Imagine for a moment that any distance has lost its invincibility for a person, each desire gets an instant execution, and all the beauty of the world becomes available by simply clicking a button or two. Unfortunately, our lives are full of restrictions and inconviniences: aching ankles because of the long walk, a fear of heights, not enough money for travelling, and the sofa has a powerful gravitational field. Maybe, if we were living in the utopia of Oruel or Zamyatin, everyone would be extremely happy and life would be easier. Fortunately, IT-technologies have found a recipe easier than the omnipotence: virtual reality.
Virtual reality technologies are one of the biggest achievements of the late 20th century, and the start to be a serious factor in the development of science, technology, and culture. Already, virtual reality means a transformation of objective reality. It may be a good companion and a helper in engineering, architecture, and design. However, a negative factor makes a great impact on the spiritual and mental world of a person and a full range of human culture. Therefore, to say definitely whether the fast and rapid development of virtual reality is a completely positive factor or a negative one for the development of the mankind will be quite impossible. Perhaps, this question will be the purpose of this work.
The idea of virtual reality existed for many years, but the ability to feel what the users see appeare only in the last few years. At the moment, different companies are developing hardware for full publication of virtual reality: Omni, Oculus Rift, as well as to create Augmented Reality: Google Glass, and others. It is necessary to mention that with the development of high technologies in the field of virtual reality, it becomes taking a firm place in our lives, providing people with a huge, almost infinite space for the conduct of any business.
Just as the atomic bomb was a kind of culmination of the scientific and technological progress, technology is becoming a key factor in virtual reality’s information society; it presents itself as an artifact of the human history. It can lead to the beginning of a fundamental change in the consciousness of individuals, both in terms of private influence on intuition, imagination, creativity, and, especially, in the impact on the entire society’s life, through a programmable change of a social mindset.
The first definition of the term “virtual reality” comes about from 1989, it refers to an artificial of the three-dimensional world – cyberspace, computer-generated and perceived by a man a meaning of the special devices (Langan). According to Langan, virtual realities are an interactive simulation of the realistic and at the same time the fictional environments; it is a world of illusion.
The virtual reality interface is different than the traditional user interfaces. Users can actually take place in the world which generates by the computer in three dimensional spaces. They may have similar experience compare to the real world, such as vision, hearing, touch, and even smell.
There are other definitions of the term “virtual reality.” This concept is associated with the technologies and “multimedia,” the three-dimensional graphics and animation that allow to combine in a single information carrier encoding various forms of information (verbal, iconographic, ideographic, phonograph, etc.), which, in turn, allows the user to simulate the processes of computer and real-life objects, to create three-dimensional computer cognitive space with the feeling and perception of its reality.
Virtual reality is related with the concept of “cyberspace.” Cyberspace is a large electronic network which collapsed like a virtual reality. The first cyberspace was described in 1985 by William Gibson’s sci-fi novel “Neyromancer” as a single, coordinated hallucination of billions of people (aka – a massively multiplayer of virtual environment) (Gibson).
Virtual worlds allow the existence of Avatar, which can be explained as the electronic counterparts people (Schneider). Managed by a man, these phantoms can live in a virtual world, can communicate with their “colleagues” to perform various actions, to build and to develop their virtual world together. Using virtual reality, Avatar allows us to classify it as the stage at which a person is in the inside of the virtual world, and when the person becomes to be one of its objects.
The modern technology of virtual reality began with an attempt to connect visual perception with the perception of motion and sound. Its original application precedes the invention of the computer. The first virtual reality brand “Link Treyner” appeared in 1929. They created the kind of machine, which was used as a simulation of the movement, rotating, dropping, changing the course etc., and thus, create a satisfactory sense of movement. From that moment, it begins the story of virtual reality creation.
In 1935, Stanley G. Weinbaum first mentioned virtual reality glass in his novel. This novel described a concept of a glass that could provide vision, smell, and sense of touch. It could be considered as the first literature that mention about virtual reality in the past. Also, the first prototype of virtual reality machine was invented by Morton Heilig in 1962.
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He decided to create something amazing that would have amazed the audience. Finally, he constructed a sort of video game and called it Sensorama. It was an arcade game machine with a large scale. Users had to sit on a chair and put their head into the equipment. The three monitors generate 3D images to create space for users to participate and to get virtual reality experience. While audiences still passively was watching a movie, it was the first step towards the development of virtual reality (Payatagool).
Later on, this technology was used by the air-force. They were able to train pilots by using virtual simulation images. Therefore, Morton Heilig is considered to be the pioneer of virtual reality.
