Technology of The Future – Virtual Reality

Introduction and Definitions

Virtual reality is the creation of a fantasy or copy of the real world, for the purpose of entertainment, simulation, or even safe education in various fields of science and the arts. The equipment belongs to the field of informatics and computers in combination with peripheral accessories depending on the use. VR environments are usually closed to the physical world in the sense that the environments they create are completely new.

Over the last few years, a steady stream of news reports has trumpeted the possibilities and opportunities presented by virtual reality. Consumer headgear and other VR systems from companies such as Oculus, Sony, HTC, Lenovo, and Samsung have become increasingly popular.

Virtual Reality —-> Augment Reality

As we understand from the definition the augmented reality tries to reach as much as possible the real environment. The goal of AR is to enrich the perception and knowledge of a real environment by adding digital information about that environment. This information is most often visual, sometimes auditory, and rarely tactile. In most AR applications, the user visualizes synthetic images through glasses, headphones, projectors or even via mobile phones / tablets.

Why develop AR applications? There are several important reasons:

– Driving assistance: originally intended to help fighter jet pilots by displaying crucial information on the cockpit screen so that they would not need to look away from the sky to look at dials or displays (which can/could have been be crucial in combat), AR gradually opened up the option of assisted driving to other vehicles (civil aircraft, cars, bikes) including navigation information such as GPS.

– Tourism: by enhancing the capabilities of the audio-guides available to visitors of monuments and museums3, certain sites offer applications that combine images and sound.

– Professional gesture assistance: in order to guide certain professional users in their activities, AR can allow additional information to be overlaid onto their vision of the real environment. Thus, a surgeon may operate with greater certainty, by visualizing the blood vessels or anatomical structures that are invisible to them, or a worker participating in constructing an aeroplane may visually superimpose a drilling diagram directly onto the fuselage, without having to take measurements themselves, which leads them to gain speed, precision and reliability.

– Games: while it was popularized by Pokémon Go in 2016, AR made inroads into this field a long time ago, through the use of augmented versions of games such as Morpion, PacMan or Quake. The main difference is that in VR the tasks executed remain virtual, whereas in AR they are real. For example, the virtual aircraft that you piloted never really took off and thus never produced CO2 in the real world, but the electrician using AR may cut through a gypsum board partition to install a real switch that can turn on or off a real light.

History for VR-AR

Figure 1. Evolution of the field of virtual reality

In 1955, a cinematographer named Morton Heilig, considered the parent of VR, imagined a multisensory theater called “The Cinema of the Future.” Heilig created the Sensorama , an arcade-style mechanical cabinet built to stimulate the senses, for which he then developed a number of short films. It included many of the features prevalent in modern-day VR headsets, such as a stereoscopic 3D display, stereo speakers, and haptic feedback through vibrations in the user’s chair.

Figure 2. The Telesphere Mask patent.

Shortly after inventing the Sensorama, Heilig also patented the Telesphere Mask, the first-ever head-mounted display (HMD), which provided stereoscopic 3D visuals and stereo sound. This (relatively) small HMD more closely resembles today’s consumer VR headsets than the bulky seated form factor of the Sensorama.

In 1993, Sega, a videogame company riding high on the release of its massively popular Sega Genesis, announced the Sega VR headset for the Sega Genesis at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Sega originally intended to deliver the device for $200 in the fall of 1993, a moderately affordable price point at the time. However, the system was plagued by development difficulties and was never released to the public. Sega’s CEO at the time, Tom Kalinske, said that the Sega VR was shelved due to testers developing painful headaches and motion sickness — an unfortunate first foray into consumer gaming VR.