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For a next generation
Guided By:B. B. Prajapati Department of IT
Prepared By: Gajera Jimesh G. (6020)
Shantilal Shah Engineering College, Bhavnagar.
This is to certify that Roll th no. of B.E Semester 8 I.T Class, has satisfactorily completed his Term work of the subject during the academic year 2010 and submitted on ________
Staff In Charge Department
Certified that this term work is accepted and assessed on _________
Virtual Reality (VR) has been claimed to provide a particularly facilitatory environment for people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in that it offers structure, opportunities for repetition, affective engagement and, control of the learning environment. Virtual reality shares the advantages of computer-based learning, and has the additional advantage of making it more likely that the results will generalise to real-word settings, in that it is a simulation of them. For concept development and imagination training, VR offers its exclusive advantage of making it possible to explicitly show imaginary/magic transformations of how an object can act as if it were a different one, which is useful for training in both abstract concepts and imagination understanding. This paper reviews the relevant issues that need to be addressed when designing and experimentally assessing a tool for this purpose, and concludes with the results of the more relevant research outcomes obtained in this field.
NO. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
CHAPTER Introduction Concept of Virtual Reality History Types of VR Virtual Reality Environment How Virtual Reality Works Applications of Virtual Reality Future Impact of Virtual Reality Drawback of Virtual Reality Conclusion Bibliography
PAGE NO. 5 13 14 19 26 29 32 47 54 64 68 69
What is Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-simulated environment, whether that environment is a simulation of the real world or an imaginary world. Most current virtual reality environments are primarily visual experiences, displayed either on a screener through special or stereoscopic displays, but some simulations include additional sensory information, such as sound through speakers or headphones.
Some advanced, hectic systems now include tactile information, generally known as force feedback, in medical and gaming applications. Users can interact with a virtual environment or a virtual artifact (VA) either through the use of standard input devices such as a keyboard and mouse, or through multimodal devices such as a wired glove, the Polhemus boom arm, and omni directional treadmill. The simulated environment can be similar to the real world, for example, simulations for pilot or combat training, or it can differ
significantly from reality, as in VR games. In practice, it is currently very difficult to create a high-fidelity virtual reality experience, due largely to technical limitations on processing power, image resolution and communication bandwidth. However, those limitations are expected to eventually be overcome as processor, imaging and data communication technologies become more powerful and costeffective over time. Virtual Reality is often used to describe a wide variety of applications, commonly associated with its immersive, highly visual, 3D environments. The development of CAD software, graphics hardware acceleration, head mounted displays, database gloves and miniaturization have helped popularize the notion. In the book The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality, Michael R. Heim identifies seven different concepts of Virtual Reality: simulation, interaction, artificiality, immersion, telepresence, full-body immersion, and network communication. The definition still has a certain futuristic romanticism attached. People often identify VR with Head Mounted Displays and Data Suits. Virtual Reality (VR) is stimulating the user’s senses in such a way that a computer generated world is experienced as real. In order to get a true illusion of reality, it is essential for the user to have influence on this virtual environment.
Interaction with a virtual environment All that has to be done in order to raise the illusion of being in or acting upon a virtual world or virtual environment, is providing a simulation of the interaction between human being and this real environment. This simulation is -at least- partly attained by means of Virtual Reality interfaces connected to a computer. Basically, a VR interface stimulates one of the human senses. This has not necessarily got to
be as complex as it sounds, e.g. a PC-monitor stimulates the visual sense; a headphone stimulates the auditory sense. Consequently, these two kinds of interfaces are widely employed as Virtual Reality interfaces.
A haptic interface (FCS HapticMaster)
With the gustatory and olfactory sense left out of consideration, the hardest part of simulating the interaction between human being and real environment is stimulating the tactile sense and the proprioceptive system (kinesthetic sense). This can be done using a so-called haptic interface. This is a device configured to provide haptic information to a human. Just as a video interface allows the user to see a computer generated scene, a haptic interface permits the user to “feel” it. Haptic displays generate forces and motions, which are sensed through both touch and kinesthesia.
On-body interface (Exoskeleton)
Off-body interface (Phantom Desktop)
Currently, there are two main kinds of haptic interfaces, namely the off-body interface and the on-body interface. The main difference is that the mass of the onbody interface is supported by the operator while the off-body interface rests on the floor. Nowadays, most commercially available devices are off-body.
The VR-lab Virtual Reality technology can be usefully applied to a broad range of fields. Within the Virtual Reality laboratory (VR-lab), the emphasis is mainly on two different application areas: - Virtual Reality as an engineering tool; - Virtual Reality as a medical training tool.
Virtual Reality as an engineering tool In times of shortened product life cycles and increased product complexity, more responsibility comes with designing a product. Research shows that about 80% of development costs and 70% of life cycle costs of a product are determined during the conceptual phase of this process. This has led to the development of Computer Aided Design (CAD) systems that enable the designer to evaluate the geometry of his virtual design. At this stage of the design process, modifications are still quite cheap, compared with changes to a physical prototype or, even worse, the final product. Geometric based design has reached a high level of maturity and affordability. Many companies use it to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the design process. However, for evaluation of a design, the development of physical prototypes still is necessary. This can be a very much time-consuming and expensive process. Therefore, the designer should be able to define and test the desired behaviour of a forthcoming product in such a way that the corresponding geometry is created automatically by means of a CAD system. In order to come to this ideal situation, it should be made possible for the designer to interact with a virtual prototype as he would do with a physical one.
A Virtual Prototyping environment for gearboxes The answer to more interactive CAD environments is found in the application of Virtual Reality (VR) technology. It allows for interaction with a virtual environment through multiple sensory channels. When VR technology is applied instead of or as a supplement to development of physical prototypes, it is called Virtual Prototyping (VP). This is the process of using a virtual prototype, in lieu of a physical prototype, for test and evaluation of specific characteristics of a candidate design. A virtual prototype can be defined as a computer-based simulation of a system or subsystem with a degree of functional realism comparable to a physical prototype.
A Virtual Assembly environment
A specific part of Virtual Prototyping is Virtual Assembly (VA). Usually, during the design process, the assembly of a conceptual product is already taken into account. Therefore, a detailed assembly procedure has to be developed without the actual components present. In order to track down the potentially critical operations and geometric conflicts during assembly, physical prototypes are employed. Those physical prototypes have a number of drawbacks, e.g. costly and time-consuming manufacturing, invariability in case of CAD model modifications and immovability caused by mass or extensions. A solution to these problems lies in the application of Virtual Assembly. By utilizing VR technology, various assembly operations can be simulated. This way, not only potentially critical operations and geometric conflicts during assembly can be detected, but also a training tool for shop floor workers is provided.
Virtual Reality as a medical training tool Patients nowadays expect the best treatment possible. The common way for a surgeon student to acquire experience is by “on the fly” learning from an experienced surgeon. This way of teaching has besides many good points some drawbacks. Patients are needed for these educational purposes. These operations take more time thus expensive extra operating-room time is used. The quality depends highly on the educational skills of the experienced doctor.
Simulation of surgical incision
The aim of using Virtual Reality as a medical training tool is to offer additional means to teach surgeon student. The goal is to halve the “on the fly” learning in the operating room with real patients and to improve the quality of the medical treatment. Within a virtual operating room the student will be able to practice the technical skills, the procedures and the theoretical background of operations and diseases. Currently the main research attention is paid to the development of this virtual operating room. With two haptic devices, a 3D vision, a 3D model system and an assessment program an environment will be created in which surgeon students can improve and test their operating skills.
2. CONCEPT OF VIRTUAL REALITY
The term "artificial reality", coined by Myron Krueger, has been in use since the 1970s, but the origin of the term "virtual reality" can be traced back to the French playwright, poet, actor and director Antonin Artaud. In his seminal book The Theatre and Its Double (1938), Artaud described theatre as "la réalite virtuelle", a virtual reality "in which characters, objects, and images take on the phantasmagoric force of alchemy's visionary internal dramas". It has been used in The Judas Mandala, a 1982 science-fiction novel by Damien Broderick, where the context of use is somewhat different from that defined above. The earliest use cited by the Oxford English Dictionary is in a 1987 article titled "Virtual reality", but the article is not about VR technology. The concept of virtual reality was popularized in mass media by movies such as Brainstorm (filmed mostly in 1981) and The Lawnmower Man (plus others mentioned below). The VR research boom of the 1990s was accompanied by the non-fiction book Virtual Reality (1991) by Howard Rheingold. The book served to
demystify the subject, making it more accessible to less technical researchers and enthusiasts, with an impact similar to that which his book The Virtual Community had on virtual community research lines closely related to VR. Multimedia: from Wagner to Virtual Reality, edited by Randall Packer and Ken Jordan and first published in 2001, explores the term and its history from an avant-garde perspective. Philosophical implications of the concept of VR are systematically discussed in the book Get Real: A Philosophical Adventure in Virtual Reality (1998) by Philip Zhai, wherein the idea of VR is pushed to its logical extreme and ultimate possibility. According to Zhai, virtual reality could be made to have an ontological status equal to that of actual reality.