In 1961, Philco Corporation engineers developed the first head-mounted display, dubbed Headsight. The helmet consisted of a video screen and tracking system, which engineers connected to a closed system of a video monitoring. This helmet has been designed for using in the dangerous situations. The user can watch the real environment, as it were remotely controlling the turning angle of the head. A similar device was used by the pilots.
In 1965, a scientist named Ivan Saterland created a new device “Ultimate Display.” By using this display, a person could look into the virtual world, which seemed to present the real one. His invention gave a new impetus to the development of the whole science of the virtual space. The Saterland’s concept: the virtual world playable over a head-mounted display must seem real to any observer (Steinicke, Visell, Campos, and Lécuyer).
As a result of his studies, in 1965, he laid out the “perfect display,” which initiated the technical and technological development, including his participation in the field of processing and display images. With the development of the science, NASA, the Ministry of Defense and the National Science Foundation started to fund most of the research in the virtual reality area. The CIA has donated $80,000 to Saterlanda’s research. The first achievements in this field of the science were used primarily for the pilot training.
The first virtual reality system was created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1977. It was called “Aspen Movie Map.” This computer program simulated a walk in the city of Aspen, Colorado, giving the opportunity to choose between different ways to display the terrain. Summer and winter options were based on the real photos.
For many years, the development of this branch was kept in a secret by the government. Only in 1984, when a scientist named Michael Makgrivay developed a “man-machine interface,” the media quickly spread the news to almost all over the world. MMI is still playing an important role in the virtual reality researches (Steinicke et al.).
In the 1990s, the media picked up the concept of the virtual world and convinced all people that this new achievement of science can completely change our view of life. Gradually, many people realized that they were simply cheated, because virtual reality devices were still little developed and could not do what was said in the media, so slowly people’s interest in this sector waned. Today, virtual reality developers do not make loud statements about new features, as it was before, and even try not to use the term “virtual reality.” However, who knows, maybe in the near future, virtual reality, to some extent, will replace our world.
It is necessary to admit, that as I am an artist, it is completely impossible for me not to be found of virtual reality, where everything that you can only imagine could be transformed into almost a reality. I remember my first experience with testing virtual reality. Last Christmas, I was shopping with my girlfriend in BestBuy. I saw a glasses type of console sitting in the display glass at the Samsung section. That was the first time I met Virtual Reality Glass – The Samsung Gear. I asked managers for some information about them. The sales manager told me that it was an old version gear. The new one was going to come out in 2016. I was able to test out how it worked. Before the using of virtual reality, the user must have the current version of Samsung phone to run the console, such as Samsung galaxy S6 and the Samsung Note 5. The cell phone was needed to plug in to the virtual reality glasses. The image was not come from the glass eventually. The users were actually reading image from their phone.
After the device was turn on, the whole world had been changed for me completely. I had a feeling that I had been placed into another wizard and unexplored world. I could not use my hands and head movement to input and select command, because the gear was a trail version. I could only choose to watch a circus show, but it was also amazing. During the show, I felt like walking on the stage with other circus members. I could look around the stage. It did not look like other video games. There was no limitation or wall blocking. I felt free inside that world.
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The price of the Samsung Gear VR was around $99 plus tax. This price was acceptable to most of consumers. However, not all of them are ready to pay even such a small price for getting new experience, connected with virtual reality. According to the public opinion poll, made by Touchstone Research and Greenlight VR, more than 60% of respondents were willing to pay an amount up to $400 for the virtual reality helmet. 31% of them indicated a price from $200 to $399. Only 11% were willing to pay for a whole set of more than $1,000. Unexpected and disappointing is the fact that more than 50% of the interviewed people are afraid to experiment with virtual reality. 23% are worried about their health, 11% are afraid that they will lose touch with reality, 5% think that virtual reality is addictive, and 5% are worried that it could be very costly (Terdiman).
However, despite the fact that the biggest part of the potential users of virtual reality are not ready to explore it, experts believe: as once the emergence of the computers and smartphones affect the daily life, so it is going to happen with technology as well as augmented and virtual reality. After all, they allow everyone to manage feelings and physical states, create opportunities for new ways of human communication in the digital world. It remains an open question how soon enthusiasts will be able to convert achievements in scientific discoveries and make the technology more widespread.
Moreover, the leaders of the IT industry are engaged in the promotion of the development and believe in the achievements of the industry. Not long way before, Google Cardboard VR Toolkit and their virtual glasses became an incredibly valuable development. Their distribution is due to the ease of use and a low price, which has been achieved through the use of cardboard instead of plastic or metal.
Samsung Gear VR is a virtual reality helmet, which is used by a number of huge companies. The platform of virtual reality OSVR Hacker Dev Kit was also released. It includes a helmet and open source software. Virtual reality fans are expecting the project from Microsoft called HoloLens, which will make the basis for a number of VR-programs and promising Windows 10 installed on Xbox One. PlayStation will also start working in a virtual reality soon.
