Here I am, standing at the very summit of Burj Khalifa, the tallest man-made structure in the world. The strong wind ruffles my hair at this astonishing height of 800 metres as I look down at the ant-sized cars and seemingly-tiny buildings of Dubai. As I grip the railing and look downwards, the sheer height gives me goose bumps. As I stare in awe at the incredible sight, a wild thought comes to my mind-how would it feel to surrender myself to gravity from such a great height? If only I could experience it and live to tell the tale! But hey, wait a minute! Isn’t that possible? Yes, very much- Welcome to the world of virtual reality!
Virtual reality is a mind-blowing technology by means of which the user experiences the feeling of being in an environment that is totally different from the one that he is actually in. Imagine if you could actually be spider-man instead of just controlling his movements on your gaming console. All you need is a VR headset and voila, you’re inside the game! Before the advent of virtual reality, books were the only means by which you could travel without moving an inch. Albert Einstein once said, “Logic will get you from A to Z; but imagination will get you everywhere.” The incredible paradox of virtual reality combines logic and imagination to give you an experience that you never imagined even in your wildest dreams.
A brief history of Virtual Reality
It all started in the mid-twentieth century when Ivan Sutherland and his student Bob Sproull created the first virtual reality Head Mounted Display (HMD) system. This primitive device, dubbed as ‘The Sword of Damocles’ owing to its bulky and crude appearance, had to be suspended from the ceiling. Since then, the journey of virtual reality has seen a lot of crests and troughs but with Oculus Rift entering the market it looks like VR technology is finally set to get its due. With the VR technology making waves everywhere, electronic giants rushed to be in the thick of action. Google revealed the ‘Cardboard’- a do-it-yourself mobile virtual reality kit; Samsung released its Gear VR in collaboration with Oculus and Sony unveiled Project Morpheus. After being dormant for so many decades, VR technology witnessed a rebirth when Oculus Rift’s VR headset took the world by storm. Whatever insecurities that the world had regarding this unbelievable phenomenon were wiped out when Facebook bought Oculus in March 2014.
How It Works
A pair of human eyes sees two different images individually which the brain then combines together to give us a realistic three-dimensional image that gives the concept of ‘depth’. The VR headset is connected to a computer which has unique software that generates two images for each of your eyes. The headset consists of a screen and special lenses that focus these images into your eyes in a way similar to that of your normal eyesight. In other words your vision is replaced by the vision of the player in that new environment which ultimately gives you the feeling that you are in a different environment. Literally, it means that you’re in the shoes of the player now. VR takes advantage of the fact that your brain believes in what your eyes see. When motion sensors and high-definition stereo sound join hands with VR, the result is one helluva experience.
Virtual Reality: Is Seeing Believing?
Are you a huge fan of Tomb Raider? Imagine if you could do all those death-defying canyon leaps and racy combats! Man, wouldn’t it be scary and wicked at the same time! If fiddling with your joystick and punching your keyboard no longer appeal to the gamer in you, then behold- the future of gaming is here! Virtual Reality brings you right into the middle of the battlefield. It’s gaming like never before! Gaming giants all over the world are in a frenzy to develop mods that will enable players to switch to VR mode. If you boast about surviving through a horror movie without screaming, then we urge you to take up the VR horror challenge. Imagine being present in a haunted house and actually witnessing an exorcism! All you horror fanatics out there- stop drooling! Fancy a rush of adrenaline? Hop on aboard the virtual reality roller coaster ride! Recently, a boy filmed his dad as he took the Oculus Rift roller coaster ride inside his house. The video shows the father screaming and whooping in exhilaration throughout the ride. For first time users, the Oculus Rift could be quite a thrilling experience. The commercial version of the VR headset by Oculus is rumoured to be launched next year and we just can’t wait!
VR for Training
Gaming and entertainment aren’t the only areas where virtual reality makes a difference. Virtual reality is used to create real-life immersive environments for military combat training using omnidirectional treadmills that allow soldiers to move in different directions and plan out a strategy for D-day. Pilots may also be trained using VR by enclosing them in a module which tilts and turns according to the pilot’s input. Medical researchers and surgeons can also be trained through VR to carry out complex medical procedures.
Get ready to get teleported!
Could you be in an office in Los Angeles and feel like you’re actually on the heavenly beaches of Hawaii? Yes! The future of travel is here! Say hello to ‘Teleporter’- a virtual reality experience by Mariott Hotels that is here to change our perception of travel! The Teleporter is a phone booth-like structure much similar to those appearing in popular sci-fi movies and novels. This ground breaking technology can literally take you anywhere without moving an inch!
2014 has indeed been a momentous year for virtual reality! The future is certainly going to be interesting. Who knows, we might well be able to apparate and disapparate like all those Harry Potter characters, thanks to the magical antithesis called virtual reality!