My tryst with Virtual Reality- what the world looks like from my BioScope
The best thing to happen in anyone’s life is childhood and its memories that we carry along with us eternally. I remember watching the classical tale of Aladdin and The Magic Lamp and wished to be as adventurous as Aladdin; I wished I could fly on a flying carpet, and travel to strange lands and wonderful places. I wished I could jump up till the sky and stay there, and relax on the clouds. I remember watching The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest and wished to travel and investigate mysterious happenings around the world just like Johnny did with his father. I wished I could enter the QuestWorld, find clues and solve puzzles. Those were the distant wishes I had during my childhood up until now it seems, the deepest-held wishes might come true.
I could still picture the day when my parents took me to Red Fort, popularly known as the Lal Qila, residence of the Mughal emperors for more than 200 years - to catch a glimpse of an Indian fair. Built on a grandeur scale, the fair had everything, from mouthwatering eateries to jaw dropping swings, and to mesmerizing shows and lightnings.
The fair was divided into different multicolored stalls; on one side there were confectioners and clothes, and on the other side toys and games were stacked in rows. Then there were snake charmers, jugglers, musicians and dancers who enthralled children and adults with their acts and performances. I do recall how I nagged my parents to buy me a laser top, which spun swiftly and emitted a musical sound.
Out of all the commotion, I heard a guy singing melodiously :
‘E dilli kaa kutub Minaar dekho, Bambai sahar ki Bahaar dekho, Kalakatte kaa Chauragi baazaar dekho, Ghar baithe sara Sansaar dekho’ ( watch Qutub Minar of Delhi, Glamour of Bombay, Chauragi Baazar of Kolkata, watch the entire world sitting at your home)
Within seconds a massive crowd encircled him and started murmuring about the thing he was about to exhibit. I somehow managed to push way through the crowd and stood at a distance away from him. He introduced himself as BioScopeWallah and unveiled a hexagonal shaped structure having five peepholes with BioScope written on it in bold letters. The old machine immediately grabbed attention of the crowd who were inquisitive to know its functionality.
BioScopeWallah invited people to experience the historical monuments in his old machine. I quickly jumped next to him and peeped into one of the holes. I was left awestruck to see a gigantic screen showing different historical structures at every ten seconds. For me, the hexagonal machine turned out to be a magical box, which exhibited India’s rich culture and heritage and brought them so close. The activity lasted for few minutes, but it certainly left a strong impression on my mind.
BioScope has been my strongest recollection from my childhood days, besides watching my favorite cartoons; however I still recall my Dad introducing me to VHS ( Video Home System ) and showing me Mahabharata, a Hindu epic television series, Black and White knob turning television set, which consisted of precisely 12 channels, and his Nokia phone 3310 on which I played Space Impact. I do remember, him writing a letter to Information and Broadcasting Ministry ( branch of Government of India to formulate laws related to information, press and films)to relaunch the famous children TV series The Jungle Book. He once showed me an old tinted photo of him sitting next to BBC Microcomputer System and writing programs; he was amongst the 20 people across India to receive the computer.
Over the decade, things have changed and moved at a rapid pace from the VHS to DVD to BlueRays, from Black an White TV to LED’s and LCD’s, from bunny ear antennas to DTH, from Nokia feature phones to smartphones, from 2G network to 3G and now 4G, from postal letters to telegram to email, and from PC to Tablets and Phablets.
I’ll admit it. I turned techno-pile a year ago. I started reading about gadgets and innovation more passionately. This has come from the belief that technology can change the way people communicate. Plenty of innovation happened around 2015 — Phones, Watches, Cameras, Games, Car but the only technology to create the feeling of accomplishment of my childhood wishes is Virtual Reality.
With the recent acquisition of Palmer Lucky KickStarter Project Oculus Rift by Facebook for more than 2 Billion dollar, many tech pioneers and analyst have started believing Virtual Reality as the ‘next big thing’
What is Virtual Reality?
In technical term Virtual Reality is a 3D environment generated by computer engines that replicates the real world and triggers human brain to provide an immersive experience.
