Virtual Reality has come a long way from being first coined by Jaron Lanier in 1987 to the release of Google Cardboard in 2014, it has become more accessible to the masses. From telephones to wearable, gaming to artificial intelligence, virtual reality has evolved tremendously and is evolving further. The promise of virtual reality has always been enormous, so much so as to throw off the shackles of the mundane through a metaphysical transportation to an altered state. Born of technology, virtual reality at its core is an organic experience. Yes, it is man meets machine but what happens is strictly in the mind.
The earliest attempt at virtual reality is surely the 360-degree murals (or panoramic paintings) from the nineteenth century. These paintings were intended to fill the viewer’s entire field of vision, making them feel present at some historical event or scene. In 1838 Charles Wheatstone’s research demonstrated that the brain processes the different two-dimensional images from each eye into a single object of three dimensions. Viewing two side by side stereoscopic images or photos through a stereoscope gave the user a sense of depth and immersion. The later development of the popular View-Master stereoscope (patented 1939), was used for “virtual tourism”. The design principles of the Stereoscope is used today for the popular Google Cardboard and low budget VR head mounted displays for mobile phones.
The process of virtual reality is that, it all has to do with a computer doing its best to trick your brain. A virtual reality headset shows you an image and as soon as you move your head it modifies that image to make it seem like you’re really there. A person using virtual reality equipment is able to “look around” the artificial world, and with high quality VR move about in it and interact with virtual features or items.
The first fifteen years of the 21st century has seen major, rapid advancement in the development of virtual reality. Computer technology, especially small and powerful mobile technologies, have exploded while prices are constantly driven down. The rise of smartphones with high-density displays and 3D graphics capabilities has enabled a generation of lightweight and practical virtual reality devices. The video game industry has continued to drive the development of consumer virtual reality unabated. Depth sensing cameras sensor suites, motion controllers and natural human interfaces are already a part of daily human computing tasks.
Recently companies like Google have released interim virtual reality products such as the Google Cardboard, a DIY headset that uses a smartphone to drive it. Companies like Samsung have taken this concept further with products such as the Gear VR, which is mass produced and contains “smart” features such as touch control.
Total revenue for VR is projected to increase from $5.2 billion in 2016 to over $162 billion in 2020. Software will be a notable revenue source, growing more than 200% year-over-year in 2016. Hardware shipments of VR devices alone will increase from 2.2 million in 2015 to 20 million in 2018. Furthermore, there is an excessively high demand for VR headsets, gaming, and video entertainment platforms.
VR is the magic born from the womb of technology which has tantalizing possibilities and promises for a future bright and smart.