and realism, and the HMD to be worn by the user was so heavy it had to be suspended from the ceiling, and the graphics comprising the virtual environment were simple wireframe model rooms. The formidable appearance of the device inspired its name, The Sword of Damocles. Also notable among the earlier hypermedia and virtual reality systems was the Aspen Movie Map, which was created at MIT in 1977. The program was a crude virtual simulation of Aspen, Colorado in which users could wander the streets in one of three modes: summer, winter, and polygons. The first two were based on photographs — the researchers actually photographed every possible movement through the city's street grid in both seasons — and the third was a basic 3-D model of the city. In the late 1980s the term "virtual reality" was popularized by Jaron Lanier, one of the modern pioneers of the field. Lanier had founded the company VPL Research (from "Visual Programming Languages") in 1985, which developed and built some of the seminal "goggles and gloves" systems of that decade. The creation of virtual reality has been slow going, arduous and, up until the mid-‘90s, largely theoretical in nature. In 1965 Ivan Sutherland, an ARPA scientist, published his grand oeuvre “The Ultimate Display.” In his essay Sutherland predicted all sorts of advances in computer technology: computer mice, drag and drop interfaces and voice recognition software. But most importantly, he wrote about the ultimate display—“a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter.” Sutherland’s essay might have been full of fanciful speculations about the future of digital technology, but his wild (and shockingly accurate) predictions helped plant the seed of VR in the minds of scientists and non-scientists to follow. In 1968 with the help of one of his assistants, Sutherland created one of the first head mounted augmented reality display systems—what would come to be known through movies and TV as a VR helmet—known to some as The Sword of Damocles because it was so big and heavy that it had to be suspended precariously over the user’s head with a series of cables. The display only showed the users crude outlines of a virtual environment. Despite the technology’s scientific beginnings, however, VR made its first major strides in fiction. The movie TRON had people imagining the possibilities of interactive gaming to the Nth degree. William Gibson rocked the minds of a
generation when he wrote of a cyber-punk society where a brain-computer interface was possible in Neuromancer. Ray Bradbury took the concept of a VR room to its most horrific extreme in The Veldt. And while VR charged ahead in the realm of fiction, in the field of science it scrambled to keep up. The first major technical leap forward came in the mid-‘70s in the form of Myron Krueger’s VIDEOPLACE. Using cameras, computers and projectors, people in a VR room were able to see and interact with silhouettes of people in other similar rooms. Compared to the advances that writers and directors of the time were coming up with, VIDEOPLACE was crude, but Krueger’s experiments showed that science was at least trying to move forward with VR. So, Virtual reality had bounded forward in one of the five senses—sight— but that left the other four to conquer. Soon scientists were trying to combine systems like VIDEOPLACE with data gloves and tactile interfaces. The leader in this field was Jaron Lanier. In fact, he popularized the term virtual reality. In 1985 Lanier founded a company called VPL Research and began experimenting with all sorts of goggle and glove set ups. Initially, the video game market, captivated by the possibilities of VR, tried to cash in on the early advancements. Who could forget that seminal scene in the classic movie Wizard where the badass townie unlocks a Nintendo power glove from a carrying case and proceeds to school all those who dare come up against him? Or the phase in the mid-‘90s where you could stand on a giant platform, put on a ridiculously large helmet and box a 16-bit opponent with Nintendo Wii-like controllers? But all of these attempts to game with VR would quickly fade away—most in less than a year. The tech was too expensive, the equipment was too bulky and the graphics and game play offered weren’t up to par. So, gaming companies quickly cut their losses and left VR to the scientists and the artists, and they had a field day. Since the late ‘80s virtual reality has been popping up everywhere in movies and TV. The Lawnmower man, VR5, Virtuosity, eXistenZ, and most famously The Matrix imagined worlds where the goggles and gloves were obsolete; it was all about beaming the information directly into the user’s brain.
Science too kept pursuing the elusive brass ring of VR, but direct to brain transmission was and is still a little invasive for the scientific community (However, this didn’t stop Sony from patenting the idea that information could someday be beamed into a human’s brain earlier this year). Instead, they concentrated on better, less intrusive helmets, more efficient interfaces and more realistic 3D modeling. Virtual Reality in… Reality This brings us to today. Current VR technology, while more impressive than anything we’ve had before, still falls short of what we imagined it could be. Most systems can only manage to immerse two senses at a time: The VR systems that therapists use to help treat client phobias or PTSD use helmets or small rooms to simulate sights and sounds; The Nintendo Wii allows people to physically interact with a virtual opponent. But science is getting tired of this plateau it’s been stuck on. In the last few years, researchers in the field of VR have been stretching themselves to hit more of the five senses. One of the biggest innovations in VR came earlier this year. Sight and sound have always been the go-to senses for virtual reality researchers, but few have ventured into the realm of taste and smell. In March 2009 a team of scientists from the Universities of York and Warwick in the U.K. revealed what they saw as a giant leap forward in VR tech, the Virtual Cocoon. The cocoon not only simulates the looks and sounds of a 3D environment on the inside of a portable helmet, it also has a library of smells and tastes it can feed to the user to correspond to the world they are experiencing.
Which just leaves one last aspect of creating a truly immersive virtual reality system–the ever elusive locomotion? You can create life-like graphics and simulate realistic sounds, you can feed them tastes and smells, but as soon as your test subject takes their first step to explore your virtual world, you’re in trouble, and a virtual world the size of your living room just doesn’t do it for most people. To get around this problem, a company called Cyberwalk has started work on an omni-directional treadmill they call the CyberCarpet. This would allow people to walk in any direction for as long as they want without hitting a wall or walking into traffic. When combined with something like the Virtual Cocoon, we’re the closest we’ve ever been to escaping this troublesome world in favour of an ideal one of our own making. We may have waited a long time, and the technology might be in its infancy, but we may have our VR rooms and Holodecks sooner that we think.
4. MAIN TYPES OF VR
(Classified by display technology)
Although it is difficult to categorise all VR systems, most configurations fall into three main categories and each category can be ranked by the sense of immersion, or degree of presence it provides. Immersion or presence can be regarded as how powerfully the attention of the user is focused on the task in hand. Immersion presence is generally believed to be the product of several parameters
including level of interactivity, image complexity, stereoscopic view, field of regard and the update rate of the display. For example, providing a stereoscopic rather than monoscopic view of the virtual environment will increase the sense of immersion experienced by the user. It must be stressed that no one parameter is effective in isolation and the level of immersion achieved is due to the complex interaction of the many factors involved. As will be shown in this report, the type of VR system being used an important consideration when one investigates the genesis of sickness symptoms and the type of symptoms that may develop.
Non-Immersive (Desktop) Systems Non-immersive systems, as the name suggests, are the least immersive implementation of VR techniques. Using the desktop system, the virtual environment is viewed through a portal or window by utilising a standard high resolution monitor. Interaction with the virtual environment can occur by conventional means such as keyboards, mice and trackballs or may be enhanced by using 3D interaction devices such as a SpaceBallä; or DataGloveä; . The non-immersive system has advantages in that they do not require the highest level of graphics performance, no special hardware and can be implemented on high specification PC clones. This means that these systems can be regarded as the lowest cost VR solution which can be used for many applications. However, this low cost means that these systems will always be outperformed by more sophisticated implementations, provide almost no sense of immersion and are limited to a certain extent by current 2D interaction devices. Additionally, these systems are of little use where the perception of scale is an important factor. However, one would expect to see an increase in the popularity of such systems for VR use in the near future. This is due to the fact that Virtual Reality Modelling Reality Language (VRML) is expected to be adopted as a de-facto standard for the transfer of 3D model data and virtual worlds via the internet. The advantage of VRML for the PC desktop user is that this software runs relatively well on a PC, which is not always the case for many proprietary VR authoring tools. Furthermore, many commercial VR software suppliers are now incorporating VRML capability into their software and exploring the commercial possibilities of desktop VR in general.
Semi-Immersive Projection Systems Semi-immersive systems are a relatively new implementation of VR technology and borrow considerably from technologies developed in the flight simulation field. A semi-immersive system will comprise of a relatively high performance graphics computing system which can be coupled with either:
• • •
A large screen monitor A large screen projector system Multiple television projection systems
In many ways, these projection systems are similar to the IMAX theatres discussed in section 1.1. Using a wide field of view, these systems increase the feeling of immersion or presence experienced by the user. However, the quality of the projected image is an important consideration. It is important to calibrate the geometry of the projected image to the shape of the screen to prevent distortions and the resolution will determine the quality of textures, colours, the ability of define shapes and the ability of the user to read text on-screen. The resolutions of projection systems range from 1000 - 3000 lines but to achieve the highest levels it may be necessary to use multiple projection systems which are more expensive. Semi-immersive systems therefore provide a greater sense of presence than non-immersive systems and also a greater appreciation of scale. In addition, images can be provided that are of a far greater resolution than HMDs and this implementation provides the ability to share the virtual experience. This may have a considerable benefit in educational applications as it allows simultaneous experience of the VE which is not available with head-mounted immersive systems. Additionally, stereographic imaging can be achieved, using some type of shuttered glasses in synchronisation with the graphics system.
Shutter Glasses Liquid Crystal Shutter (LCS) glasses are an important technology when considering semi-immersive systems and consist of a lightweight headset with a
liquid crystal lens placed over each eye. Stereopsis works on the principle that in order to perceive depth in a scene, the observer must see slightly different images of the scene under regard in each eye. In the real world this occurs because the two eyes are placed slightly apart in the head, and so each eye views the scene from a slightly different position. The graphics computer used displays slightly different left and right views (known as a stereo pair) of the virtual environment sequentially on the display system. To achieve the stereoscopic effect, the glasses either pass or block an image that is produced on the VDU or projected display. When the left image is displayed, the left eye lens is switched on, allowing the viewer’s left eye to see the screen. The right eye lens, however, remains off, thus blocking the right eyes view. When the right image is displayed, the opposite occurs. This switching between images occurs so rapidly that it is undetectable by the user, who fuses the two images in the brain to see one constant 3D image.
Picture courtesy of Loughborough University Advanced VR Research Centre Figure 1. A semi-immersive wide-screen projection system in use with shutter glasses. Examples of this product commercially available include CrystalEyes Shutter Glasses and the 3D Max Shutter Glasses System.
Again however, the increased performance of this VR implementation comes at a cost. Setting up a projection screen system is far more difficult than a desktop system and is considerably more expensive. Additionally, there are problems with current interaction devices for these systems. Firstly, one must consider carefully the applications that such a system may be used for. For a flight simulation system it is possible to simply used an inceptor (joystick) which can be interpreted by the aircraft model as the flight control input. This is acceptable as the simulator is not used for any other applications but becomes problematical when one considers that a semi-immersive installation may have multifarious uses that may require different interaction strategies. Secondly, one must consider multi-user issues, as this is one of the main advantages of these systems. The handover of control between users is one of the issues that must be considered as this technology develops.
Fully Immersive Head-Mounted Display Systems The most direct experience of virtual environments is provided by fully immersive VR systems. These systems are probably the most widely known VR implementation where the user either wears an HMD or uses some form of headcoupled display such as a Binocular Omni-Orientation Monitor or BOOM (Bolas, 1994).