Mark Zuckerberg has actively supported the development of the industry of virtual reality. Facebook is constantly expanding the user experience by providing them with the use of games in 3D-format or 360-degree video. The fact that the social network acquired Oculus says the imminent leap in the development of the industry. The future is closer, than we can only expect.
Companies promise the market growth of virtual reality technologies, and, in their assurances, it will begin in 2016. The research company predicts the huge growth rates from $108.8 million to $21.8 billion over the next five years. Specialists research and markets, referring to the volume of the market of virtual reality gadgets, software and services, projected to grow to $15.9 billion by 2020 (Steinicke et al.).
The younger generation is interested to try out the virtual reality technology. Adolescents aged 10-17 years believe that these developments are “cool,” and Google trends shows the positive dynamics of virtual reality requests. According to statistics, Piper Jaffray, YouTube users are spreading rollers on virtual reality twice more likely than the video about the new smartphone. Perhaps, the young generation is ready to accept the fact that virtual reality is the life of the future of humanity. It is not necessary to be afraid of it. Virtual reality has a number of positive properties ranging from video games and ending with medicine.
If to talk about games, virtual reality is a real revolution for them. Finally, a player communication with the fictional world may exist absolutely like the real one. No distance from the monitor to eye, a wholly-owned dive and complete identification with the main character, it really sounds very awesome. There is a problem, if it has to be considered as a problem. For example, the complexity of competitive games using an omni-directional treadmill Omni from Virtuix paired with a person with a good physical preparation; much regrets to lazy players. If virtual reality integrates with the reality, you have to swing your muscles.
One more useful option of the virtual reality is military trainings. For example, virtual simulators for training future pilots and operators of nuclear power plants have been around for a long time. However, with the development of the Oculus Rift headset and related devices, everyone can test themselves in the role of birds, for example.
A flight simulator for the birdly body, designed by Max Reiner, Swiss artist, literally turns people into a bird. You can fly over the city, feeling the breeze of a fan, which pulls virtual plumage. There is nothing complicated about to move out of the bird’s body in a fighter cockpit. Indeed, air and other simulators have long attracted gamers, but everything is completely different in virtual reality.
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Another very useful application of virtual reality glasses in the future will be the design and architecture, along with virtual tours and visiting the most well-known museums all over the world. Wearing glasses, a person can feel himself/herself as a creator, even though resources for his/her creations are almost inexhaustible – virtual. In terms of applications of virtual reality, possibilities are virtually limitless.
Talking about the impact on the future of science, in medicine, for example, virtual operations are essential on virtual patients. For instance, to better prepare for the process itself and to prevent all the possible emergencies. Surgical da Vinci System enables the surgeon with the help of 3D-camera to see everything that happens in the body of a patient and to detect the movements of a surgeon’s hand, transforming them into instruments inside the body. With the application of virtual reality, any operation, experiment or teaching students becomes much easier.
Virtual reality equipment is used for the treatment of phobias, rehabilitation, pain relief and other related perceptions and memories therapies. The most interesting example, to my mind, is a Snow World program, in which patients with severe burns were placed in a virtual reality. In fact, they were walking on snow-covered wonderland and throw virtual snowballs. This therapeutic tool is really taking the pain away. A similar program, called the Spider World, is reducing the level of anxiety when a patient is meeting with spiders for the treatment of arachnophobia. Finally, the virtual environment can be controlled, and this is important.
Of course, the main advantage of virtual reality for nowadays is the ability to create absolutely any world in which you can move freely, socialize and even get some important experience. Industrial Virtual Reality systems are based on the same components that are used in the entertainment industry, but demanding to detail. Moreover, they are supplemented by such peripherals as sensory gloves that allow both to touch the objects found in the virtual space, and manipulate them to take over.
Sometimes, special vests, causing sensations, are also used directly to the user’s body when it interacts with the objects of cyber-space. With the help of complex software, the user can design a new home and then walk inside to make sure all stairs, furniture, and equipment are on the right place and are positioned exactly as a person likes. Seeing the disorder, he/she can rearrange everything on his/her own taste, in the virtual space; or, design a new car, get into the virtual cockpit, rotate the steering wheel and press the pedal, by checking in the project.
There is no doubt that in the nearest future, it will be possible to create your own world not leaving the house, turn on the shores of the warm sea, but not alone, but with the network friend. Acting on our nerves, electrical impulses can cause certain sensations: shoot or exacerbate pain, to create the illusion of motion, pressure, etc. The properties of virtual reality in the future may well be used for the training of our mental faculties.
