10 May Virtual Reality: An emerging trend snapshot by InfoTech Consulting Services
What is it?
Virtual reality (VR) is the use of computer technology to create the effect of an interactive three-dimensional world in which the objects have a location in three-dimensional space relative to and independent of your position. As you move around the scene is re-rendered from your point of view maintaining the effect of a world, as it would be seen at “eye level”.
Why is this trend happening?
Virtual reality’s power as a medium was known to early ground breaking pioneers and Virtual Reality headsets and startups existed in the 80’s and 90’s. But they were incredibly expensive, lagged a great deal and took insane computing resources to power. The VR movement never died down but it truly ignited into the mainstream because of the efforts of Palmer Luckey who put together a headset whose experience while rudimentary, was still lifelike enough to blow people away! His Oculus Rift headset set the hype machine for VR rolling again but this time it was a technology and social giant who listened and Facebook bought Oculus Rift for 2B USD. This more than anything legitimized VR. With decelerating technology costs and advent of the Internet this iteration of VR promises to be the one with the most potential to go mainstream.
What are the benefits?
Virtual Reality is not a technology as much as an entirely new medium with the potential to benefit many industries.
It can transform entertainment by putting you in the middle of the movie you are watching. It can take games to a hitherto unreachable level of reality. Combined with linked gloves or controllers it can allow you to interact with a truly 3D real game world. Already the Virtual Reality version of Space Simulation game Elite: Dangerous is getting rave reviews. It can transform news by transporting viewers to where news is happening so that they’ll feel more connected than ever to events.
Retailers are trying it in their stores to see virtually how stacking up their merchandise will look. Customers will be able to look at how furnishings look before they decide to buy. Designers can see designs on models before manufacturing, making go to market for apparel a much faster process. Architects and interior designers can showcase capabilities and products and how they look in infinite ways to prospective customers. Industrial design can be seen in actual scenarios to judge user experience and if improvements based on environment are needed.
VR can have immense ramifications in healthcare. Psychotherapy patients can explore phobias and situations as part of a systematic road to healing. A surgeon can help guide junior colleagues anywhere in the world because VR will allow him to see what the actual surgeon is seeing in exactly the same way. Crime scene reconstructions can take the crime scene to experts anywhere in the globe!
It can revolutionize learning by transporting students into actual classroom situations. You can get a classroom education in business from Harvard while seated in Pakistan. Trainings for emergency first responders and military can be done in like life scenarios. You can even train for public speaking in a realistic scenario!
On a personal level communication can be revolutionized as far more intimate and personal. The immersion of people incapable of being present at say a wedding or a funeral can be made to a great degree. They will feel like they are at the event.
What are the challenges?
Getting a decent virtual reality experience is much cheaper than it used to be but it is still expensive. For example an Oculus VR set along with a PC with enough juice to run it while being future proof, will set you back roughly USD 1600+ – This makes it out of reach of a large majority of the world population. With scale, R&D and time costs are expected to climb down.
Virtual Reality also has some singular health concerns related to the medium. Nausea and headaches can be experienced while using VR and women seem more susceptible to this. Extensive research will be needed to ascertain long-term effects from long-term use.
There will have to be great improvements made to Haptic Technologies that allow you to simulate touch and sensory feedback for greatest possible VR immersion. Because VR is so reality focused if you create a scenario that requires interaction with environment it may not work if you’re of different heights. For example a very short person might not be able to pull a virtual lever. Or a very tall person will have trouble bending playing an obstacles based game.