Today we are taking a closer look at Virtual Reality. This experience involves total immersion into an alternate environment. If you have ever seen the movie The Matrix, you already have a solid foundation for one extreme of what we are talking about: complete immersion into a world that is so real that the participants don’t realize they are even in it!
But this kind of complete immersion isn’t required to feel the effects of Virtual Reality. Consider the View-Master, a stereoscopic image viewer that was introduced in 1939. Holding one of these up to your eyes would transport you the viewer into the photograph. A neat trick but also a fairly substantial foundation for the future of VR.
While not very popular and ending up being one of Nintendo’s lowest selling platforms ever, the Virtual Boy was one of the first commercial interactive stereoscopic products available. Even with the limited graphics availability it provided a fairly immersive escape from the real world.
In 2007 Google Streetview was released, providing an interesting milestone for modern Virtual Reality experiences. This ultimately was the 360 capture of an environment with a process for stitching all the different photos together into a seamless view that could be explored much like you were actually standing at that location. Still this was limited by the delivery mechanisms.
A few years later hardware started to release that opened the possibilities for how virtual content could be consumed. The Oculus Rift was one of the first and most popular of a series of new headsets that allows users to immerse themselves into digital environments, whether they be completely 3D generated worlds, or real world capture. Sensors built into these headsets control content orientation which allow exploration to become much more natural. Turn your head to view the virutal world just like you would turn your head to look around in real life.
It wasn’t long after these headsets came to market that Google released the plans to Cardboard, a fairly inexpensive DIY container that leverages a phone to create a VR headset. They also released the Cardboard app to drive the experience. This allows users to browse for content and more easily distribute their own content.
Next week we will talk a bit more about VR content, and get into some of the emerging applications for this type of experience. Some of the popular uses of VR that we'll touch on include;
- Marketing / Promotional
- History / Education