Head Mounted Displays (HMDs) An HMD uses small monitors placed in front of each eye which can provide stereo, bi-ocular or monocular images. Stereo images are provided in a similar way to shutter glasses, in that a slightly different image is presented to each eye. The major difference is that the two screens are placed very close (50-70mm) to the eye, although the image, which the wearer focuses on, will be much further away because of the HMD optical system. Bi-ocular images can be provided by displaying identical images on each screen and monocular images by using only one display screen. The most commonly used displays are small Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) panels but more expensive HMDs use Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT) which increase the resolution of the image. The HMD design may partially or fully exclude the users view of the real world and enhances the field of view of the computer
generated world. The advantage of this method is that the user is provided with a 360°; field of regard meaning that the user will receive a visual image if they turn their head to look in ANY direction. All fully immersive systems will give a sense of presence that cannot be equalled by the other approaches discussed earlier, but the sense of immersion depends of several parameters including the field of view of the HMD, the resolution, the update rate, and contrast and illumination of the display.
Image courtesy of VISERG, Loughborough University Figure 2. The major components of an HMD. This illustration shows the two screens capable of producing stereo images and speakers located to provide stereo sound. Fully immersive VR systems tend to be the most demanding in terms of the computing power and level of technology (and consequently cost!) required to achieve a satisfactory level of realism and development is constantly underway to improve the technologies. Major areas of research and development include field of view vs resolution trade-offs, reducing the size and weight of HMDs and reducing system lag times.
Comparison between VR Implementations
Kalawsky (1996) provides a good comparison between the various VR implementations (see Table 2.1). It is also important that these implementations are not regarded as distinct boundaries for implementations. For example, it is possible to turn a desktop system into a semi-immersive system by simply adding shutter glasses and the appropriate software, or a fully immersive system by connecting an HMD. Table 2.1 Qualitative performance of different VR systems (adapted from Kalawsky, 1996) Qualitative Performance Main Features Non- Immersive SemiVR Immersive VR (Desktop) (Projection) Full Immersive VR (Headcoupled) Low - Medium High
Resolution Scale (perception) Sense situational awareness (navigation skills) Field of regard Lag
High Medium - High
High Medium - High
of None - low
Medium - High
Medium - High
5. VIRTUAL REALITY ENVIRONMENT
Other sensory output from the VE system should adjust in real time as a user explores the environment. If the environment incorporates 3-D sound, the user must be convinced that the sound’s orientation shifts in a natural way as he maneuvers through the environment. Sensory stimulation must be consistent if a user is to feel immersed within a VE. If the VE shows a perfectly still scene, you wouldn’t expect to feel gale-force winds. Likewise, if the VE puts you in the middle of a hurricane, you wouldn’t expect to feel a gentle breeze or detect the scent of roses. Lag time between when a user acts and when the virtual environment reflects that action is called latency. Latency usually refers to the delay between the time a user turns his head or moves his eyes and the change in the point of view, though the term can also be used for a lag in other sensory outputs. Studies with flight simulators show that humans can detect a latency of more than 50 milliseconds. When a user detects latency, it causes him to become aware of being in an artificial environment and destroys the sense of immersion. An immersive experience suffers if a user becomes aware of the real world around him. Truly immersive experiences make the user forget his real surroundings, effectively causing the computer to become a non entity. In order to reach the goal of true immersion, developers have to come up with input methods that are more natural for users. As long as a user is aware of the interaction device, he is not truly immersed. USING an inventive new method in which mice run through a virtual reality environment based on the video game Quake, researchers from Princeton University have made the first direct measurements of the cellular activity associated with spatial navigation. The method will allow for investigations of the neural circuitry underlying navigation, and should lead to a better understanding of how spatial information is encoded at the cellular level.
In mice, spatial navigation involves at least four different cell types located in the hippocampus and surrounding regions. Place cells increase their activity when the animal is in a specific location within its environment, called the place field. Grid cells, by contrast, fire periodically as the animal traverses a space; each has a unique periodicity, and apparently measures out the space using its own scale. Head direction cells, as their name implies, fire when the animal is facing a particular direction and border cells, which were identified only last year, encode the animal's distance from the borders within its environment. Place cells were discovered almost 40 years ago and are the most extensively studied of these cell types. Their activity is typically recorded using small arrays of microelectrodes implanted within the hippocampus of a freely moving rodent. The arrays can remain in place for days or weeks, during which time they can be used to monitor changes in place cell firing rates, and how the acitivty of cells is related to the animal's movements within its environment. They record from afar, because the animal's movements prevent them from coming into, and maintaining, close contact with the cells.
In the ingenious set-up devised by members of David Tank's laboratory, the mice were restrained, and ran on a spherical treadmill supported by a jet of air. Information about the rotation of the treadmill was used to control the animals' movements along a computer-generated track which was projected onto a surrounding screen.
In this virtual environment, the place cells behaved as expected. All the cells from which recordings were made generated short, regular bursts of nervous impulses, separated by intervals of about one tenth of a second,. This produced a low level of background activity called the theta oscillation, which has a frequency of 6-10 cycles per second, and which is characteristic of the hippocampus. The actvity of individual place cells was modulated by location. As the animal entered a given place field, the corresponding place cell increased its firing rate almost five-fold, to generate a rhythmic discharge with a higher frequency than the background. Because the animals were stationary, the electrodes could be used to record directly from the place cells, enabling the researchers to measure their dynamical electrical properties. This revealed how their firing rate increases: as the mouse approached a place field, the corresponding cell would ramp up its resting membrane voltage. This would cause the cell to increase the frequency of its impulses while the mouse ran through the field. When the animal emerged from the other side of the field, the membrane voltage would go back down to its normal level, and the frequency of impulses would decrease again. The background activity of single cells was also found to increase while the animal was in the appropriate location. These findings are consistent with the predictions of a model which states that place cell activity is modulated by interactions between two separate oscillating inputs. The data do not exclude other possibilities, however, and the availablity of this virtual reality system will enable researchers to study the activity of place cells in greater detail, because it offers researchers the ability to design highly customized environments, and can be used in combination with other techniques such as two-photon laser scanning microscopy.
6. HOW VIRTUAL REALITY WORKS
What do you think of when you hear the words virtual reality (VR)? Do you imagine someone wearing a clunky helmet attached to a computer with a thick cable? Do visions of crudely rendered pterodactyls haunt you? Do you think of Neo and Morpheus traipsing about the Matrix? Or do you wince at the term, wishing it would just go away? If the last applies to you, you're likely a computer scientist or engineer, many of whom now avoid the words virtual reality even while they work on technologies most of us associate with VR. Today, you're more likely to hear someone use the words virtual environment (VE) to refer to what the public knows as virtual reality.
Fig: A virtual reality CAVE display projecting images onto the floor, walls and ceiling to provide full immersion.
Naming discrepancies aside, the concept remains the same - using computer technology to create a simulated, three-dimensional world that a user can manipulate and explore while feeling as if he were in that world. Scientists, theorists and engineers have designed dozens of devices and applications to achieve this goal. Opinions differ on what exactly constitutes a true VR experience, but in general it should include: Three-dimensional images that appear to be life-sized from the perspective of the user • The ability to track a user's motions, particularly his head and eye movements, and correspondingly adjust the images on the user's display to reflect the change in perspective.
Have you ever wondered how does virtual reality work? Well, you are not alone. Virtual reality is overtaking the real world and you cannot help but come into contact with virtual environments. What is a virtual environment? A virtual reality space is said to exist when a 3D computer generated world has been created. This world must allow users to interact with the environment and each other and leave the user with the feeling that he is actually in the virtual environment. Universities and schools use virtual reality to interact with students. Businesses use virtual reality to communicate and to advertise. Online gaming uses virtual reality to create realistic gaming scenarios. The uses of virtual reality are endless. For an experience to qualify as a virtual reality experience it must both immerse you in the virtual world and allow you to interact with the environment and others in the environment. The combination of immersion and the ability to interact is known as telepresence. If either of these qualities is missing you will not have a true virtual experience. How Does Virtual Reality Work? Dive Right In! To understand how virtual reality works you must understand the concept of immersion. Immersion allows users to feel as if they exist within the virtual world.
In order for a user to feel he is in a virtual world the world must appear to be a regular sized world where perspectives and movement can be achieved effortlessly. Immersion includes such concepts as sight and sound. A user must be able to see in the virtual world as he does in the real world. If looking at a tree the user must be able to walk around the tree and view it from many perspectives. Sound is a major component of how virtual reality works. In the real world sounds are heard in different volumes, pitches, and tones depending on where you are and how you are moving. A virtual world must recreate this experience. If a user becomes aware of the real world environment the virtual world has failed. The goal of immersion is for the virtual world to mimic the real world to the point that a user will be “lost” in the virtual environment and forget he is using a computer or that the real world exists. How Does Virtual Reality Work? With Inter-Action The second component of a virtual world, and a driving force behind how a virtual world works, is interaction. Users in the virtual world must be able to interact with other users and the virtual environment. Interaction with others in virtual worlds can be accomplished via text or speech. A keyboard will allow users to communicate with other users in text format. Microphones and headsets let users communicate using speech. Interaction with the environment means that the user has the ability to move objects in his environment. The virtual user can move in the virtual environment and do many things he would in the real world. As with immersion, interaction must be seamless. There should be no lag time between your real life movements, (or speech), and the corresponding actions in the virtual world. Lag time will cause the virtual experience to be limited. Understanding how virtual reality works will make your life easier. Many virtual reality programs are currently being created to make users’ daily lives more pleasant. Once you understand how virtual reality works you can dive into the virtual world.
7. APPLICATIONS OF VIRTUAL REALITY
VIRTUAL REALITY IS WELL KNOWN for its use with flight simulators and games. However, these are only two of the many ways virtual reality is being used today. This article will summarize how virtual reality is used in medicine, architecture, weather simulation, chemistry and the visualization of voxel data. In addition, links to web pages where other uses of virtual reality are detailed are included at the end of this article. Medicine Mark Billinghurst, at the Hit Lab in Washington, has developed a prototype surgical assistant for simulation of paranasal surgery. During a simulated operation the system provides vocal and visual feedback to the user, and warns the surgeon when a dangerous action is about to take place. In addition to training, the expert assistant can be used during the actual operation to provide feedback and guidance. This is very useful when the surgeon's awareness of the situation is limited due to complex anatamoy. Finally, Billinghurst and his associates are working at developing a toolkit for physicians which will help them create their own expert assistants for other types of surgery. Architecture The department of visualization and virtual reality at the IGD University in Germany has developed a program that uses radiosity and raytracing to simulate light. This virtual reality program has applications in the area of architecture and light engineering. With light simulation architects can examine how outdoor light will fall inside and outside their building before it is built. If the lighting needs to be redesigned, the architect can redesign the building on the computer and examine the new outdoor light effects.
