Virtual Reality: A Boom in the World of Innovation Shaping the Future
Many of us think of science fiction films like 'Minority Report' when we talk about Virtual Reality (VR). The truth is that this technology nowadays blends completely in with our daily lives.
Video games, medicinal products, education... There's virtual reality everywhere. And it is here to stay. But what exactly is it?
Understanding Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality technology is a computer-generated environment with real-life scenes and objects, making the user feel immersed in their surroundings. This world is viewed by a computer known as a headset or helmet for Virtual Reality.
VR allows us to immerse ourselves as if we were one of the characters in video games, learn how to perform heart surgery, or improve the quality of sports training to maximize performance.
Although this may seem to be highly modern, the roots are not as new as we would think. Indeed, many believe that one of the first Virtual Reality devices was called Sensorama, a machine with an integrated seat that played 3D movies, gave off-odors, and generated vibrations to make the experience as vivid as possible. The design dates back to the mid-1950s.
Subsequent advances in hardware and applications over the next five years carried with them a radical change in both electronics and system architecture.
Future Projections of Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality is one of the technologies with maximum projected growth potential. Investment in VR and AR will increase 21-fold in the next four years, hitting 15.5 billion Euros by 2022, according to the new IDC Virtual Reality News (2018) estimates.
Both technologies will be essential to the digital transformation strategies of the businesses, and their investment in this area will surpass that of the consumer sector by 2019. In Europe, it is estimated that more than half of the larger European companies will have a VR and RA plan by 2020.
The industry today needs solutions that go beyond recreation, travel, or advertisement, and that is more accessible to consumers. There is also a need to develop computer interfaces to prevent flaws such as slicing, which lets some rigid objects look as though they can be pushed through.
And to reduce the symptoms VR causes in people, like motion sickness, which consists of dizziness caused by the difference between our body's orientation and what is seen in the virtual world. Big technology firms are now focusing on designing headsets that do not require cables and for displaying images in HD.
Big tech firms are developing 8 K headsets for Virtual Reality, with even more powerful processors. There's also speculation that they might incorporate Artificial Intelligence in the next few years.
Even the new 5 G standard has fascinating scenarios for VR evolution. This standard will allow connectivity between more devices and large user communities. Furthermore, its nearly invisible latency will enable consumers to receive images in real-time, almost as if they were seeing them with their own eyes.
Noteworthy Virtual Reality Trends
Here are some of the most exciting virtual reality technology trends of 2020 about what's changed and what's coming over the horizon:
1. Improved Visuals
Early headsets used mobile phone screens that had never been designed to be viewed so close up – this caused pixelated images and the 'screen-door' effect that reduced immersion. Since then, we've seen steady improvements in the quality and fidelity of the VR screens, and professional headsets such as Varjo and Pimax have twice or even four times the first-generation resolution offering '20:20' vision – for a price!
More pixels need to render more processing power, especially when we want photorealistic graphics. Fortunately, GPU capacity was increasingly growing and foveated rendering techniques that allow the GPU to concentrate on only the part of the picture where the eye is centered helps a great deal.
2. Increased Comfort
It's just effortless wearing a headset in a single session for 30 minutes to an hour before our eyes get sore, restricting the VR apps. That's partly due to the rising headset weight and also due to 'goal range.'
When we focus on an object close up, our pupils align slightly as compared to far apart. The lens on current headsets has a single focal length, meaning we need to go 'cross-eyed' to focus outside of that length on objects.
Luckily Oculus has revealed new concept lenses that can change the focal point dynamically to where your eyes are looking. A promising by-product is that this also reduces the headset's scale and weight.
3. Integration of 5G and the cloud
VR content is split down into versions 'desktop' and 'tethered' (the latter involving a PC). This offers users a very different degree of understanding, owing to the disparity in computing capacity between mobiles and PCs.
Oculus has also introduced a connect for their handheld Quest headset so that it can be used in both desktop and tethered mode, but that is just a part of the solution.
The rollout of superfast low latency 5G infrastructures ensures that we can overcome this issue by delivering content wirelessly to the headset in the cloud and downloading it. Google's Stadia also does this for mainstream games, and adding that to VR would be the next logical addition, while more changes to the methodology would be needed.
The broadcasting of headphone apps would reduce weight, expense, and power usage. While making it easier and cheaper to access content since it won't require downloading and installing individual applications. Instead, it would allow linked VR interactions with 'meta-verses' that we can switch seamlessly between while we currently browse internet services.
We believe this is potentially only 3-5 years away from commercial release. Still, it will pose several intriguing possibilities as well as concerns about who controls the channels on which we all view our modern environment.
4. More Intuitive User Interfaces
Another issue with the VR experience was ease-of-use. Users had to learn how to use new handheld controllers while being blindfolded effectively. And with no programming language approved internationally, even each program behaved a little differently.
Luckily, strong programming practices for VR have been gradually converging, making them more intuitive. New controls such as the 'Knuckles' controller from Valve cleverly merge finger recognition with a creative interface that hangs from the hand, so it doesn't look like you are carrying it.
Next year, hand monitoring using cameras on the headset is becoming possible on commercial headsets. For specific applications like the one we designed for ANA, controllers are not needed at all.
Developments in speech recognition mean we say commands to AI characters or speak more naturally to them. If you want to look ahead, mind regulation is still arriving – apps that can be programmed to follow commands already on the market.
All of this means more natural interactions – this is what VR offers in the end.
5. Enhanced Social Interactions
One complaint about VR was that it might feel isolated, cut off from the real-world. New headsets allow you to smoothly cut through the system through cameras between the real-world and the virtual world.
The rise in headsets (6 m delivered in 2019, up 30 percent from last year) also means more internet users, and some of the most immersive interactions to date include playing and working together in Virtual Reality.
In other terms, you never need to be alone, single or isolated. A significant landmark here will be Facebook Horizon, a virtual world for VR users arriving next year.
You are also not limited to talking with animated characters; the new demonstrations feature photorealistic avatars representing nuanced facial gestures, look signals, and step in the not so distant future as you are arriving.
In deed, there is more to virtual Reality than a gimmick or just a fancy instrument. This technology is now built into our present reality, and it is poised to open up new opportunities and contribute to changes that will shape the future in the coming years.
Virtual Reality isn't science fiction any longer. It is an integral part of our modern world that you should not ignore, especially if you want to stay ahead of the curve in both your personal and professional life.