Table of contents
Today we will talk about virtual and augmented reality VR/AR. These technologies are increasingly used in computer games for maximum immersion in the process. It is for this reason that it is advisable to consider their appearance, the principles of difference and a little look into the future.
Virtual and augmented reality - technologies behind the future
Virtual reality and augmented reality (VR and AR) are the technologies behind the future. It is generally accepted that they have a purely entertainment purpose, they are widely used to create computer games and immerse users in a fictional world. But is it really so? What is the secret of the popularity of VR / AR, what can they offer to the sophisticated modern user, and what vector will they develop in the future?
It would seem that virtual reality is something completely new, which entered our lives only some 5-10 years ago and only today has received development. In fact, the beginning of this direction was laid more than half a century ago, in 1961. The chronology of events looked like this:
1961 - the first application of virtual reality technology in life, implemented in Headsight helmets by Philco Corporation.
1962 - The world's first Sensorama simulator, developed by Morton Hayling, was patented. It is this inventor who is considered the father of virtual reality. But since the technology did not inspire much confidence in those days, investments were not received in the proper amount and further developments were curtailed.
A few years later, the world was introduced to the "Sword of Damocles" created on the basis of the head display. The principle of operation looked quite simple: glasses were attached to the ceiling, the picture on which came through a computer. Its developers were Harvard student Bob Sproull and Professor Ivan Sutherland, NASA and the CIA became interested in the technology.
80s - the appearance of EyePhone virtual reality glasses and DataGlove by VPL Research under the direction of Jaron Lanier. The same inventor introduced the term “virtual reality”, which is widely known today.
Until the early 90s, the terms "virtual reality" and "augmented reality" were not separated. The latter was proposed by the scientist Tom Caudell, and the world saw its implementation in 1992. It was the Exoskeleton system, developed by Lewis Rosenberg and allowing the military to remotely control machines.
Other interesting incarnations of augmented reality are:
- “Dancing in Cyberspace” - a production in which acrobats danced in virtual space - 1994, by Julie Martin.
- Genesis game console by Sega - 1993
- Quake is an AR game that allows users to catch monsters right on the streets of their city - 2000.
Virtual and augmented reality began to develop actively in 2012. At this time, the startup Oculus introduced a virtual reality helmet and launched a fundraising campaign for its production. The first serial production falls on the beginning of 2015.
VR and AR – similarities and differences
AR (short for Augmented reality) - technologies that combine elements of reality and computer graphics. Components of reality are supplemented by computer fragments or completely masked. In this case, the user sees a three-dimensional image on the screens of the helmet, smartphone or glasses. An example is augmented reality games, when the smartphone screen is pointed at a card or a book and the picture literally comes to life.
VR (Virtual reality) is a virtual reality that immerses the user in an absolutely fictional, simulated world. It can be similar to the real one, or it can be radically different from it. So, the technology allows you to move from any room to space, to the sea, to the jungle, to a computer game, etc. In a fictional world, a person can interact with objects, influence what is happening. In this case, glasses, a helmet, headphones, special gloves, controllers, etc. are used for “transfer”. Today, there are even special virtual reality suits and VR rooms for maximum immersion in the atmosphere.
Summarizing the above, we can draw conclusions regarding the difference between VR and AR:
- Virtual reality involves the transfer of the user from the real world to the digital world. In other words, a person is in a room, puts on a helmet and is transported to the rainforests of South America. This is VR.
- AR is a technology that only complements the real world, and does not completely replace it. Here, as an example, we can recall the sensational game Pokemon GO, when people from all over the world walked along real streets and collected fictional digital characters. This is augmented reality.
- VR with the effect of total immersion. Three conditions must be met here: high detail of the broadcast world; the presence of a high-performance computer capable of responding to actions in real time; special equipment for "total immersion".
- Virtual reality without immersion. There is enough widescreen, high-quality picture and sound. Example: 3D reconstruction of objects.
- Virtual reality with collaborative infrastructure.
Application of virtual and augmented reality technologies in life
It would seem that VR and AR with all the helmets, goggles, entire rooms in shopping malls have a purely entertainment purpose. However, the scope of the technology is much wider and affects not only games, but also:
Virtual reality in real life
Initially, VR technology was used for military purposes, but today it is widely known in other areas. For example, in medicine. Thus, experts at Harvard University consider virtual reality technology as an effective method of treating all kinds of psychological diseases, phobias, anxiety neuroses, depression, etc. The practical application of the development was also obtained in training simulators. Today, medical students can hone their skills on realistic virtual simulators, not on cadavers.
Other VR projects in medicine:
- MindMaze is a platform for stroke patients. It offers a number of special tasks, the performance of which stimulates the process of restoration of neural connections in the brain.
- VR game SnowWorld by Firsthand Technology. This project is designed to speed up the recovery process for patients. According to the results of the study, it has an order of magnitude fewer side effects than addictive medications.
- MindContine is a startup for those who want to quit smoking. In this case, the smoker smokes only in the virtual world, while in the real he has the same sensations, but without the harmful effects of nicotine.
Augmented and virtual reality is also present in marketing. After all, it is glasses or even smartphones that allow you to literally “try” the proposed product and decide exactly what you need to purchase it. And if everything is quite complicated with VR in this area (expensive equipment, inaccessibility for the average consumer, etc.), then AR is already used everywhere.
Studies conducted in China have proven that the effectiveness of the educational process increases by 15-25% when using virtual reality technologies in it. To date, a whole educational VR environment called "World of Comenius" has been created. It helps schoolchildren to better perceive the educational material and, accordingly, demonstrate the best result.
One of the most popular applications of VR technologies. Today, the software and technical development of such projects is being actively improved, but they have not yet entered the mass market, unlike AR.
