Avatar, Matrix, Total Challenge, eXistenZ, Tron … For many years, cinema has treated the theme of virtual reality from many different angles and perspectives. In most of the films, especially those of the 90s and 2000s, our wishes, doubts and fears of what this new virtual reality world would be, a world where people interact in a fictional environment – but of appearance real- generated by computer technology .
Virtual reality was a technological trend that, in the past, never consolidated. Over the last 30 years, the failures due to rather crazy systems have made this technology never come to fruition on the market. However, currently, with the arrival of another reality, augmented reality (later we will discuss the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality), technological innovations and the increasing popularity of Oculus Rift helmets with visors , it seems that this technology returns to have a golden opportunity to consolidate.
This is what opinion, at least, the specialized media, the manufacturers and the creators of videogames, who agree that 2016 is going to be a key year . Large technology companies, such as Facebook , Samsung or Sony , do not want to be relegated and have already presented their own devices. In this article we will try to explain what virtual reality consists of and how it works.
What is virtual reality?
Virtual reality (or VR ) is the feeling of being immersed in an environment with objects or scenes that look real but are generated by the computer. This technology immerses the user in a virtual 360º environment and makes him believe that he is part of it. To achieve this, it uses various technological devices, such as virtual reality viewers (helmets, glasses).
For example, when we play a video game we do so by looking at the screen, outside it. By putting on a VR viewer, we immediately put ourselves in the middle of the scene, as if we were on the same screen, within the game. For this reason it is said that thanks to virtual reality we can enter a different world from ours.
The world of video games – where the user experience is more real than ever thanks to the levels of realism achieved – is the spearhead to introduce VR to society and consolidate it, but there are many other areas that will change due to the virtual reality. Thus, it can be used for other purposes, such as doctors (therapies for mental or physical illnesses), training (in the sports or military field), in aviation, in advanced journalism (the United Nations recently released a VR film on life of a girl in Syria ) or for brand promotion (the firm Leroy Merlin has recently incorporated the immersion in its catalog with the Oculus Rift helmets).
Virtual reality technology is increasing at giant steps. Currently devices have been released to experience it with the help of mobiles and during 2016 it is expected that very powerful VR viewers, such as the Oculus Rift themselves, will go on sale for everyone. Meanwhile, if we want to try this new experience, we will have to settle for going to video game fairs or conferences , where we can freely test these new “toys”.
Differences between virtual reality and augmented reality
VR should not be confused with other interactive experiences such as augmented reality , which is a digital projection method that projects images onto what we already have around us. That is, it does not create a new alternative reality, but rather adds information to the one that already exists . A good example of this is what Google Glass does , which provides information, graphics or images superimposed on the real environment, in a way that enriches it.
Augmented reality is increasingly available, since it requires less investment than virtual reality. Currently Microsoft is also working on this technology and soon they will take out the HoloLens glasses , and many brands of all kinds are starting to use it, such as Disney, which has developed an app for iOS and Android capable of turning any drawing into an animated object. to be displayed on the screen of a mobile device.
Devices to experience virtual reality
As we have already mentioned, to enjoy virtual reality you need a virtual reality viewer to reproduce it. In general, it is a small helmet that covers the part of the eyes in which the images are emitted, capable of detecting and capturing head movements. Each eye has a separate screen, making the 3D feel better .
The Oculus Rift are the glasses that returned interest in this technology, back in September 2012. Although still in development, they have made incredible progress thanks to the purchase by Facebook in 2014, and the brand is expected to present a version for the general public with an affordable price (about 300 €) for the beginning of 2016.
The Oculus Rift will come alongside a console controller as a basic form of VR control. However, the company has assured that it is developing a more advanced controller that it will launch in the middle of next year and that will allow us to see our own hands in the virtual world.
Oculus is the best-known platform, but not the only one. Sony’s Project Morpheus viewfinder , Samsung’s Gear VR glasses , or HTC’s Vive system will also be on the market next year. Virtual reality is one of the great priorities of Facebook and other networks such as YouTube and Periscope, as can be seen with the announcement of the possibility of sharing 360º videos on the social network in the future. Another giant, Google, has in mind that it can be used in schools to travel in other countries and see other cultures, and Samsung is considering offering immersive films and videos with its viewer.
For all these companies, as we see, virtual reality represents an opportunity beyond video games and leisure in general. How far all this can go nobody knows; what is clear is that the possibilities of this new technology are practically limitless and the fields in which it can affect are many and very diverse. The journey has begun . Let’s buckle up.