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VR: Adding a New Dimension to our Reality

 

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VR, this seemingly normal sounding abbreviation holds a lot of potential. VR basically provides you a fully immersive experience of any environment created using interactive software & hardware, mostly rendered on a head-mounted display. The whole experience is controlled by head tracking, controllers, hand tracking, voice, on-device buttons or track pads depending on the implementation by the company who is providing the VR experience. 

 

History:

Virtual reality is thought to have begun in the 1950’s but early elements of it can be traced back to the 1860’s before the development of digital technology. The first type of multimedia device in the form of an interactive theatre experience was built by Morton Heilig and was known as the “Sensorama”. This early form of virtual reality was invented in 1957 but was not patented until 1962. The subject would sit on a rotating chair which enabled them to face the screen. They would be shown these stereoscopic images which gave the illusion of depth and the ability to view something from different angles. The device could also simulate wind and smells by oscillating fans and smell emitting devices.

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In 1968 Ivan Sutherland with Bob Sproull created the Ultimate Display: a head mounted display (HMD) attached to a computer which enabled the user to see a virtual world. But the heavy bulk of the display meant that it had to be attached to a suspension device. In the 1980’s virtual reality was used on projects for NASA as well as research into new forms of human-computer interaction (HCI). This was carried out by Dr Michael McGreevy who developed some innovative virtual reality systems.

Fast forward to 2010 when Palmer Luckey, who later went on to found Oculus VR, designed the first prototype of the Oculus Rift. This prototype, built on a shell of another virtual reality headset, was only capable of rotational tracking. However, it main highlight was a 90-degree field of vision that was previously unseen in the consumer market at the time. This initial design would later serve as a basis for the later designs.

Since 2013, there have been several virtual reality devices that seek to enter the market to complement Oculus Rift to enhance the game experience. In early 2014, Valve showed off their SteamSight prototype, the precursor to both consumer headsets released in 2016. It shared major features with the consumer headsets including separate 1K displays per eye, low persistence, positional tracking over a large area, and fresnel lenses.

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In March 2014, Sony announced Project Morpheus (its code name for PlayStation VR), a virtual reality headset for the PlayStation 4 video game console. Google also announces Cardboard, a do-it-yourself stereoscopic viewer for smartphones. The user places their smartphone in the cardboard holder, which they wear on their head.

 

Applications:

Mostly VR has been associated with Media and Video Games.

Media companies such as Paramount Pictures and Disney have applied VR into marketing campaigns. Paramount created a VR experience utilizing the Oculus DK2. The experience was dubbed a “time sensitive adventure in space” that took place in a portion of the space ship from the film “Interstellar.” Disney also released a VR experience titled Disney Movies VR on Valve Corporation’s steam software, free for download which allowed users to interact with the characters and worlds from the Disney, Marvel, and Lucasfilm universes.

Sony in 2016, announced list of titles: Arkham VR, a VR-compatible version of Resident Evil 7 and a VR add-on to Final Fantasy XV for the Playstation VRThe Climb, an Oculus Rift exclusive from Crytek, is well, VR climbing. Another title from Crytek is Robinson: The Journey for Playstation VR and Microsoft windows. Vertigo Games, Arizona Sunshine asks the classic question of run or gun in a graphically impressive zombie apocalypse setting.

However it is now slowly spreading into a number of fields like Education, Engineering, Designing, even in Marketing and Retail.

How does it cater to our company, well we can use VR for office tour for potential recruits to showcase our office ambience and positive culture. By allowing recruits to virtually interact with actual employees, sit at a work desk, look around the office, and watch a game of Carom, the VR application can create a convenient and easily accessible medium for office recruitment.

Another application of VR can be to map the client location and Use VR to interact with the environment and suggest different places on the premises to install POS systems as a result eliminating the need for travelling to the client site for these discussions. Also anyone can take part in this discussion without travelling to the site.

Concerns and Challenges:

Some concerns have been raised on the health and safety of VR user in cases of prolonged usage. VR sickness whose symptoms are similar to motion sickness occurs when a person is exposed to a virtual environment. These symptoms include symptoms are general discomfort, headache, stomach awareness, nausea, vomiting, sweating, fatigue, disorientation, drowsiness and apathy. Other symptoms include postural instability and retching.

Due to hardware or system problems users might become disoriented in a purely virtual environment, causing balance issues, computer latency might affect the simulation, providing a less-than-satisfactory end-user experience. The complicated nature of head-mounted displays and input systems such as specialized gloves and boots may require specialized training to operate, and navigating the non-virtual environment (if the user is not confined to a limited area) might prove dangerous without external sensory information.  As a result the main challenge is to make VR better without inducing  VR sickness and making it immersive without a lot of power consumption.

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