The perfect system of virtual reality will be able thanks to the special sensors and simulators, built-in helmet and costumes of virtual reality, which will be able to control our feelings. These feelings are complemented with highly stereoscopic graphics. They only create the illusion of a perfect world. The prospects of virtual reality using are endless. For example, a person could create a larger model of the atom, to see how it looks like in the real life. One can cite many examples of the application of virtual reality, but not everything goes as smoothly as we would like.
Until now, it has not managed to create a cheap and efficient system for the use of virtual reality yet. According to the design of the VR headwear today, they are big and heavy. They are not friendly to people who are wearing glasses. VR glasses are not like other 3D glasses which are used at home or movie theaters. The gear has to cover the entire surround area of the users’ eyes. People will have to take off their nearside glasses, so that they can put the head gear on to their head. It is not very comfortable and convenient for some of the users.
On the other hand, VR headgears are not suitable for long-term wear. Although many manufactures put their efforts on improving the comfort of the equipment, people will easily get sweat and tired after they use the item for a while. For video game, it tends to only aim for the light gaming experience type of gameplay instead of long term gameplay. It is very easy for gamers to get bore with it. For TV users, there are not many programs seem to work for long term watch like TV shows and dramas. Customers may not be willing to buy VR consoles in purpose of watching TV.
Moreover, VR headgear’s video quality is not good enough. Playstation 4 console is a strong hardware for video gaming. The graphic quality is very high. However, according to some gamers’ feedbacks for testing first person shooter game with Sony VR, many games lowered their graphic to suit the VR gear. Also the frame rate of the display from the headgear will drop while the character is acting with fast movements.
In addition to technical shortcomings, there are other factors affecting the spread of virtual reality systems. Thus, there is still not clear with the influence of virtual reality equipment on the health system, in particular, on vision. Eyes become tired very quickly, eye muscles get weakened, resulting in rapid deterioration of the vision. In addition, the most opponents of virtual reality concerns on the mental problems. The fact is that the human’s mind is extremely affected when a person is focused on something for a long time.
Making a conclusion, on the one hand, everything seems to be good: virtual reality is almost a panacea for all the ills. However, if to think more carefully, it can cause new illnesses such as stress, fatigue, depression, and anything a person wants. It can become an uncontrolled power, a new kind of the weapon, which can lead to unpredicted results.
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All in all, the industry of games is a heavy flywheel which spins to bring virtual reality into the world. Over time, virtual reality will go beyond the gaming. Those people, who are engaged in the creation of three-dimensional games today, will be engaged in the architecture, virtual walks, movies, and other important things.
What’s next? The world around us is filled with interactive elements, tooltips, and advertising, intrusive pop-up on every corner. Whether a person is walking in a helmet, glasses or lenses, the main interface, the human eye, will remain unchanged.
However, if to imagine that the only pushing on a button can change everything a person sees still sounds attractive. In fact, it would be interesting if all that we see can be changed as by magic. Palmer Lucky, the creator of Oculus Rift, wants to make virtual reality an everyday product, without which life cannot be imagined. It looks like a story with a smartphone.
Like it or not, virtual reality comes to us faster than we expected, and the trend promises to shoot more powerful than the aforementioned cinemas in 3D, sanctions or the new iPhone. Gamers, armed inexpensive headsets, will gain a second wind, and for many years to be wasted in a virtual reality. Simpler users will get the chance to experience a racer “Formula 1,” a fighter pilot or the captain of the “Enterprise.” Special prospects are promised in application of virtual reality in medicine and architecture.
Today, computers are no longer just a means of computing. They can offer us a new world. They can create the illusion of being perfect. The ultimate goal of virtual reality is to give the opportunity to feel, see, work, and live in the world, which is nothing more than a perfect imitation.
The simulators for pilots, perhaps, are the best example of a “serious” use of virtual reality systems. However, this is only a hint of what will be a virtual reality system in the future. The imaginary reality can become a drug of the modern world. On the contrary, it can become the most important discovering of the 21th century, if to find the right using for virtual reality.
There are still a lot of questions around virtual reality systems. The humanity must firstly to weigh the “pros” and “cons” before making a final decision to use such a system in the practice or not. Without a doubt, virtual reality is full of wonderful and very useful functions for humankind and its further progress. However, it is also dangerous, because improper using can lead to the mass enslavement of mankind and to the disappearance of the importance and value of true real feelings and desires. Meanwhile, people of all ages play games with the help of virtual reality helmets. Perhaps, in a few years, all communication will be carried out in the virtual world, and it will not be necessary to have to shake the bus to go to the other place, the only needed thing will be a wear helmet or a suit and plunge into the virtual world. Nobody can know for sure whether it is good or bad.