Just a few years ago, the creator of Facebook announced that Facebook Spaces would be actively implemented very soon. This is a virtual version of a social network. According to some reports, the project was developed jointly with the Oculus Rift team.
Already now, VR technologies are actively used by engineers for 3D modeling of objects. This allows you to better familiarize yourself with them at the development stage, understand the flaws and fix them. Another area of use is prototyping the production of various products. An example is the Virtalis project.
Not so long ago, the German concern Siemens began to use a virtual oil platform to train its employees. On such a simulator, platform workers perform daily routine procedures, hone the principle of action in critical situations and correct mistakes.
AR: what reality is being augmented?
The areas of application of augmented reality technologies are almost the same as in the case of VR:
- Education: a visual demonstration of the events studied, for example, historical ones. Today, QR codes are often used in textbooks, which allow using a smartphone to revive a character or story.
- Medicine: from 3D teaching aids to designs for the visually impaired.
- Military: applications that allow you to get a picture from a night vision camera.
Augmented reality devices are smaller and more costly. It is expected that these technologies will very soon be firmly integrated into the daily life of a person in all its areas.
Devices that allow you to immerse yourself in virtual reality
Transporting from the real world to the fictional world is not an easy task. For such purposes, the following devices and objects are used:
- virtual reality glasses;
- special gloves;
- VR glasses;
- VR suit;
- virtual reality room.
We should dwell on each of them in more detail in order to understand the principle of operation.
A virtual reality suit allows you to completely isolate a person from the outside world. As a rule, it includes a multi-channel speaker system, a video screen that broadcasts the other world to the user, and all kinds of electronic devices that cause tactile illusions by influencing nerve endings.
Recently, virtual reality suits are gradually fading away, because of the high price and its unjustified investment. A helmet, goggles, gloves are much cheaper, but they do their job just as well.
Helmet and goggles
The helmet and goggles are the items used in both VR and AR. In the first case, putting on glasses, a person sees only a fictional world, in the latter - the real world with some elements of a fictional one.
The principle of their operation is quite simple: a 3D video is fed to the screen that is presented before the eyes. The effect of complete immersion is created by means of a gyroscope attached to the body, and an accelerometer that tracks head movements. The data read by such devices is transferred to a computer and the picture changes depending on the sensors.
Modern glasses also use more advanced tracking systems:
- Eye-tracking systems: track pupil movements.
- Motion tracking: allows you to track all human movements and broadcast them to the virtual world.
- Feedback systems: here the communication is two-way. Not only human movements are transmitted to virtual reality, but events there are broadcast to a person. These can be vibrating joysticks or swivel chairs, etc.
- 3D controllers: Traditional joysticks are being replaced by manipulators that work in 3D space.
This gadget is most popular among gamers. They clearly convey all hand movements to the screen and allow you to perform almost any action in the virtual world. The average cost varies from 200 to 500 US dollars, and the most popular models are:
- Dexmo - gloves that provide maximum human interaction with a virtual object.
- Manus VR;
The latest developments are so progressive that a stone compressed in the virtual world will not allow the hand to close in the real world.
Virtual reality room
The virtual reality room is the ultimate immersion in a fictional world. There is low latency tracking, high screen resolution, head or even whole body tracking. A person not only sees the virtual world, but also feels it, interacts with it.
Today, you can try such an "attraction" in the entertainment centers of large cities. Typically, this is a 60 minute dive for a few people.
Forecasts regarding the development of VR and AR technologies
Initially, virtual and augmented reality VR / AR was developed for military purposes, after which they headed for the entertainment sector. The question naturally arises, what will happen next? Forecasts are somewhat different from each other.
So, Oculus researcher Michael Arbash states that the visual qualities of virtual reality should be well developed. For example, modern helmets offer a 100 degree field of view, while a human has a 220 degree field of view. It is planned that in the next few years the possibilities of virtual glasses and helmets will increase.
Another innovation, according to the developer, will be a combination of elements of the virtual and real worlds. The latter, by scanning the space with glasses or a helmet, will be added to virtual worlds, which will add more realism to the fictional one.
Many scientists rely on "teleportation". This is when a person can be transported from one place to another, real in real time. That is, while in Moscow, it will be possible to walk along the streets of Rome, etc.
A less optimistic and colorful forecast comes from Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games. He argues that the subsequent development of VR and AR technologies is impossible without the improvement of technologies responsible for human tactile sensations. Already today, tactile interaction is much more interesting than just imitation of hand movements.
As for AR technologies, according to Shell, translator devices need to be improved. Now they are massive and not comfortable.
Development issues and risks
The lack of a client base and the necessary tools is a key obstacle to the rapid development of VR and AR technologies. The absence of high-profile projects and the unknown scare potential consumers and investors, which creates a vicious circle.
At the same time, there are certain risks associated with the introduction of virtuality into everyday life:
- Identity theft. For example, getting information about modifying the VR application code into free access allows you to manipulate virtual reality to suit your goals. It is enough to hack into a virtual office and the reputation and activities of the company as a whole will be at stake.
- Side effects. Already today, one often hears complaints about feeling unwell from people who have spent some time in helmets and VR glasses. They indicate tinnitus, clouding of consciousness, dizziness and other ailments. Currently, active work is underway to eliminate such side effects, but so far they have a place to be and cause considerable concern.
- Negative mental impact. VR reality is able to influence the mental state of a person - this is a fact. Obviously, there is no harm in safely transferring to a virtual jungle, a harmless game, or a learning platform.
Summing up all of the above, we can say with confidence that the future lies behind VR and AR technologies. In just a few years, technology will be ubiquitous, not just in pilot, one-off projects, and outlandish startups. Nevertheless, they also carry quite a lot of threats that one way or another should be well worked out until virtual reality has captured the real world.