What is virtual reality?

According to Wikipedia, virtual reality (VR) replicates an environment that simulates physical presence in places in the real world or imagined worlds and lets the user interact in that world. Virtual reality artificially creates sensory experiences, which can include sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, and more.

So essentially, it is The Matrix.

And the player is Neo

In fact, true VR would be so convincing from the real world that it would really make you wonder which one is the real world. After all, we perceive reality from our five senses. And interestingly, there’s already research going on that is trying to find out if we are indeed inside the real world or a computer simulation done by some higher beings. (Are we inside a computer?)

But true virtual reality is difficult to achieve. During Oculus Connect 2, Michael Abrash, the chief scientist at Oculus discussed the type of challenges we face in discovering VR. In summary, we still have a long way to go. and we are barely scratching the surface when it comes to VR. Even in visual VR, we were only able to achieve the 5/6 criteria needed for full visual 3D.

Based on this article from doc-ok.org, in order to achieve visual belie ability, we need to:

1. Make closer objects larger and farther objects smaller

2. Have closer objects block farther objects

3. Have different perspective from both eyes

4. Create parallax; Farther object move slower in relative to closer objects (think of riding a car and looking out the window)

5. Eyes cross when focusing on item

6. Eyes adjust its focus when looking at object at different distances (think of camera focus, when you get these really nice looking artistic shots)

So currently, 3D graphics (on a monitor) is able to achieve 1, 2. And 4 if you count camera movement as head movements. and illusion of 6 using special effects. Clearly not very convincing. And these 3D movie glasses add 3 into the list by creating different images (and unfortunately I have a medical condition called Strabismus which kind of makes 3D movies obsolete for me).

The recent development of VR hardware such as Oculus Rift has being able to achieve 1 to 5, and even 6 with some software programming (if the rift can track eye movement, it’d be able to completely achieve 1 to 6). And this is enough to convince a normal person that they are seeing 3D. So convincing that we experience motion sickness, a symptom that is caused by discrepancy between our vesicular sense and our vision (and even better, it convinced me that I’m seeing 3D even with strabismus, so damn good)! And this also brings in some difficulties in regards to design. We can no longer simulate movement as we did traditionally due to motion sickness. So an entire new design approach needs to be invented.

Hopefully this explains to the basis of how VR works and what we can achieve so far. Stay tuned for more blogs and updates.

After I made this post, I come across this link, and Oculus is working on eye tracking right now as well. We may soon have complete visual VR very soon.

Originally published at babylonvr.blogspot.ca on May 19, 2016.

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