In addition to outdoor light, lighting engineers use virtual reality to examine the effects of point lights, spotlights and other indoor light sources. An interior designer could examine how light will affect different room arrangements. Weather Simulation Fraunhaufer-IGD has developed a visualization system for weather forecasting called "TriVis". TriVis accepts data from meteorological services such as satellite data, statistically corrected forecast data, precipitation data and fronts information. It then analyzes this data and uses fractal functions to create projections of storm systems. Using TriVis to visualize artificial clouds, meteorologists can predict weather with increased accuracy. The data gathered and analyzed by the TriVis system is used by television weather reporters to show their audiences storm systems. TriVis has been used in television weather forecasts since 1993. Chemistry Real Mol is a program that uses virtual reality to show molecular models in an interactive, immersive environment. The scientist who uses the program wears a cyberglove and a head mounted display to interact with the molecular system. Using RealMol scientists can move molecules or protein chains to create new molecules. This is useful in fields such as drug design. RealMol displays molecules in three ways: ball and stick model, stick model and CPK model. The molecules are rendered through a molecular dynamics simulation program. Voxel Data ISVAS is an interactive software program that is utilized to analyze 3D and voxel data. It was developed by Fraunhofer-LBF. Using this program, scientists can analyze vector or scalar values. A similar program was used by students at UCSD to analyze the voxel data obtained when observing the solar winds. The image at left is a small
version of the visualization of the voxel data that depicts the solar wind patterns.
Other Applications of Virtual Reality Flight Simulator Museums and Cultural Heritage Financial Data Training: Hubble Telescope On the Net: VR Resources
Eighteen professors from five departments decide to work together and submit a request for a virtual reality system. Suppose further that the administration actually believes that this is a wonderful idea and approves the proposal, provided that the virtual reality system is put to use in the classroom. The faculty eagerly agree to this condition, and to their amazement they acquire the funds to purchase an SGI Onyx 2 Reality Engine and 10 SGI Indigos. The above scenario is not some introduction to a John Grisham suspense novel, but a real story at Clemson University. Recently Steve (D.E.) Stevenson from the Department of Computer Science at Clemson University came to the Geometry Center and talked about applications of Geometry with computers. Steve mentioned briefly how various departments had been using the virtual reality system they acquired, and showed specific examples of what they had done with them. The departments using the system range from those which traditionally might use virtual reality, such as the Computer Science department, the Mechanical Engineering department and the Architecture department, to fields not generally associated with the technology such as the Biomedical Engineering department and the Performing Arts department. All these disciplines' projects use the technology in ways that create images and objects that otherwise would take a long time to construct, or not be feasible to construct at all.
In particular, software is currently under development for Mechanical Engineering students that extends CAD/CAE software to virtual reality. Instead of clicking keystrokes to try to alter perspective views, a user is able to wear a helmet and by moving their head around are able to view an object as if it were before them. Moreover one is able to look through different layers of an object to view how the device is operating internally. Although these are all things that CAD/CAE software allows, the virtual reality system gives a user a more natural way to view an object, which accordingly allows one to easier ask the question, "what if?" Some of the other projects involving engineering are simulation-based design, multipurpose design optimization and visualization in High Performance Computing-Computer Formulated Design structures. Lastly one professor dreams of creating a simulation of the famous Tacoma Narrows bridge collapsing so that Civil and Mechanical Engineers can fully appreciate the consequences of their errors. In the Biomedical Engineering department some of the projects mentioned are use of virtual reality for viewing of X-RAY's and MRI's, using stereolithography to make prototypes of joints, and even having students perform test surgery. In the Computer Science department some of the projects range from creating a toolkit for non-computer science designers, rendering and 3-D lighting, viewing non-euclidean geometries, and modeling for resource management. Projects in the Architecture department include creating a virtual reality model of campus, and a laboratory on building design. People in the Performing Arts department use virtual reality for Stage Lighting and Stage Design Courses. Of the above projects, two of the more interesting applications common to both Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, involve stereolithography or 3D printing. One is able to design or input given data about an object and actually create a prototype made out of polymers of the object viewed in the virtual reality. One interesting example is that of an image of a Pelvis taken from an MRI, piped into the virtual reality software so that one is able to view it, and then a model of the bone is manufactured using the polymer machine. The following figure is a virtual reality image of this pelvis.
Similarly, a model of a "ship in a bottle" was created using CAD/CAE software viewed through the virtual reality software, and then made.
The virtual reality machines nicely compliment the polymer machine. One is able to thoroughly view an object before making a prototype, thus saving on the production costs of making a prototype. The Computer Science department has also created some interesting programs. Two software programs are titled Steve's Room and Oliver's Room. Steve's Room is a program which allows the user via the helmet to look around a room, turn on lights, and place objects by voice or mouse commands. Oliver's Room also is a high resolution room. In this room, one can see in high resolution, an Impressionist painting on the wall, a tiled floor, and a window with a view of mountains. The following picture is a view of Oliver's Room.
As with Steve's Room, the user is able via voice commands to move about the room. The next picture is an image of what one might see through the helmet after a request to move has been made.
The visual results from these projects are amazing, both in a practical sense and in a pure aesthetic sense. The images created are useful in understanding the structure of an object, as well as being suitable for framing. However, what is equally impressive is that various departments were able to get together and pool their resources so that this system could be acquired. By doing this, they have provided themselves, and more importantly, their students, an opportunity to use computer systems today that will no doubt be commonplace in the future.
Mass Media:Mass media has been a great advocate and perhaps a great hindrance to its development over the years. During the research “boom” of the late 1980s into the 1990s the news media's prognostication on the potential of VR — and potential overexposure in publishing the predictions of anyone who had one (whether or not that person had a true perspective on the technology and its limits) — built up the expectations of the technology so high as to be impossible to achieve under the technology then or any technology to date. Entertainment media reinforced these concepts with futuristic imagery many generations beyond contemporary capabilities.
Fiction books Many science fiction books and movies have imagined characters being "trapped in virtual reality". One of the first modern works to use this idea was Daniel F. Galouye's novel Simulacron-3, which was made into a German teleplay titled Welt am Draht ("World on a Wire") in 1973 and into a movie titled The Thirteenth Floor in 1999. Other science fiction books have promoted the idea of virtual reality as a partial, but not total, substitution for the misery of reality (in the sense that a pauper in the real world can be a prince in VR), or have touted it as a method for creating breathtaking virtual worlds in which one may escape from Earth's now toxic atmosphere. They are not aware of this, because their minds exist within a shared, idealized virtual world known as Dream Earth, where they grow up, live, and die, never knowing the world they live in is but a dream. Stanislaw Lem wrote a short story in early 1960 called "dziwne skrzynie profesora Corcorana” in which he presented a scientist who devised a completely artificial virtual reality. Among the beings trapped inside his created virtual world, there is also a scientist, who also devised such machines creating another level of virtual world. The Piers Anthony novel Killobyte follows the story of a paralyzed cop trapped in a virtual reality game by a hacker, whom he must stop to save a fellow trapped player with diabetes slowly succumbing to insulin shock. This novel toys with the idea of both the potential positive therapeutic uses, such as allowing the paralysed to experience the illusion of movement while stimulating unused muscles, as well as virtual realities' dangers.
An early short science fiction story — "The Veldt" — about an all too real "virtual reality" was included in the 1951 book The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury and may be the first fictional work to fully describe the concept. Phillip K Dick's 1964 The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch includes Perky Pat 'layouts', small physical representations of the world exact in every detail complete with dolls. With the help of an interface in the form of a drug, people immerse, or 'translate', themselves totally into these worlds to escape the tedium of their lives as colonists on other planets of the solar system. Vernor Vinge's True Names, published in 1981, imagines a virtual world which is probably the first to represent a metaverse as it was later to be characterised by such authors as William Gibson and Neal Stephenson. In True Names characters interact with each other in a complete world where they can have homes and work and are represented using avatars. This kind of virtual world was later to be realised as Second Life, which was launched in 2003. The Otherland series of 4 novels by Tad Williams, published between 1996 and 2001 and set in the 2070s, show a world where the Internet has become accessible via virtual reality and has become so popular and commonplace that, with the help of surgical implants, people can connect directly into this future VR environment. The series follows the tale of a group of people who, while investigating a mysterious illness attacking children while in VR, find themselves trapped in a virtual reality system of fantastic detail and sophistication unlike any the world has ever imagined. Other popular fictional works that use the concept of virtual reality include William Gibson's Neuromancer which defined the concept of cyberspace, Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, in which he made extensive reference to the term avatar to describe one's representation in a virtual world, and Rudy Rucker's The Hacker and the Ants, in which programmer Jerzy Rugby uses VR for robot design and testing. Another use of VR is in the teenage book "The Reality Bug" by D.J MacHale, where the inhabitants of a territory can have their own perfect virtual world, causing everyone to neglect the real world. To cause everyone to spend less time there, a virus is introduced that should make it slightly less than perfect. However, it is so powerful it introduces their worst nightmares, and eventually physically breaks out of the computer until it is shut down.
Alexander Besher's Rim: A Novel of Virtual Reality is similar to Otherland, however it also shows the urban decay that obsession with VR has caused, and the devastating effects to the economy it causes after a major crash leaves millions of users in a coma and some dead.
Television Perhaps the earliest example of virtual reality on television is a Doctor Who serial "The Deadly Assassin". This story, first broadcast in 1976, introduced a dream-like computer-generated reality known as the Matrix (no relation to the film — see below). The first major American television series to showcase virtual reality was Star Trek: The Next Generation. Several episodes featured a holodeck, a virtual reality facility that enabled its users to recreate and experience anything they wanted. One difference from current virtual reality technology, however, was that replicators, force fields, holograms, and transporters were used to actually recreate and place objects in the holodeck, rather than illusions of physical objects, as is done today. In Japan and Hong Kong, the first anime series to use the idea of virtual reality was Video Warrior Laserion (1984). An anime series known as Serial Experiments Lain included a virtual reality world known as "The Wired" that eventually co-existed with the real world. Cult British BBC2 sci-fi series Red Dwarf featured a virtual reality game titled Better Than Life, featuring a plot where the main characters had spent many years connected to the game. This was elaborated on in the book, based on the series' episodes, of the same name. Virtual reality has also been featured in other Red Dwarf episodes including Back to Reality, where venom from the despair squid caused the characters to believe all their experiences on Red Dwarf had been part of a VR simulation. Other episodes that feature Virtual reality include Gunmen of the Apocalypse, Stoke Me a Clipper, Blue, Beyond a Joke, and Back in the Red. Children's television show Are You Afraid Of The Dark? uses the concept of virtual reality as the premise of the episode "The Tale Of The Renegade Virus" (1993). Channel 4's Gamesmaster (1992 – 1998) also used a VR headset in its "tips and cheats" segment.
