Strap a screen to your face and buckle up for the next great technological leap coming to a business near you -
Reminiscent of Star Trek, Star Wars and the like; Virtual Reality is a technology perceived as distant and immaterial; maybe even gimmicky. It comes across as something sitting far off in the ether amidst the other over-hyped technologies of our time; somewhere between wearable fitness devices and whatever Crypto-currencies are meant to be.
It just doesn’t seem important, material or impactful enough to merit your current attention.
This could not be farther from the truth.
Virtual Reality is here, right now, and it is disrupting industries across the globe on a level that is both affordable and commercially viable.
Virtual Reality is defined as ‘an environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment’.
Nice. But, how does it work?VR involves strapping a screen to your face (Head Mounted Display ‘HMD’) to both view and interact with a scene and/or scenes projected from either a phone or PC. It can be a surreal experience, as thanks to the graphical capabilities of modern day hardware the picture quality can be near photo-real – effectively impressing the notion of immersion and realism upon the user. It is this ability to create a convincing, albeit fictitious environment and allow for a tangible experience – opposed to standard screen-based viewing and consumption – where the true utility and commercial value of Virtual Reality lies.
Further, you can create and experience any environment you like –
Penthouse apartment? Easy.
Your dream supercar? No worries.
Want to belt out Christina Perri’s ‘One thousand Miles’ in front an 50,000 people? We don’t judge, whatever floats your boat friend.
The beauty of VR is that it utilises video game development platforms or ‘engines’ like Unreal 4 and Unity; allowing for flexible development and a fluid end-user experience – the limit truly is the imagination.
However, it was not always so.
Confined to the experimentation of independent inventors and engineers, VR was little more than an exciting theory for most of the 20th Century.
It was only until the 1990s where – driven by the hype of the video game industry – developers from heavies Nintendo and SEGA tried to create a functional VR product that was both market accessible and commercially viable.
Neither company succeeded.
On one hand, the SEGA VR Headset flopped before even making it to the shelves and never saw the light of day outside development. On the other hand, although Nintendo’s ‘Virtual Boy’ did hit the market; despite the name, there was one thing the Virtual Boy was not: Virtual Reality, and it received heavy criticism as a result.
Technology simply hadn’t caught up to ambition, and VR drifted into obscurity – where for many it has since stayed.
In 1965, American Computer Scientist Ivan Sutherland described the ‘ultimate display’ concept that could simulate reality to the point where one could not tell the difference from actual reality.
His concept included:
> A virtual world viewed through a HMD that would appear realistic through augmented 3D sound and tactile feedback.
> Computer hardware to create the virtual word and maintain it in real time.
> The ability users to interact with objects in the virtual world in a realistic way.
You can purchase all these components at most electronics stores today.
The time of the ‘ultimate display’ has indeed arrived.
We are situated at a massive technological friction point where we stand at the precipice of an uncharted territory that promises unlimited potential. From PCs and handheld devices, humanity has established its gate to the virtual world. Now comes the time to explore. VR is the next natural progression in technology and it is creeping into your industry.