: This is one industry that was not going to sit back and ignore this technology. The mid nineties saw the beginning of the gaming industries venture in to this with head mounted displays (HMD) devices such as Virtual Boy by Nintendo making an entry. Others are the iGlasses by Virtual I-O, the Cybermaxx by Victormaxx and the VFX1 Headgear by Forte Technologies.
Other more modern gaming hardware which handle physical motion includes the likes of the Kinect, the PlayStation Move/PlayStation Eye and the Wii Remote.
With the headset mentioned earlier in this article coupled with the handsets mentioned above, the porting of video games to support VR has increased since the mid 2010s.
The Movie industry has also not been left that far behind. With the help of VR cameras movies are now being made where the viewer can be immersed in a 360 degree environment in every scene in the movie. This makes for an exhilarating experience especially with Thrillers or Horror movies I would imagine.
This has expanded to the general entertainment industry with ideas around shooting sports in VR. The upcoming World Chess Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin, scheduled for that November will pioneer this idea and be the first sport to broadcast in VR.
Theme park rides are continually upgrading their offerings with VR and this is expected to increase in the next couple of years.
Other areas include flight, aerospace and military industries with flight simulators being the norm. Education and medical is finding useful applications for this technology while.
All in all virtual reality has great prospect looking forward and its just a matter of time before we see some unimaginably great examples of what is in store for us. You can follow this for some more details on virtual reality.