BBC 2's Cyberzone (1993) was the first true "virtual reality" game show. It was presented by Craig Charles. FOX's VR.5 (1995) starring Lori Singer and David McCallum, used what appeared to be mistakes in technology as part of the show's on-going mystery. In 2002, Series 4 of hit New Zealand teen sci-fi TV Series, The Tribe featured the arrival of a new tribe to the city, The Technos. They tried to gain power by introducing Virtual Reality to the city. The tribes would battle each other in the Virtual World in a "game" designed by the leader of The Techno's, Ram. However, the effects of VR on the people turned nasty when they started to fight in the real world as well, after too much use made them unable to tell the difference between what was real and what was virtual. In 2005, Brazilian's Globo TV features a show where VR helmets are used by the attending audience in a space simulation called Conquista de Titã, broadcasted for more than 20 million viewers weekly. In the anime version of Yu-Gi-Oh!, one three-part episode sees the heroes entering a virtual world based on the game Duel Monsters, where the players must use their cards to work their way through a series of story-based challenges, including simulated monsters. Later, another anime-only arc forces the heroes to enter another virtual world, similar in concept but with a different set of rules. In both arcs, the bodies of the humans entering the virtual world are confined to special pods for the duration of their stay there. The popular .hack multimedia franchise is based on a virtual reality MMORPG ironically dubbed "The World" The French animated series Code Lyoko is based on the virtual world of Lyoko and the Internet. The virtual world is accessed by large scanners which use an atomic process which breaks down the atoms of the person inside, digitizes them and recreates an incarnation on Lyoko. In 2010 Caprica a science fiction television series introduce a fully immersed virtual reality world that the main character ventures in.
Steven Lisberger's 1982 movie TRON was the first mainstream Hollywood picture to explore the idea. One year later, it would be more fully expanded in the Natalie Wood film Brainstorm.David Cronenberg's film EXistenZ dealt with the danger of confusion between reality and virtual reality in computer games. Cyberspace became something that most movies completely misunderstood, as seen in The Lawnmower Man. This idea was also used in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over. Another movie that has a bizarre theme is Brainscan, where the point of the game is to be a virtual killer. A more artistic and philosophical perspective on the subject can be seen in Avalon. One of the non-Sci Fi movies that uses VR as a story driver is 1994's Disclosure, starring Michael Douglas and based on the Michael Crichton book of the same name. A VR headset is used as a navigating device for a prototype computer filing system. There is also a film from 1995 called "Virtuosity" with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe that dealt with the creation of a serial killer, used to train law enforcement personnel, that escapes his virtual reality into the real world. Written by William Gibson himself, Johnny Mnemonic uses extensive VR, depicting Keanu Reeves playing a "cyber-courier" (Johnny Mnemonic) who smuggles data in his brain. James Cameron's 2009 movie Avatar depicts a future time when people's consciousness are virtually transported into biologically grown avatars.
Music videos The lengthy video for hard rock band Aerosmith's 1993 single "Amazing" depicted virtual reality, going so far as to show two young people participating in virtual reality simultaneously from their separate personal computers (while not knowing the other was also participating in it) in which the two engage in a steamy makeout session, sky-dive, and embark on a motorcycle journey together.
Classic Virtual reality HMD with glove In 1991, the company (originally W Industries, later renamed) Virtuality licenced the Amiga 3000 for use in their VR machines and released a VR gaming system called the 1000CS. This was a stand-up immersive HMD platform with a tracked 3D joystick. The system featured several VR games including Dactyl Nightmare (shoot-em-up), Legend Quest (adventure and fantasy), Hero (VR puzzle), Grid Busters (shoot-em-up). Virtual Reality I Glasses Personal Display System is a visor and headphones headset that is compatible with any video input including 3D broadcasting, and usable with most game systems (Nintendo, PlayStation, etc.). Virtual Reality World 3D Color Ninja game comes with headset visor and ankle and wrist straps that sense the player's punches and kicks. Virtual Reality Wireless TV Tennis Game comes with a toy tennis racket that senses the player's swing, while Wireless TV Virtual Reality Boxing includes boxing gloves that the player wears and jabs with. Bob Ladrach brought Virtual Knight into the major theme park arcades in 1994. Aura Interactor Virtual Reality Game Wear is a chest and back harness through which the player can feel punches, explosions, kicks, uppercuts, slam-dunks, crashes, and bodyblows. It works with Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. In the Mage: The Ascension role-playing game, the mage tradition of the Virtual Adepts is presented as the real creators of VR. The Adepts' ultimate objective is to move into virtual reality, scrapping their physical bodies in favour of improved virtual ones. Also, the .hack series centers on a virtual reality video game. This shows the potentially dangerous side of virtual reality, demonstrating the adverse effects on human health and possible viruses, including a comatose state that some players assume. Metal Gear Solid bases heavily on VR usage, either as a part of the plot (particularly Metal Gear Solid 2 which focuses on the blur between reality and
virtual reality), or simply to guide the players through training sessions. In System Shock, the player has implants making him able to enter into a kind of cyberspace. Its sequel, System Shock 2 also features some minor levels of VR. In Black and White users could download a patch to use the P5 glove to control the game.
Attractions The developer of theme park style attractions using Virtual Reality technology was a major part of the development of the hardware — moving beyond simulation towards an immersive entertainment experience. Of all these developments, the Walt Disney 'DisneyQuest' venue is the major conceptual application — still operational in 2009. Making Virtual Reality attractions mobile has also been on the forefront of their consumer appeal. As the technology improves and becomes more mainstream, various business and corporate events employ Virtual Reality providers to attract business and entertain their employees and guests.
Fine Art David Em was the first fine artist to create navigable virtual worlds in the 1970s. His early work was done on mainframes at III, JPL and Caltech. Jeffrey Shaw explored the potential of VR in fine arts with early works like Legible City (1989), Virtual Museum (1991), Golden Calf(1994). Canadian artist Char Davies created immersive VR art pieces Osmose (1995) and Ephémère (1998). Maurice Benayoun's work introduced metaphorical, philosophical or political content, combining VR, network, generation and intelligent agents, in works like Is God Flat (1994), The Tunnel under the Atlantic (1995), World Skin (1997). Other pioneering artists working in VR have include Luc Courchesne, Rita Addison, Knowbotic Research, Rebecca Allen, Perry Hoberman, Jacki Morie, and Brenda Laurel. All mentioned artists are documented in the Database of Virtual Art.
A side effect of the chic image that has been cultivated for virtual reality in the media is that advertising and merchandise have been associated with VR over the years to take advantage of the buzz. This is often seen in product tie-ins with cross-media properties, especially gaming licenses, with varying degrees of success. The NES Power Glove by Mattel from the 1980s was an early example as well as the U-Force and later, the Sega Activator. Marketing ties between VR and video games are to be expected, given that much of the progress in 3D computer graphics and virtual environment development (traditional hallmarks of VR) has been driven by the gaming industry over the last decade. TV commercials featuring VR have also been made for other products, however, such as Nike's "Virtual Andre" in 1997, featuring a teenager playing tennis using a goggle and gloves system against a computer generated by am co-operation..
Health care education While its use is still not widespread, virtual reality is finding its way into the training of health care professionals. Use ranges from anatomy instruction to surgery simulation. Annual conferences are held to examine the latest research in utilizing virtual reality in the medical fields.
Therapeutic uses The primary use of VR in a therapeutic role is its application to various forms of exposure therapy, ranging from phobia treatments, to newer approaches to treating PTSD. A very basic VR simulation with simple sight and sound models has been shown to be invaluable in phobia treatment (notable examples would be various zoophobias, and acrophobia) as a step between basic exposure therapy such as the use of simulacra and true exposure. A much more recent application is being piloted by the U.S. Navy to use a much more complex simulation to immerse veterans (specifically of Iraq) suffering from PTSD in simulations of urban combat settings. While this sounds counterintuitive, talk therapy has limited benefits for people with PTSD, which is now thought by many to be a result of changes either to the limbic system in particular, or a systemic change in stress response. Much as in phobia treatment, exposure to the subject of the trauma or fear seems to lead to desensitization, and a significant reduction in symptoms.
Another research field for the use of Virtual Reality is Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Occupational Therapy. Virtual Reality is being tested in upper and lower limb motor rehabilitation after stroke and spinal cord injuries, and also for cerebral palsy and other disabilities. Researchers use haptic devices and rehabilitation robots with virtual reality games to improve motivation during exercises. Examples of this robotic applications are for upper limbs, Armeo form Hocoma, Gentle from Reading University, or Manus from MIT. An example of haptic device for upper limbs rehabilitation is Curictus. Examples for lower limb rehabilitation robot and haptic devices used with virtual reality systems are Lokomat (from Hocoma Company) and Haptic Walker from Reading University.
Radio In 2009, British digital radio station BBC Radio 7 broadcasted Planet B, a science-fiction drama set in a virtual world. Planet B is the largest ever commission for an original drama programme.
It is difficult to predict the future of virtual reality with confidence. In the short run, the graphics displayed in the HMD will soon reach a point of near visual (but not behavioral) realism. The audio capabilities will move into a new realm of three dimensional sound. This refers to the addition of sound channels both above and below the individual or a Holophony approach.
Within existing technological limits, sight and sound are the two senses which best lend themselves to high quality simulation. There are however attempts being currently made to simulate smell. The purpose of current research is linked to a project aimed at treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in veterans by exposing them to combat simulations, complete with smells.
