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Virtual Reality today - not “Matrix level” but far more versatile and useful

Posted: Thu, December 06, 2012 | By: Valkyrie Ice

Alright, it’s been awhile since I’ve covered the subject I started my writing career on, VR, and I thought I’d do a short recap article to see how far things have come. My first 3 part article, found HERE, HERE, and HERE, illustrated quite a few technologies that could be assembled to create a functional, if extremely expensive and limited, VR rig.

I described the technology as being in the Expensive/Doesn’t work very well stage as defined by Ray Kurzweil and predicted that we would have the beginnings of “good enough” VR by the mid to late teens. I define “good enough” VR as full audio visual submersion, with the sense of touch lagging somewhat behind and likely to arrive next decade. This is not “Matrix level” VR, but to be blunt, I see it as far more versatile and useful.

So to start, I’d like to offer up two “holodeck” systems currently being showcased: SBU’s “Reality deck” and a patent application by Microsoft for a projector based “peripheral display”

SBU’s “Reality Deck”

The “Reality Deck” is an expensive 416 display “video wall” driven by a graphics supercomputer. As a proof of concept, it’s impressive, but will never make it out of the research lab. It does however illustrate what will be possible once we’ve advanced technology wise to the point of wall sized trillion pixel displays. Even just 3 years ago, the reality deck would have been hard to implement in real time due to the sheer number of pixels it can display. Microsoft’s proposed design, on the other hand, offers a far cheaper, easier to implement with today’s tech, and potentially far more wide reaching solution. By placing a 360 degree projector in conjunction with a Kinect, Microsoft is proposing to turn any room into a holodeck. It’s not intended to replace the primary monitor, but it could certainly enable such reflexive actions as looking over your shoulder quickly to spot someone coming up behind you. Put it in a small room with no furniture or lights, and just think what playing a game like CoD or Silent Hill could be like.

And, toss in a Wiz-Dish and you have the start of a fully immersive gaming environment for your typical home user. While the Wiz-Dish is not perfect by any means, it does offer a cheap alternative to a omni-directional treadmill. 

However, if you followed the links to my previous articles, you’ll know that in the home VR is the least interesting application. Real World AR overlays and ubiquitous VR access will be where the real action is found. And it’s already starting. 

Google Maps gets a holographic overhaul in Ingress
Google Maps gets a holographic overhaul in Ingress

For example, you can already play a new game called Ingress from Google. It’s the first MMO real world game, and is likely to help push development of Google’s Glass technology.

Additionally, improvements in Wi-fi are making it more and possible to allow massive amounts of data to be trafficked wirelessly. New control software that acts like a traffic cop will enable far more efficient network routing, new sensor devices such as the Leap and the GestIC allowing motion capture and gesture recognition in mobile devices, and the potential use of UAVs like the EASE as “place anywhere” transmission towers for mesh networks, the potential expansion of wireless networks for AR and VR is immense.

So, in conclusion, while we are still not to the stage where “good enough” VR can be said to actually exist, considering the progress made in just 3 years, I’d have to say it’s still right on track for existing by mid to late decade.


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