Virtual Reality – A Quick Review

Virtual Reality Primer

What is Virtual Reality (VR) and why would you ever want to step into that world when computers are confusing enough – all by their reality self? Let’s say I was interested in VR, it’s all the same right? VR is just a bunch of hype anyway, isn’t it?

VR is, as the Oxford Dictionary puts it, “the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way…” So, one only needs to slip on a head set and viola you’re all set. Well not so fast Buckaroo Banzai, there’s more to it than just slipping on a headset, there are several versions of VR so let us explore a few.
To start a review of VR, keep in mind each company is different. Therefore they take a unique approach to the presentation of VR. Each VR offering has a different effect on you by altering reality in quite different ways. VR users can experience the effect of an altered reality for differing reasons like travel, game fun, and industrial and medical purposes.

Each offering of VR utilizes differing tools to create the illusions and the way, the illusion are created vary. One way is projecting something in front of you, where you see through the goggles as if it were in front of you; the image is superimposed upon reality.

Others VR methods use a screen, for example a video screen from your smartphone, to create the illusion, akin to playing a really graphically intense video game. Some don’t use headsets but project the image directly onto your eye’s retina from a pair of glasses. Or, like Google, it mounts a small screen on glasses so, you peer into the tiny monitor when you want to.

No matter how the image gets to your brain, the results are similar; you think you are somewhere, doing something that isn’t real, but you think it is.

According to AECT an educational communications and research firm, “There is more than one type of virtual reality. Furthermore, there are different schema [sic] for classifying various types of virtual reality. Jacobson suggests that there are four types of virtual reality: (1) immersive virtual reality; (2) desktop virtual reality (i.e., low cost homebrew virtual reality); (3) projection virtual reality; and (4) simulation virtual reality.”

Microsoft has the HoloLens, a see through bubble lens headset (semi clear lens like sunglass) which projects an image onto a table top, floor, or bench – wherever the user points then anchors the image. The other people in the room will see the object from their own prospective. I might see the front of a home being designed by an architect because I’m standing next to him at the front of the home, while the other people in the back of the room will see the back of the home, their perspective. HoloLens is very cool for engineering walk troughs to help visualize and confirm what the customer wants.

Oculus Rift, originally funded by Kickstarter, uses an enclosed goggles headset to block out all external reality, and then a special screen inside the headset projects the VR image (composite) to its internal screen. For example, this device lets you believe you are the player in the game and you see the opponents as if you were standing on the field of battle, or some such scenario. For example, look at your hands as you type on the keyboard. That’s what you would see, the world from your own personal point of view.
Then there’s Samsung Gear VR, Sony PlayStation PS4 VR and a whole host of startups producing their own brand of VR.

Has VR arrived? Very much so in the medical and engineering professions, nearly here (a few months) for the game crowd and a version that is sort of like the old fashioned 3d View-Master we all played with as kids. Well, that is if you’re my age, and premium gas was 11 cents a gallon, and – oh, don’t get me started…

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