Although it is often seen in the context of entertainment by popular culture, this illustrates the point that the future of VR is very much tied into therapeutic, training, and engineering demands. Given that fact, a full sensory immersion beyond basic tactile feedback, sight, sound, and smell is unlikely to be a goal in the industry. It is worth mentioning that simulating smells, while it can be done very realistically, requires costly research and development to make each odor, and the machine itself is expensive and specialized, using capsules tailor made for it. Thus far basic, and very strong smells such as burning rubber, cordite, gasoline fumes, and so-forth have been made. Japan's NTT Communications, of Tokyo, has just finished testing an Internet-connected odor-delivery system to be used by retailers and restaurants to attract customers. But as new trials and applications are tried out and more data gathered, Hamada says he is sure the technology “will take communications to a new level in content richness, compared to today's communications, which only offers images and sounds”. In order to engage the other sense of taste, the brain must be manipulated directly. This would move virtual reality into the realm of simulated reality like the brain interface ports used in The Matrix. Although no form of this has been seriously developed at this point, Sony has taken the first step. On April 7, 2005, Sony went public with the information that they had filed for and received a patent for the idea of the non-invasive beaming of different frequencies and patterns of ultrasonic waves directly into the brain to recreate all five senses. There has been research to show that this is possible. Sony has conducted tests and says that it is a good idea. Virtual reality is a costly development in technology. Because of this, the future of VR is dependent on whether or not those costs can be reduced in some way. If VR technology becomes affordable, it could be very widespread but for now major industries are the sole buyers that have the opportunity to utilize this resource. Long before there was the Internet, there were artifacts of virtual reality. For example, the U.S. Navy's 1944 Whirlwind computer project to create a flight simulator was the first use of a graphical display generated by computer on a cathode ray tube (CRT).
Fast-forward nearly 60 years and virtual reality — a collection of digital and graphic techniques used to build computer worlds, a surround sound for the mind, as it were — still fascinates with its promise. Already, there are VR rooms where researchers dabble with data in 3-D and VR devices that can help people overcome simple fears. The language of 3-D or virtual reality — VRML (pronounced "vermal") for Virtual Reality Modeling Language — was created in 1994 by Mark Pesce and Tony Parisi. And it works with HTML — the HyperText Markup Language tagging structure used to build the World Wide Web. The technology now allows us to experience VR in at least three ways. The standard is still the display you place on your head, what appears to be advanced life-form sunglasses. The second is known as BOOM — Binocular OmniOrientation Monitor — an instrument that looks like a delicately balanced periscope that the user grasps and moves in any direction. The third resembles the Holodeck, the virtual reality theater on the popular television series Star Trek. Introduced by the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1992, it is a room with images projected on three walls as well as on the floor. Users move inside what is called the CAVE and view the images with stereo glasses. As they move, a supercomputer updates the images and the perspective. Two versions of CAVE — for CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment — are found at Cornell University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The acronym CAVE also refers to the metaphor of reality and appearance used by the Greek philosopher Plato in his dialogue The Republic. Beyond entertainment and flight simulation, the CAVE lets engineers and scientists visualize and manipulate complex data. For example, they can study pollution emission, design vehicle interiors and exteriors, simulate surgery, conduct psychological testing, experiment with package design, analyze architectural site plans and test handling procedures for hazardous material. Another intriguing use of VR is under way at the Cognitive & Linguistic Sciences Department at Brown University. There scientists, working with people who have simple phobias, use virtual reality as part of therapy to modify behavior.
For example, wearing a headset that tracks motion and strapped in a typical airline seat complete with vibrations, a person can be exposed in a managed environment to sensations that simulate air travel to help her overcome a fear of flying. On the distant horizon are efforts at virtual reality therapy to treat a range of phobias, from those involving elevators and escalators — not to mention dogs, snakes, mice and insects — all the way to fear of doctors and laboratories. Where is the technology heading? For Michael Donfrancesco, a senior executive with InterSense, a firm that makes real-time motion tracking devices like headsets, the trend is toward sophistication, miniaturization and enhanced visualization. In fact, he prefers to speak of augmented reality rather than virtual reality. He sees it used not only on the Internet but in television studios to create virtual sets or backgrounds. He says we will soon be immersed inside the Internet, interacting with it virtually in three dimensions. We may all wear personal headsets that allow us to walk through scenes we now see in two dimensions on our computer monitors. His company's products let designers, artists, assembly line workers, scientists, teachers and children playing video games interact with 3-D virtual images. For example, their InterTrax2, a lightweight headset which retails for $995, lets users look up, down and around through 360 degrees to explore their virtual environment. The company was founded in 1996 by Eric Foxlin, an MIT researcher whose academic work helped reduce the jitter, distortion and lag — the delay in resolving an image as you move your head from side to side — of traditional magnetic-based motion tracking systems. Unlike the traditional systems, the InterSense products are unaffected by electrical or magnetic interference. Thus, you can use them near monitors or large metal structures. In the past, not only did metal objects cause interference, which reduced the effectiveness of the VR application, but users often became nauseous from simulator sickness, a form of motion sickness caused by image lag.
The company says its patented technology jump-starts the next generation of e-commerce, entertainment, distance learning, design and manufacturing. Yet, like most technology under development today, it is a solution searching for applications that entice or excite consumers and business.
First Virtual Reality Technology To Let You See, Hear, Smell, Taste And Touch
To date, though, Virtual Reality devices have not been able to stimulate simultaneously all five senses with a high degree of realism. Scientists from the Universities of York and Warwick now believe they have been able to pinpoint the necessary expertise to make this possible, in a project called 'Towards Real Virtuality'. 'Real Virtuality' is a term coined by the project team to highlight their aim of providing a 'real' experience in which all senses are stimulated in such a way that the user has a fully immersive perceptual experience, during which s/he cannot tell whether or not it is real.
Fig: Concept design of a mobile Virtual Cocoon.
Teams at York and Warwick now aim to link up with experts at the Universities of Bangor, Bradford and Brighton to develop the 'Virtual Cocoon' – a new Real Virtuality device that can stimulate all five senses much more realistically than any other current or prospective device. For the user the 'Virtual Cocoon' will consist of a headset incorporating specially developed electronics and computing capabilities. It could help unlock the full potential benefits of Real Virtuality in fields such as education, business and environmental protection. A mock-up of the Virtual Cocoon will be on display at 'Pioneers 09', an EPSRC showcase event to be held at London's Olympia Conference Centre on March 4. Professor David Howard of the University of York, lead scientist on the initiative, says: "Virtual Reality projects have typically only focused on one or two of the five senses – usually sight and hearing. We're not aware of any other research group anywhere else in the world doing what we plan to do. "Smell will be generated electronically via a new technique being pioneered by Alan Chalmers and his team at Warwick which will deliver a pre-determined smell recipe on-demand. Taste and smell are closely linked but we intend to provide a texture sensation relating to something being in the mouth. Tactile devices will provide touch." A key objective will be to optimize the way all five senses interact, as in real life. The team also aims to make the Virtual Cocoon much lighter, more comfortable and less expensive than existing devices, as a result of the improved computing and electronics they develop. There has been considerable public debate on health & safety as well as on ethical issues surrounding Real Virtuality, since this kind of technology fundamentally involves immersing users in virtual environments that separate them from the real world. Professor David Howard says: "In addition to the technical development of the Virtual Cocoon, we aim to closely evaluate the full, far-reaching economic and other implications of more widespread application of Real Virtuality technologies for society as a whole."
9. IMPACT OF VIRTUAL REALITY
There has been increasing interest in the potential social impact of new technologies, such as virtual reality (as may be seen in utopian literature, within the social sciences, and in popular culture). Mychilo S. Cline, in his book, Power, Madness, and Immortality: The Future of Virtual Reality, published in 2005, argues that virtual reality will lead to a number of important changes in human life and activity. He argues that: Virtual reality will be integrated into daily life and activity and will be used in various human ways. Techniques will be developed to influence human behavior, interpersonal communication, and cognition (i.e., virtual genetics). As we spend more and more time in virtual space, there will be a gradual “migration to virtual space,” resulting in important changes in economics, worldview, and culture. The design of virtual environments may be used to extend basic human rights into virtual space, to promote human freedom and well-being, and to promote social stability as we move from one stage in socio-political development to the next.
The Potential Impact of Virtual Reality in Various Psychosocial Domains: Although much might be said concerning the impact of VR on such domains as education (e.g., Murray, 1997;Wertheim, 2004) and health care (Nagourney, 2004; Wiederhold & Wiederhold, 2005), I prefer to focus here on three important domains that are often slighted in discussions of this type. The domains I focus on are private experience, home and family, and religion and spirituality. 9.1 Private Experience I will begin with a domain that I label “private experience.” By this term, I mean a large category of human life, that which occurs outside of the contexts of work, social service, one’s worship community, and the family. Basically, private experience is what one does and experiences when no one else is watching. Perhaps ironically, a consideration of the societal impact of VR must include a consideration of private experience. In considering the potential impact of VR on private experience, I wish to apply an interpretive framework that is controversial in its own right: Freudian psychoanalytic theory. In doing this, I am aware that in many circles Freud is considered problematic, inaccurate, or passé. However, it is also true that, in some sense, “we all speak Freud” (Gay, 1989, p. xiii); many of Freud’s ideas are well known in American society and form a basis for common discussion. It is fair to say that many of Freud’s concepts have at least an heuristic value. From this angle, several Freudian notions cast VR in a very interesting light. In particular, these involve the notion of primary instincts, and the role of delayed gratification in the development of both individual personality and social structure. Freud postulated the existence of two primary instincts, Eros and Thanatos, or, crudely put, sex and death (Freud, 1923/1961b). For our purposes, it may be useful to recast these as primal impulses for sexuality and aggression.(These hypothetical impulses are, at the least, compatible with contemporary conceptions of evolutionary psychology; see Buss, 1995, 1996.) On the one hand, Freud considered these urges to be primary, primal, and powerful. On the other hand, for Freud, the very pillars of society involve the suppression, repression, and sublimation of these primal urges. As Freud put it, “a progressive renunciation of
constitutional instincts, whose activation might afford the ego primary pleasure, appears to be one of the foundations of the development of human civilization” (Freud, 1907/1995a, p. 435). For Freud, the whole process of socialization involves redirecting the child’s energy away from immediate gratification, and towards delayed gratification. This is necessary in order to move the child away from operating on the basis of the pleasure principle (basically, a combination of ‘if it feels good, do it,’ and ‘I want it all, and I want it now’) and towards operating on the basis of the reality principle (the idea that behavior should address external or real world constraints, demands, and opportunities). Without delay of gratification to strengthen the adherence to the reality principle, in Freud’s scheme, there would be little work, certainly no art, no science, no social organization above that of the family (if that), actually no civilization at all. (See: Freud, 1911/1995b, 1930/1961a.) In the future world that I have described, VR will place many impulses within reach of instant virtual gratification, with no immediate social or legal consequences. By doing this, VR will radically change some of the fundamental rules on which the game of life has been played throughout the entire length of human history. Surely this may have momentous social consequences. What will these be? The issue of impulse gratification is worth consideration by itself. Will the immediate gratification of impulses available on VR make people less capable of delaying gratification in the real world? Or, will the release of tension provided by gratification in the virtual world make people more capable of focusing on work and life in the real world? Or, as is so often the case today, will we see one outcome with certain personality configurations, and the other with different personality configurations? Beyond the matter of impulse gratification generally are the issues of aggressive and sexual impulses specifically. Let us consider these separately. 9.1.1 Aggressive Impulses Will the acting out of violent or aggressive scenarios in the virtual world make us more likely to act violently or aggressively in the real world? Or, will the release of violent impulses make us more peaceful in the real world? Or, here again, will it be one way for some sorts of people, and a different way for others?
