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Is Virtual Reality (VR) Finally A “Reality” Or Not?
Virtual Reality (VR) has been around for a relatively long time. The first one that I can remember working on was back in 1993 or so. We built a gimbal that a person sat in and put a very large and clunky helmet on their head with a pair of screens inside to see the visuals… it did not track your head, but the gimbal followed the motion of the visual and the customer was happy.
More simply, virtual reality is nothing more than a simulation of reality or fantasy. The simulation industry as a whole has been doing that for a very long time. "Virtual Reality" is just a new name for it. The applications for VR are as endless as reality for VR is simulating reality… or so it seems. It is defined as “the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.” With movies like "Ready Player One," we can see just where and what VR could become.
Virtual Reality can take you to places that are more than just reality… they can be fictional and as diverse as your imagination. You can be large or small, strong or week, but in the end, you are still you – alive and breathing. It can immerse you into your favorite movie and allow you to perceive that movie from the POV of your favorite character and expand upon it.
So why even have Virtual Reality? For starters, in simulation, it allows a student to actually be in a situation and still be safe. It can train them to handle the situation so that they do not panic. It can train them to use the equipment necessary to do a job or several jobs without cost of using actual equipment or materials. You can learn to fly an aircraft, drive a vehicle, operate machinery, fire a weapon, do surgery – the possibilities are endless. And while the cost of the system might seem high, the cost over time is small for how many well-trained personnel that can come from just one system.
So has Virtual Reality (VR) matured into a viable industry for entertainment and gaming? What makes up actual Virtual Reality? It can be just about anything! It can be somewhat passive where the person simply sits back and enjoys it as in an entertainment ride such as the ones at Disney, Universal Studios and the like. It can be interactive where the person can manipulate the environment such as open a door, pick up an item or make a friend. In some systems, you can actually feel the door open, feel the item that was picked up and shake actual hands with your new friend. Interactive Arenas where everyone can come immerse themselves totally into a fictional story of the kind that was shown in Star Trek’s Holodeck back in the 1990’s.
To some extent, I would say yes… visual systems and environments have become so realistic by amazing artist that people think that they are real. Can you tell the difference anymore of what you see in a TV show or Movie is real or not?
Google Earth has changed how flight simulator see the world for the pilot with actual photos in three dimensions. But, is it all about the visual systems? Tactile systems and audio systems play an important role in how far the person is immersed. The feel of the fabric, the sounds coming across a marsh, the wind in our hair, the smell of the smoke from a fire, the brush of grass on our bare feet; these all impact how we perceive the environment that we are in and how we react.
How would one get to feel the wind or the fabric under your hand or on your leg? Good question… fans would work for one, but wind is so much more than air blowing near you… fabric in your hand has a different presence than on your leg… How deep down the virtual reality rabbit hole do we want to go?
One aspect of Virtual Reality that has been undervalued (maybe), is an actual motion platform used with the system. Now, if you fly the plane (or the dragon or the giant bird), you can feel the actual aircraft move about you. If it is a land vehicle, you can actually drive it and feel all of the bumps in the road… feel the slide of the tires in the corner… If it is a building, you could feel it move in an earthquake, structural integrity of the building give way under your feet or ride an elevator (this would be awesome for fire training and personnel evacuation). If on land, you can feel the terrain move under your feet. The person could “ride” the motion base to an area like a magic carpet or a hovercraft or a helicopter, get off to do a job, go back to the vehicle and drive or fly off. The possibilities are endless.
It find out more on how we can assist you with your virtual reality project, contact us. We would be more than happy to discuss it with you!