According to me Virtual Reality is that *Divya Shakti ( Divine Power ) which allows you to see the world beyond your peripheral vision. It is a believable environment which lets user explore the world in 360 degree so that you feel that you are there.
*Divya Shakti also known as the divine power was an integral part of the epic war between Kaurav and Pandavas. It was the gift given to Sanjay, an advisor to blind King Dhritarashtra’s. With this divine power, Sanjay was able to see war events at a distance of 80 Kms.
My personal journey with Virtual Reality began a little closer to reality, it started in Delhi. I happened to visit Delhi’s Comic Con last year with my friend. Comic Con is dedicated to expanding India’s pop culture by creating a high-profile event, which caters to fans of not only comics but also games and movies. The talk of the town was ‘Hodor’, one of Winterfell’s loyal servants; his arrival at Comic Con led to many GOT fans flock at the event just to have a glimpse of the 7-foot giant.
After spending almost an hour at the event, I came across this guy standing outside a kiosk, inviting people to experience the trailer of Batman Vs. Superman in a brown rectangular box. I was intrigued by this headset and wanted to experience the same.
The box was made of cardboard, which had a magnetic button on one side, two circular lenses in the middle and an elastic band across both the ends of the box. The kiosk guy placed his smartphone at optimal distances away from the lenses. I peeped through the lenses and pull down the magnetic lever that worked as a click on the trailer stored in the smartphone. Within seconds, I could see elephantine screen just like cinema theater in front of me. I felt a sense of Deja Vu. It seemed that the cardboard box was an evolved version of BioScope which I experienced at the fair.
On reaching home, I googled the device I was wearing a couple of hours back. To my surprise, the rectangular box, which I wore happened to be a VIRTUAL REALITY platform developed by Google engineers David Coz and Damien Henry, introduced at the Google I/O 2014 developers conference. My curiosity level accelerated when I started enlightening myself about the potentiality of VR and how it can revitalize the staggering economy. I instantaneously started looking for the box on various websites and came across a corresponding DIY versions. Within a couple of days, I had this fascinating device in my hand.
My brother and I kept talking about Virtual Reality and started looking for Google Cardboard compatible apps across Play Stores. I downloaded VR app Titan and Space- an exploration of our Solar System on my brother’s Samsung Galaxy Edge. Without wasting any more minute, I placed the smartphone in the box and pulled down the magnet lever to start the exploration. I was flabbergasted to see all the planets coming so close to me that I actually raised my hand in order to touch them. We all have seen our universe in picturesque forms during our school days but seeing in an VR device was an immersive experience.
As we kept exploring the vast world of VR library, we stumbled upon Insidious 3, a short VR trailer. The moment I wore the cardboard box, I felt being teleported to a world, which was mystical and unimaginable. The narrative was so visually immersive that it scared the hell out me. Viewing the horror content in 360 degree ushered an adrenaline rush and created a chilling VR experience.
We were left spellbound by the power of Google’s VR device that lifted us from our seats and transported us to a place we could have never dream about. This low-cost rectangular box became a mean of access to Virtual Reality. Those childhood wishes revisited my mind. I was happy to realize that now I can soar above a city using the magical carpet. Now, I can visit mysterious places just like Johnny.
Some of the facts and figures about Virtual Reality will certainly leave you astonished.
According to Taipei based market intelligence provider TrendForce the global market size of VR will be at US$5.1 billion this year to US$10 billion in 2017
In January 2016, Google announced that it has shipped more than 5 million VR devices since its launch in 2014.
More than 25 million cardboard apps consumed, 350000 hours of VR videos watched on YouTube, 750000 photos taken via Google VR Camera app.
Recently Google announced its VR project DayDream along with VR headset with a console during Google I/O 2016
More than 15 years have passed since my first to the Indian fair and my experience of BioScope and now I am 24 year old professional writing my first blog on medium to connect and share ideas with people locally and globally.
This was my tryst with Virtual Reality. Do share your childhood wishes and your personal experience with VR lately…