The first two of these points of view are well expressed in the episode of The X-Files to which I made reference earlier. In the episode, the protagonists are discussing an immersive first-person-shooter-type seamless VR game. SCULLY: Mulder, what - what purpose does this game serve except to add to a culture of violence in a country that's already out of control? MULDER: Who says it adds to it? SCULLY: You think that taking up weapons and creating gratuitous virtual mayhem has any redeeming value whatsoever? I mean, that the testosterone frenzy that it creates stops when the game does? MULDER: That's rather sexist, isn't it? (Beat. Scully won’t go there, so Mulder takes a different tack.) I mean, maybe the game provides an outlet for certain impulses, that it fills a void in our genetic makeup that the more civilizing effects of society failed to provide for. SCULLY: Well, that must be why men feel the great need to blast the crap out of stuff. (Gibson, Maddox, & Carter, 2000; unofficial transcript) Evidence from social science research is not hopeful in this regard. Exposure to violent video games seemed to increase interpersonal aggression, at least in the laboratory, for certain kinds of people (Anderson & Bushman, 2001; Anderson & Dill, 2000; Irwin & Gross, 1995; cp. Ivory, 2001). Participating in a violent VR game produced more aggressive thoughts than either watching this game or acting out the physical movements (Calvert & Tan, 1994); indeed, playing violent video games seems to lead people to think of themselves as more aggressive people overall (Uhlmann & Swanson, 2004). Pop folklore is also discouraging; as one Tshirt slogan puts it, among the pearls of wisdom that one learns from video games is the lesson that “there is no problem that cannot be overcome by violence” (“Everything,” n.d.). Humor like this is often a vehicle for conveying widespread but socially unacceptable attitudes. The issue of aggression, violence, and VR is one that deserves comprehensive research. 9.1.2 Sexual Impulses It appears to be the case that many people use the Internet to fulfill sexual needs, sometimes in ways that strongly suggest the need for professional therapeutic intervention (Cooper, 2002). How much more likely will it be the case
that people will use VR to fulfill sexual needs, especially when haptic sensing and haptic feedback mechanisms become more highly developed? Calvert (2002) has pointed out several issues involving the acting out of sexual impulses via VR. On the positive front, this author suggested the possibility that people will be able to learn social skills through virtual environments (VE) that are transferable to real world contexts. Calvert used the analogous experience of current Internet users interacting via multiuser domains (MUDs): In text-based Internet MUD applications, many characters meet online and engage in virtual sex. Some even get married in virtual ceremonies. These fantasy relationships provide an opportunity for safe sex because there is no danger of contracting or spreading a sexually transmitted disease. Users also are engaged in an experience with another person, allowing them to participate within the boundaries of a shared sexual fantasy rather than an individual one. By knowing how a partner feels and what a partner enjoys, a player may become better able to interact with real partners by understanding their needs. (Calvert, 2002, p. 674, citation omitted) As interesting as Calvert’s perspective is, there are problems with extrapolating from the MUD experience of the present to the VR experience of the future. If the entity with whom one interacts intimately in a VR simulation is an avatar of another human, then the potentially positive effects that Calvert has described might possibly occur. However, I would point out that much sexuality in the VR realm is likely to include interactions with AI characters, not human ones; in particular, I anticipate that the AI characters involved will be programmed specifically to satisfy the human user’s expressed desire, acting essentially as a VR sex slave. The availability of a compliant sexual slave seems to be a popular fantasy; the concept of “Stepford wife” has been a part of American mainstream popular consciousness for over three decades (Goldman, 1974; Levin, 1972; Rudnick, 2004). However popular this fantasy is, its attainment is not the way in which one should expect to gain the skills at interpersonal communication that are a foundational element of mature adult sexual relationships (see, e.g., Hyde & DeLamater, 2003). How will the widespread availability of seamless (some would say zipless) VR sexuality affect the development of interpersonal skills and interactions between humans in the real world? (Regarding the term “zipless”: see Jong, 1973.)
Calvert also noted areas in which VR sexual experiences might have negative social effects. The anonymity afforded by cyberspace currently allows sexual deviants to act out with impunity. Issues of imitation, disinhibition, and desensitization may become serious issues as sexual activity becomes an immersive, online option. Ethical issues, such as marital fidelity, will also be experienced in virtual spaces. How will a person feel if their [sic] partner has virtual sex with an imaginary character, or with a character who is a real person in another location? Will betrayal and infidelity be experienced? (Calvert, 2002, pp. 674-675, citation omitted) These issues should be considered at greater length. Research cited earlier (Anderson & Dill, 2000; see also Funk, et al., 2003) suggests that, as people are exposed to violence in video games, they become desensitized to aggression in real life, and disinhibited in regard to acting out aggressive impulses in real life. We have no reason to believe that it will be any different in regard to VR sexuality. That is, repeated immersion in VR sexual scenarios may strengthen the expectation that, in the real world, as well, one’s partner should be expected to do anything one wishes, without regard to one’s partner’s preferences. Beyond this, experiences in the virtual world may create the expectation that the acting out of violent or sadistic impulses during sexual behavior is normal and should be met with by compliance from one’s partner. Such would be suggested by research conducted regarding exposure to violent pornographic films (Malamuth & Check, 1981). In a country that is already awash in sexual violence (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, & Michaels, 1994; Schafran, 1995), these are not expectations that we should reinforce. Even without the issue of violence involved, the availability of VR sexuality might lead to deterioration of sexual relationships in the real world. Such would be the extrapolation we might make from studies of the effect of printed or filmed pornographic images; exposure to such images in the laboratory seemed to make men rate “average” women, or their own partners, as less attractive (Kenrick, Guiterres, & Goldberg, 1989; Zillman, 1989). Thus, one possible consequence of widespread seamless VR might be a weakening of marital and familial bonds, resulting in an increase in the divorce rate. This would be a highly negative consequence, given what we know about the longterm effects of divorce on the children of such marriages (e.g., Wallerstein, Lewis, & Blakeslee, 2000).
In addition, although the broader societal effects of large-scale divorce rates are only dimly known, one cannot imagine that increasing the divorce rate would add to social stability. Certainly it would be ironic for VR technology, which is intended to help individuals better adapt to the demands of the real world, to instead cause the deterioration of relationships in the real world. This is a good point at which to consider specifically the domain of home and family.
9.2 Home and Family Most people marry and have children; the resulting family groups have been the basic units of essentially all human cultures. What will happen when a VR simulation of this experience is available? The popularity of The Sims—“the bestselling computer game ever” (Hamilton, 2004, p. 78)—suggests that people want to try out alternative simulated lives and relationships. How will the availability of virtual family life affect people’s desire or intention to pursue family life in the real world? Consider this scenario. A single person, Jane or John Smith, ends work for the day and is at home. “Home,” in a real-world sense, consists of a chair or two, a bed, a closet, a refrigerator, a table that serves as both dining and work space, a food preparation area, and a personal hygiene area, all of which fits into a studio apartment. However, this home also includes a personal VR system. Through this system, Smith lives in a mansion, with marble staircases, sauna, an Olympic-sized pool, private helipad, and other accoutrements. In this mansion lives, not only Smith, but an attractive, caring partner, who may exist as an AI construct. Perhaps there are children living in the home as well, an entire family or extended family unit. Family and friends come by and visit, perhaps based in distributed VR networks that enable Smith’s real-world friends to interact in real time, or perhaps based on AI constructs. Family life, recreation, and adventure—almost every aspect of human life, short of the intake of nutrition and the elimination of waste products—can be simulated through VR. But how will this affect the individual or society? One can imagine different possible outcomes here. One that seems plausible is that fewer people will marry and form family units. Although marriage and family life have their benefits, they also pose inevitable challenges and frustrations. VR, on the other hand, can provide a virtual simulation of a stress-free life.
One’s virtual partner can be programmed to be continually and unfailingly attentive, considerate, forever youthful, and eternally compliant with the wishes of the user of the VR system. One’s virtual children can be programmed to be consistently polite and deferent; some other virtual character will change the diapers. In the short run, the opportunity to visit such a virtual world might be an enticing prospect for many people. However, in the long run, continual exposure to such a virtual world might raise unrealistic expectations concerning people in the real world. Frequent immersion in such a virtual world might allow one to escape from the tasks of adult life rather than attend to them. Ultimately, such immersion might make people less willing, or even less capable, of dealing with the frustrations involved in participating in real-world marriages and family units. (Consider my earlier comments on instant gratification, of which the flip side is intolerance for frustration.) A decrease in the rate at which marriages and family units are formed and maintained should be considered a major negative consequence. As it is, the current rates of birth in developed countries are so low as to instigate major negative consequences in society in coming years (Kotlikoff & Burns, 2004; Longman, 2004; e.g., Faiola, 2005). A development that would retard the formation of stable family units in which children would enter the world would exacerbate what will already be a difficult situation. (An exception to this would involve areas where longstanding sexist, infanticidal practices involving the selective murder of female infants has left a surplus male population; because a male surplus is associated with increased crime and even warfare [Hudson & den Boer, 2004], it may be advisable to encourage virtual families in such areas.) Of course, it may be argued that the availability of an escape from reality, judiciously applied, would ‘let off steam’ and allow the person to deal with the frustrations of the real world more effectively (cf. C. Pearce, quoted in Heins & Bertin, 2002). It is difficult to see how this perspective would apply to this issue; it seems counterintuitive to think that avoidance of the family might solve family problems. However, this difference in perspectives underlines the importance of settling this question with empirical research, rather than a priori arguments.
