What looks like science-fiction yesterday, as total immersion in a video game, is today accessible through the advanced technologies in virtual reality. The interest from the enterprises for this field has been added to the one from the general public and many usings along as many prototypes appear.
The dawn of a new technology
We can define the virtual reality as an alternative reality, entirely created, whose the purpose is to immerge the user. So it’s not exclusively based on our reality and can transport the user in another world, that’s why it’s very sought-after in the field of video games.
According to Indira Thouvenin, president of AFRV (“Association Française de Réalité Virtuelle”), what is in the heart of virtual reality development today, what is to adjust and which will unlock the large production for general public, is the interaction. Put differently, efficient prototypes and softwares are missing yet for everybody to test virtual reality. Prototypes whose development will pursue while the public will learn to use it.
Let’s notice that many companies are making their own prototypes. This competition brings the inconvenient to have a multiplicity of models which may lose the public in its discovering of this new media, but it also has the pro to point out the good and bad ideas to select for the following versions.
We already observe an example of this competition between the immersion helmets as the Oculus, price of the best of CES 2014, Sony’s helmet exclusively foreseen for their console PS4 and more expensive than the Oculus, and the wireless helmet from GameFace, which have differences only the ones quoted.
In this way, as for each new product, this field goes through the commercial laws of the market and we will certainly see, in the years to come, alike prototypes will cross themselves and companies will battle to get on the market.
The virtual reality : dreamed by gamers, provided for everyone
The virtual reality was born with informatics et its fantasy grew up with video games. Lots of gamers dream to be totally immerged in their games. We may now ask if the tools and the medias of virtual reality will only have playful uses, especially when we have noticed that, in parallel, an important part of the augmented reality is dedicated to practical uses (communication, géolocalisation, …). Indeed, while the development of the Oculus is quite over, augmented reality glasses as the Optinvent from Ora or the Google Glasses are also being finalized.
We may also ask the next question : which medium for which use ? Will the medias of augmented reality be reserved to everyday life while the Oculus will only serve video games ? Will these new fields be dominated by multinationals or little companies ? Which ones ?
All the same, it remains certain that the Oculus is in the center of the news of virtual reality, creating impatience and desire, as proves the success of its Kickstarter exceeding the 2 millions dollars.
Still, many possible uses exist and some of them can be valorized by the virtual reality, in particular a creation of a reality for those who can’t entirely access it.
Indeed, persons with a motor disability, blind and deaf people, deprived of a part of the reality that is normally perceived, could now touch a spatial and/or sensitive representation of the reality, representation which could be held by their fonctionnal senses, as plans the project “Percevoir” – in development – and its Braille mould. The blind person, placed in a virtual space containing objects with different forms, has to touch and locate them in order to make a personal perception of the space. When the right gloved hand touches a virtual object, the left hand, positioned on the Braille mould, receives the information of the contact. It would be conceivable that this device will be combined with augmented reality projects for blind people in real situations, in the street for example.
Same for really critically injured people, for whom are developed programs in hospitals for reeducation by virtual reality.
Predictable uses of the virtual reality
So, it is easy to see that the virtual reality, which, out of principle, can offer all types of universe and realities, can as well be declined for the general public or for communities or individuals with specific needs.
Let’s recapitulate which types of use will surely be developed, and by which structures, by relying on existing applications.
• By public authorities
The interest for a public structure as the State is to offer services and valorize its heritage, along with artistic and scientific innovations of its citizens.
So we can suppose that some artistic works, theater plays or expositions, would rely on virtual reality. If we think expositions, we also think museums and which ones could build up their own immersions. Wheter it would be in seabed, in human body, in space, in past history or in a foreign country, each museum could been improved, according to its budget and the devices. It would certainly permit a renewed success of the public for the museums. The virtual reality could also be in the streets and help to discover the heritage of the cities, with, for example, the project “Assiduitas” which has modeled the cathedral of Amiens.
Finally, in terms of reeducation, the hospitals will be furnished in medias et softwares reproducing an environment where the patients could readapt themselves for everyday life.
• By privates companies
Unlike public authorities, private companies always have a lucrative goal and produce for the general public or case by case. An current example of virtual reality developed by a private company is the one of Saint-Gobain, which uses a visualization in a house of the light and heat science offered by their products. This visualization aims the clients, but Saint-Gobain has also developed a building simulation for its employees. Put it differently, the virtual reality for private companies may serve to sell entertainment as it may help to sell concrete products.
The virtual reality is particularly interesting for learning as well. Indeed, it enables employees not to be afraid of doing a mistake, in the same time it enables private companies not to ruin equipment, and adapt and retain the exams.
The virtual reality may help private companies in their tasks, by offering a simultaneous visualization of a model or a mock-up. In a collaboration between companies and distant employees or partners, and while a common work or a reunion, it is practical to see in real time what the others see, like software of online collaboration, as Google Docs.
The pervious functions remain specific, but what will happen with public everyday life ? Will virtual reality be used sporadically or will it be fully inserted, like tries the augmented reality, by helping for example to learn cooking, gardening or creative hobbies ?
Article written by Béatrice Pinel
Extra french externs links
Augmented and virtual reality glasses. First presented use is gaming but model usable for data-visualisation, conception and non-play uses.
Clear explanation and demonstrations of actual prototype of the Oculus Rift and the Omni, moving walkway, perfect combination for a total immersion.