Virtual Reality 2 Essay, Research Paper
Virtual Reality which Warren Robinett describes as a cut little oxymoron. What exactly is does the term virtual reality mean. Imagine being able to point into the sky and fly. Or perhaps walk through space and connect molecules together. These are some of the dreams that have come with the invention of virtual reality. With the introduction of computers, numerous applications have been enhanced or created. The newest technology that is being tapped is that of artificial reality, or “virtual reality” (VR).
Jaron Lanier first coined the phrase “virtual reality” around 1989, and it has stuck ever since. Lanier stated, It s very hard to describe if you haven t experienced it. But there is an experience when you are dreaming of all possibilities being there, that anything can happen, and it is just and open world where your mind is the only limitation. Unfortunately, the catchy name Virtual Reality has caused people to dream up incredible uses for this technology including using it as a sort of drug. This became evident when, among other people, Timothy Leary became interested in VR. It was at a computer conference in Dallas in August 1990 were Leary stated, I think this is one of the most important meetings ever held by human beings. Leary was a man who had many problems in his lifetime and eventually became very interested in drug experimentation.
This has also worried some of the researchers who are trying to create very real applications for medical, space, physical, chemical, and entertainment uses among other things. In order to create this alternate reality, however, you need to find ways to create the illusion of reality with a piece of machinery known as the computer. This is done with several computer-user interfaces used to simulate the senses. Among these, are stereoscopic glasses to make the simulated world look real, a 3D auditory display to give depth to sound, sensor lined gloves to simulate tactile feedback, and head-trackers to follow the orientation of the head. Since the technology is fairly young, these interfaces have not been perfected, making for somewhat of a cartoon simulated reality. Stereoscopic vision is probably the most important feature of VR because in real life, people rely mainly on vision to get places and do things. Presenting different views to each eye gives the illusion of three dimensions. The glasses that are used today work by using what is called an “electronic shutter”. The lenses of the glasses interleave the left-eye and right-eye views every thirtieth of a second. The shutters selectively block and admit views of the screen in sync with the interleaving, allowing the proper views to go into each eye.
The “Convolvotron” is one such device that simulates the location of up to four audio channels with a sort of imaginary sphere surrounding the listener. This device takes into account that each person has special auditory signal processing, and personalizes what each person hears. Using a position sensor from Polhemus, another VR research company, it is possible to move the position of sound by simply moving a small cube around in your hand. This portion of a VR system can really enhance the visual and tactile responses. Imagine hearing the sound of footsteps behind you in a dark alley late at night. That is how important 3D sound really is.
The third important sense that we use in everyday life is that of touch. There is no way of avoiding the feeling of touch, and thus this is one of the technologies that are being researched the most. The two main types of feedback that are being researched are that of force- reflection feedback and tactile feedback. Force feedback devices exert a force against the user when they try to push something in a virtual world that is ‘heavy’. Tactile feedback is the sensation of feeling an object such as the texture of sandpaper. Both are equally important in the development of VR. Currently, the most successful development in force- reflective feedback is that of the Argonne Remote Manipulator (ARM). It consists of a group of articulated joints, wrapped by long bunches of electrical cables. The ARM allows for six degrees of movement to give a true feel of movement. Tactile feedback is just as important as force feedback in allowing the user to “feel” computer-generated objects. There are several methods for providing tactile feedback. Some of these include inflating air bladders in a glove, arrays of tiny pins moved by shape memory wires, and even fingertip piezoelectric vibro-tactile actuators. The hope is that in the future some of these techniques will be used to form a complete body suit that can simulate tactile sensation. Being able to determine where in the virtual world means you need to have orientation and position trackers to follow the movements of the head and other parts of the body that are interfacing with the computer.
Many companies have developed successful methods of allowing six degrees of freedom. Six degrees of freedom refers to a combination Cartesian coordinate system and an orientation system with rotation angles called rolls, pitch and yaw. The machine calculates head/object position by the use of a lightweight, multiply jointed arm. Sensors mounted on this arm measure the angles of the joints. Researchers have also thought about supporting the other senses such as taste and smell, but have decided that it wouldn t be a good idea. Smell would be possible, and would enhance reality, but there is a certain problem with the fact that there is only a limited spectrum of smells that could be simulated. Taste is basically a disgusting premise from most standpoints. It might be useful for entertainment purposes, but has almost no purpose for researchers or developers.
The main senses that are relied on in a virtual reality are sight, touch, and hearing. Applications of Virtual Reality has promise for nearly every industry ranging from architecture and design to movies and entertainment, but the real industry to gain from this technology is science, in general. The money that can be saved examining the feasibility of experiments in an artificial world before they are done could be great, and the money saved on energy used to operate such things as wind tunnels quite large. Architectural designers have also found that VR can be useful in visualizing what their buildings will look like when they are put together. An example, which is interesting, would be that of designing an elementary school. Designers could walk in the school from a child’s perspective to gain insight on how high a water fountain is, or how narrow the halls are. The entertainment industry stands to gain a lot from VR. With the video game revolution of bigger and better games coming out all the time, this could be the biggest breakthrough ever. It would be awesome to have sword fights, which actually feel real and feel the sword go into your opponent. As well, virtual movies are being developed that will allow the viewer to interact with the characters in the movie. As it stands every industry has something to gain from VR and in the years to come, it appears that the possibilities are endless. The Future of Virtual Reality In the coming years, as more research is done we are bound to see VR become as mainstay in our homes and at work.
As the computers become faster, they will be able to create more realistic graphic images to simulate reality better. This is the birth of a new technology and it will be interesting to see how it develops in the years to come. However, it may take longer than people think for it to come into the mainstream. Millions of dollars in research must be done, and only select industries can afford to pay for this. As when James Dunion asked Alan Kay how much money was going to be spent on research for this, Kay replied seriously, An infinite amount . Hopefully, it will be sooner than later though. In the future, VR will be available to the end-user at home for under $1000 and will be of better quality than that being developed today. The support for it will be about as good as it is currently for plain computers, and it is possible that VR could become a very useful teaching
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