VR is the latest buzzword in the technological industry of late. So what is VR? VR or Virtual Reality is essentially a combination of two words, Virtual and Reality. Google searching “Virtual meaning” would result “almost or nearly as described” and “not physically existing”. Hence, we can for now assume VR to be Almost reality or reality which is not physically existing. This is accomplished by sophisticated software running on compatible devices. Successfully deceiving one of your senses to accept something non-existing is the motive of VR in short. 3 dimensional images are also one of the forms of VR, which have been used by architects and machine designers for decades now.
Few Important things you need to know about VR
VR at times is referred as immersive multimedia. Hence, can we say conversation over a telephone or attending a meeting over a videoconference are also examples of VR as we get immersed in conversations on phone or video? In my opinion these cannot be considered as VR as these are events that are actually happening like the other person is actually speaking on the other end of the phone while you hear and similarly, there are other people attending the videoconference at the same time as you see. Hence, these are best called real-time communication channels. I would like to conclude that not all forms of immersive multimedia could be classified as VR. Computer Simulated Reality is also at times substituted for VR. But is VR always computer simulated reality? In my opinion, VR may not be always computer simulated, it could be simulated using multiple other devices. Hence, we need to be really careful while substituting or interchanging VR with computer simulated reality. Like mentioned above these are my personal opinion. If you happen to read more articles on VR, you would realize that each of the articles carry different opinion and could confuse you further. But in general most of the articles would agree on that VR would in general constitute of 3D animated images, which would change in response to any input by the user (movement could be as subtle as movement of head).
How does Virtual Reality work?
So, how does VR work? VR would just display multiple images based on the input a device senses through its sensors. Well, this is not as simple as it sounds. Sensing motions of multiple organs is one of the most important challenges of modern VR world. And VR is not only about animated 3D images and displaying them. It has advanced much more at this point in time. These days, VR focuses on other sensory organs also like the ear to hear, nose to smell, and skin to touch. Catering to more sensory organs would result in more complex system. If the video displayed is not in sync with the sounds heard by the user, the user would not really enjoy the experience. Hence, the basic block diagram of a VR system is shown below
Some of the most common Input devices or sensors used in the world of VR are:
- Motion Sensors or trackers
- Voice recognizing devices
- Force or pressure sensing devices
Similarly, the common forms of output devices used are:
- Headsets with eye piece and ear phones
Virtual Reality – Applications and Uses
Today, many experts term VR as Virtual environment which in my opinion is very apt. It is a virtual environment we create to fool our senses to think that the virtual environment we have created is the actual one. This might sound so negative but, if used appropriately, could help many industries and sectors. Education industry, for one, in India has a lot of potential considering the population. Is it really served to its potential? Well, all of us know, it is NOT. We also know that there is a dearth of quality teachers and the geographical reach of all the teachers together is also very limited. Also, poverty in India is a major bottleneck for education. Why is poverty a bottleneck in spite of facilities like free education and free meal for children at school? Children are put to work because of the income they could generate for the family. Hence, many children are made to miss classes so that they could work to earn more money. But, all of us know as a fact that they would work through mornings and in the evenings they would have some time for themselves. Unavailability of teachers at those times results in lack of education to many students. How do we solve this problem? VR could be a potential solution for this major problem in India and possibly other developing countries in the world.
Credit must be given to the Gaming industry for tapping the potential of VR to a significant extent. The result of extensive research and development in this field has resulted in multiple matured devices like the Wii Nintendo, Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation, and the likes. The experience of playing a game of tennis or cricket virtually is almost real time. The sensors do a wonderful job that can actually track your motion and provide the desired output. Industry leaders across must get inspired to emulate the same success in their respective industries.
Virtual Reality – X Factor
Is it only experiencing in VR that attracts the people towards the technology or is there more to it? In my opinion, we have all crossed the phase of being attracted to only experiences. During the growth or evolution of multimedia on computers, we were all at awe at the experience. Hence, we need a more than mere experience to keep us attracted to any technology. I think immersion that one experiences and the ability to interact in a Virtual Environment is what makes the big difference between a video on computer or a national geographic channel and VR. The ability to explore any virtual environment across multiple dimensions would be the differentiating factor, as no two human beings would look at something in the same way. Hence, a VR system to be successful needs to allow exploring the environment in different ways according to the varied interests of people.