Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The future for virtual reality: part one

The headset is not a stand alone device: it is powered by your
computer as this technology requires considerable processing
ability. The development kit came with the samples of VR that
I experienced that morning.

Last Sunday, I was having breakfast at a restaurant with my daughter, son in law, and my grandchildren. I often discuss advances in technology with Nigel (my son in law) as he is a "tech guy" and that morning the topic moved to virtual reality. He asked me if I would like to experience the newest development in virtual reality: the latest developer's model for the Oculus Rift Q1. which is planned to be released to the public as a product next year. There was one at his office just a few blocks away from the restaurant.

I really did not need any persuasion as I have been enthusiastic about virtual reality since 1969 when I saw the Rod Steiger movie, The Illustrated Man which was based on a collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury, published in 1951. The story in question was The Veldt.

When we got to Nigel's office, he had me sit in a chair as the motion in the virtual reality samples could cause my body to attempt to compensate and people have actually fallen over because of this effect. This is not to be confused with the motion sickness experienced by the more primitive technology (of the last couple of years!). The Q1 has eliminated that effect which, visually, is seen by the unrealistic curvature you see at certain angles in such technology together with the rainbow effect at the edges of objects at such angles. There was no strange warping nor rainbowed edges in the VR samples I experienced (saw would be the wrong word as the experience involved much more than just sight: my body was convinced that I was really there but, intellectually, I knew I was not. The experience was more like a dream, but far more realistic than any dream I have ever had. It engaged me completely: in one scene, I really wanted to get out of the chair to walk around it, but a split second later I realized that I would be bumping into chairs and desks at Nigel's office. You would really need a big empty room to do that. Such a thing would be great for a basement development, as there would be no need to buy furnishings. Of course, your computer would have to be out of the way, too.

Tomorrow, in part two,  I will take you through the experience and share what I saw, what my body experienced, and the thoughts that came to me during this remarkable event. Parts of it will seem like the description of  dreams or something out of surrealist literature. Subsequent parts will investigate the medium from other viewpoints. In the meantime, explore the links I give and start planning that basement renovation!

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