9.3 Religion and Spirituality We come finally to the realm of religion and spirituality. Casual investigation of the Internet suggests that many people like to involve themselves with their faith communities in a virtual way. There is even a Roman Catholic pseudo-“diocese” that exists only in virtual space (Gaillot, n.d.). However, as can be seen with other comparisons between the Internet and virtual environments, VR has the potential to take things in a very different direction than the Internet. It is one thing to interact with others in a virtual space, and engage in the act of worshipping a god or goddess. It is another thing altogether to react in this virtual space with the gods themselves—something that VR can emulate. To go farther, it is yet another thing for one to become the embodiment of a god or goddess (the original meaning of “avatar”)—another experience that VR can emulate. What might be the societal consequences of such circumstances? One framework used in the academic psychology of religion frames religion and spirituality as having five dimensions: knowledge, ideology, ritual, emotion, and behavior (adapted from Glock, 1962). VR has the potential to heavily influence at least two of these. In terms of knowledge, all the educational potential of VR is apparent here; for example, VR makes it possible to achieve total immersion in the holy languages of one’s tradition, whether that language be Sanskrit, Latin, or Sindarin. In terms of ritual, VR would give one the opportunity to conduct almost any ritual, regardless of time, place, or one’s hierarchical status (e.g., not being officially consecrated as clergy). What will it mean when spiritual rituals can be enacted virtually by anyone? At any time, or place? Will something be lost by divorcing rituals from their traditional context in time or space? Or, will the potentially greater amount of participation add to the spiritual lives of the people who enact these rituals? Will the process of being involved with an in-person worship community become passé? Or, will the experience of private spirituality change independently of the evolution of communal spirituality? One aspect of spirituality that may be transformed thoroughly is the matter of spiritual experimentation. Such experimentation in the real world sometimes carries social consequences that are uncomfortable (e.g., being around strangers) or downright aversive (e.g., conflict with or even excommunication from one’s ‘home’ tradition). No such consequences exist in the virtual world.
In American consumer culture, some people already practice a form of what some sociologists call “supermarket religion,” picking what they want from this or that tradition. In the VR world of 2025, however, these opportunities will be considerably expanded. One may pick any tradition, of any time, existing in the real world or in the imagination, and try it on for size. For that matter, one may create one’s own tradition, and populate it with ritual, symbol, and virtual coworshippers (either avatars of real world humans, or AI constructs). No doubt this will come with social consequences, as well. Will real world spiritual communities decline as virtual private spiritual pseudo-communities flourish? Or, will people try on the virtual experience and find that they now want to engage the real world counterpart? Will people reconfigure worship communities in a distributed VR environment? Will people more easily change (i.e., convert) from the religious communities of their heritage? If so, what will that do to traditions that have added some stability to their communities for millennia?
10. DRAWBACKS OF VIRTUAL REALITY
With new technology also comes disadvantages . These techniques take time, effort, and money to implement. People may experience a feeling of a loss of reality and a feeling of isolation as they interact with an artificial world, instead of a real world with real people. Finally, virtual reality can increase unemployment as fewer people are needed to design projects: products in their design stage no longer need to be built. However, new jobs will open up in the field of designing virtual reality technology. Virtual reality is hitting the world as the next dominant improvement in technology. Like the Internet, virtual reality began with specific uses in mind, but is now becoming more and more versatile. At first seen as a new method of entertainment, virtual reality is now being used in more and more applications, from the business world to the clothing industry. In the years ahead, virtual reality will become cheaper and even more wide-spread. It has even been suggested that in the future, virtual reality can be used to "educate us to become aware of and to control...emotions...and to train our children that violence and dishonesty" are wrong by showing the consequences of such actions. Just what is virtual reality? Webster’s Dictionary defines it as "an artificial environment which is experienced through...sights and sounds provided by a computer and in which one’s actions partially determine what happens in the environment" . Put more simply, virtual reality is an extension of one’s senses--a way of interacting with and manipulating a computer-based environment. Jaron Lanier is the most famous of the so-called "pioneers" of virtual reality. He founded the CEO of VPL, a company that was among the first to develop the technology. Currently, virtual reality uses magnetic tracking to measure movements within an environment. However, this method has been proven to give users feelings of nausea or drunkenness. Because of its imprecision and disorientation due to hospital medical equipment, this method cannot always be effectively used in the medical field. Future virtual reality will make use of ultrasonic waves to track movements and activities in the artificial environments. This will enable hospitals to use virtual reality and decrease ill-effects of users.
Virtual reality is already being used in a wide range of fields: business, various industries, the military, entertainment, education, and medicine. In the future, the Air Force, commercial airlines, and medical schools will use virtual reality more extensively for training purposes and the on-line clothing stores will use virtual reality to facilitate shopping and boost sales. Businesses use virtual reality to analyze data through the use of 3D charts and graphs. In the design stage, simulations allow programmers to see products without having to build the actual product, saving money and time. Automotive industries use virtual reality to test designs and safety and check for passenger comfort. Airlines use virtual reality to train pilots and factories use it to train employees working with dangerous equipment. The military similarly uses virtual reality for simulated training. NASA used virtual reality to simulate every imaginable situation that might occur in space to familiarize astronauts with the situations and consequently improved their performance and comfort level during unexpected occurrences. Entertainment has long used virtual reality through games such as Atari, Nintendo, and computer games. Now, there is laser tag and games used by restaurants such as Dave and Busters, in Dallas, where customers waiting for food can lead each other through virtual mazes. Virtual reality education can take the forms of virtual tours and labs. "If you can’t afford the time or the ticket to get to India and see the Taj Mahal, slap on a pair of VR goggles and there you are". Virtual reality allows students and adults to travel abroad, tour famous sites, and learn all about them without leaving a room. Virtual labs allow students to dissect animals without having to kill them and to perform experiments without requiring costly equipment. In the medical field, psychiatrists are using virtual reality to treat phobias by exposing patients to their fears in risk-free situations. Virtual reality advances are already being made in surgery. By making small incisions, watching 3D images taken by a camera inside the patient, and inserting a robotic arm, a surgeon can move tools inside a patient without having to cut them open--reducing pain and recovery time. This technique is still a long way from everyday use, but was first used in 1997 to perform a gallbladder operation.
The future of virtual reality is looking very bright. Various fields are continuously looking for new ways to improve and expand their uses of virtual reality. Developments in virtual reality will drastically change the way pilots fly and are trained, medical students are educated, surgeons practice and hone their skills, and people shop. While these changes are developing, it will take time and money to fully implement them. The Air Force is currently developing "peripheral vision displays" that convey information to pilots without them needing to look around them. Similarly, military aviators will soon be using head-mounted displays called virtual retinal displays which will "allow pilots to see the surrounding environment while also accessing digital navigation cues and images that appear to float several feet away". An aircraft manufacturer named Embraer has begun employing virtual pilots and passengers, created by a human simulation software from Engineering Animation Inc., called Jack. It is used to improve the ergonomics of the cockpit designs, and evaluate the maintainability of designs, along with telling engineers "what they can see and reach, how comfortable they are, why they’re getting hurt or tired, and other important information". Jack has saved the company money, reduced time to market, and helped to deliver higher-quality airplanes. The medical field is developing ways to perform virtual surgery to train its surgeons. Through the use of 3D glasses, surgeons will also be able to see and feel the results of each of his or her movements. These techniques will "allow [the surgeons] to train in a safe, predictable, and reproducible setting,...review their work and enhance their skills,...and learn and practice new techniques or procedures". Soon, virtual reality will allow physicians and their patients to simulate the surgery experience before actually undergoing it. Medical and nursing students will practice their skills on simulated patients before seeing actual patients, reducing mistakes, but some fear that this may threaten the "humanistic elements of the doctor-patient relationship" . Finally, medical schools will replace complex diagrams with virtual skulls to learn more about the brain. The on-line clothing industry is also making advancements in virtual reality. Philip Treleaven is the leader in what might be called a "virtual changing room". A scanner measures 300,000 points on the body and then projects an image of what clothes would look like on a person so that shoppers can try on clothes in their own homes. Land’s End has already placed a 3D woman online to allow customers to
visualize how clothes would look on their bodies, in the hopes that this would encourage more customers to buy. With all these advancements come numerous benefits. Virtual reality reduces training costs and costs incurred by building actual products in the design phase, reduces time-to-market, and increases competitive advantage, productivity, success rate of completing projects on time, safety--through training of surgeons on virtual bodies, simulations of automobile and airplane designs, etc--, education, knowledge about foreign countries and patient care. But with new technology also comes disadvantages. These techniques take time, effort, and money to implement. People may experience a feeling of a loss of reality and a feeling of isolation as they interact with an artificial world, instead of a real world with real people. Finally, virtual reality can increase unemployment as fewer people are needed to design projects: products in their design stage no longer need to be built. However, new jobs will open up in the field of designing virtual reality technology. Despite these disadvantages, the benefits of using virtual reality far outweigh them. It is a force that everyone needs to know about and be able to use. It will soon become a dominant force in all industries. In order to fully utilize this technology people will have to become as familiar with it as they are with the Internet.
Affordable, PC-driven projection based virtual reality systems are a popular topic of investigation right now, and will probably soon become widespread. Our particular hope for such systems is that they will help expand VR out of the research and corporate labs, into public and educational venues. Our prototype display has now been functional and in use for most of a year. The entire system cost roughly $20,000 to construct; we estimate that a new one could currently be built for about half that amount. In basic performance tests, as well as day-to-day use, the low-cost PC system is comparable to one using an SGI Onyx2. The LCD projectors and black screen provide a bright display with better contrast than older systems using CRT projectors. The lightweight passive stereo glasses are less encumbering, and less fragile, than active glasses. The system as a whole can be maintained by a group of students who have only recently started learning about VR.
http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/other-gadgets/virtualreality.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality http://www.geom.uiuc.edu/docs/forum/vr/ http://www.allfreeessays.com/topics/advantages-and-disadvantages-ofvirtual-reality/0 http://www.exampleessays.com/essay_search/disadvantages_virtual.html
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