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Virtual Reality?

  • The term “virtual reality” describes a wide variety of techniques and devices.
  • Virtual reality is used to:
    • Simulate an artificial environment.
    • Augment the existing reality.
    • Accomplish some combination of the two.

    Who Uses It?

  • Virtual reality devices and techniques have been indispensable in virtually every field, including:
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Scientific research
    • Architecture
    • Entertainment
    • Psychology
    • Urban planning
    • Resource extraction
    • Archaeology
    • Design


    Example - Medical


    Simulation of medical procedures has allowed surgeons valuable practice and training experience.

    Example – Architecture/Engineering

    Architects, engineers, & urban planners can use virtual reality to examine 3D blueprints, prototype designs, and sometimes "walk through" virtual buildings and structures before they are built in real life.

    (https://blog.digitalcontentproducer.com/briefingroom/ wp-content/uploads/2008/08/2-3d_interface_2d_preview.JPG)


    Example – Networked Communications & Virtual Worlds

    Teleimmersion & virtual worlds, as well as personal “avatars,” have become commonplace as new forms of communication and expression.



    The Technology

  • At the heart of virtual reality is the opportunity to interact with an “artificial” environment (“simulated reality”), usually computer generated.
  • Most current forms of VR devices do this by augmenting the physical senses:
    • Motion tracking
    • Haptic (tactile) technology
    • Stereoscopy
    • Omnidirectional treadmills
    • etc.

    The Philosophy

  • In The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality, professor Michael Heim categorizes seven distinct features of VR:
    • Simulation
    • Interaction
    • Artificiality
    • Immersion
    • Telepresence
    • Full-body immersion
    • Network communication


    Contemporary Technical Apparatuses

  • Today, “virtual reality” is mostly associated with head mounted displays (HMDs) and data periphery (e.g., gloves, remote manipulator handles, body suits, etc.).
  • Also, video game technology and virtual worlds are largely responsible for shaping some of the more academic and professional approaches to the use of VR in developing devices and methods for various modeling purposes.
  • A “virtual artifact” (VA) designates an object, open to manipulation through VR devices , that exists within a virtual space (e.g., user interfaces, three-dimensional blueprints, wireframe models, etc.).
  • Example of Head Mounted Display (HMD)


    Early History

  • The term “virtual reality” is attributed to director and playwright Antonin Artaud, in The Theatre and Its Double (1938).
  • In the 1950s, cinematographer Morton Heilig wrote about an “Experience Theatre,” & in the ‘60s patented the Sensorama, a mechanical device displaying short films combined with sight, smell, touch, and sound augmentation.
  • In 1966, the first flight simulator was introduced
  • In 1968, Ivan Sutherland & Bob Sproull created the first true augmented reality HMD system.
  • Modern History

  • During the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, VR pioneer Jaron Lanier, who founded the Virtual Programming Languages company, popularized the emerging field of virtual reality. It was during this time that computational power was beginning to allow much greater realism in VR capabilities.
  • In 1994, Marc Pesce co-developed the Virtual Reality Markup language (VRML), which has been standardized as a World Wide Web protocol.
  • Currently

  • Virtual reality is an unrecognized part of almost every industrial field. As Jaron Lanier has pointed out in interviews, you cannot buy a car today that wasn’t partially developed through some form of virtual reality.
  • Most major architectural projects, mining operations, aerospace projects, and molecular research projects are realized through virtual reality displays, modeling, and simulations.
  • The future is only limited by the imagination and the advancement of computational power.
  • Print Sources

    Heim, Michael. The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality. Oxford: University Press, 1993.

    Rheingold, Howard. Virtual Reality: The Revolutionary Technology of Computer-Generated Artificial Worlds—and How it Promises to Transform Society. New York: Touchstone, 1991.

    Sirius, R.U. True Mutations: Interviews on the Edge of Science, Technology, and Consciousness. Oakland: Pollinator, 2006.