Author Archives: Spencer Ross

What I Have Learned about Virtual Reality

Along with the rest of the Virtual Reality team, I too made my own video explaining some of the most important things that I learned from the investigations my group and I have done on VR and AR. Extending beyond some of the basic information about virtual reality that you can read on Wikipedia, I hope this video will make you think about the ways that we use these technologies in our everyday lives. Hope you like it and please feel free to leave a comment below with any questions or criticisms.

Virtual Reality: Ethical Issues, Global Impact, and Impact on your Career

Virtual and Augmented Reality Ethical Issues:

There are a few ethical issues in regard to virtual environments which need to be addressed. These are related to human behavior, motivations, and inappropriate/ uncensored content in open sourced VR worlds. There are also physical and physiological health concerns in regard to the virtual reality experience.

As the researchers point out, there are good reasons to be especially concerned about the influence of virtual reality on the human brain, as opposed to television or non-immersive video games. Concerns have been raised about a possible relationship between virtual reality and desensitization. This refers to virtual reality games in which there are high levels of violence or training exercises for the military in which soldiers engage in simulated combat scenarios which include killing. Desensitization means that the person is no longer affected by extreme acts of behavior such as violence and fails to show empathy or compassion as a result. This has been noticed with gamers, especially those who play first person shooters or role playing games which involve a high degree of immersion. Unlike other forms of media, VR can create a situation in which the user’s entire environment is determined by the creators of the virtual world.

The VR experience can introduce a number of opportunities for new and powerful forms of mental and behavioral manipulation. Virtual Reality is just like any other experience in the real world in the sense that it can hurt people in the same way that real-world situations can affect people in a psychological sense. To avoid an ethical dilemma in regards to VR, it is important to remember:

  1. Experiments using virtual reality should make sure that they do not cause lasting or serious harm to the subject.
  2. Those participating in the experiment should be made aware of possible psychological and physical effects from VR.
  3. Create awareness about the many ways VR can be used for something other than its original intention.
  4. Adopting procedures through policy and law that ensure a user’s privacy and safety is protected and maintained.

Virtual reality is a form of technology that is continuously developing, because of this continuous progression VR may cause some problems that many of us have not encountered before. There will be problems that include poor ergonomics and then there are psychological issues. These issues are moral and ethical concerns that need to be looked upon with these technological advancements. There are physical effects and time constraints. Due to a person’s perception being distorted VR can provide users motion sickness. Some people are affected by this after spending only 30 minutes in a virtual environment whereas others can go several hours before they notice any ill effects. This is also known as cybersickness. These virtual realities and their devices unfortunately take a very long time to create and maintain, and as we should all know, time is money. Wasted time causes many issues within the surface of a company, the products it produces for the customers, the customer service, the research, the future technological advances, and so on. Researchers are attempting to create a balance between hyper-realism and production time but the equation is yet to be solved at this point.

How Virtual Reality Will Impact Businesses In The Next Five Years:

  1. We’ll Experience Our Reality Through Virtual Reality
    • AR and VR will be tools for our future to capture knowledge. The educational world and the way we will learn will dramatically change 5 years from now. VR will truly become an essential tool in the workforce. These technology-driven tools are getting better, more realistic, and are already accepted by those entering the workforce.
  2. Prototyping Will Go to the Next Level
    • VR and AR will allow companies to present their project in newer and better ways than ever before. These virtual prototypes will allow the customers, builders, and developers to have better planned designs and models which will lead to a higher rate of sales and a higher quality of goods sold as every minute detail of a project can be shown. Decision makers and end-users will be able to provide better and more valuable feedback early in the game. This will allow business to focus and spread out their timing more throughout the company and waste less money holistically.
  3. Certain Niche Markets Will Be Impacted
    • These devices will provide happiness and ease to travel around the world without flying or spending thousands of dollars to enjoy simple moments. However, these devices will be extremely expensive to purchase and most likely maintain.
  4. Advanced VR Will Become the Social Laboratory of the Elite
    • VR and AR will be simulating business strategies, assist government policies, and so on. These choices and devices are supported by billions of dollars in capital which makes this an audience and a market to dive into rather than to ignore.

VR and AR on a Global Level:

The insurgence of VR and AR has massive global implications. International Data Corporation (IDC) has projected that in just four years, the VR/AR market will reach sales up to $162 billion. More and more 360o videos have been showing up on video channels such as Youtube, subtly reminding viewers that they could be getting a better experience via a VR device. VR and AR are by no means constrained to video gaming. As mentioned in a previous blog post, VR is already having an impact in the medical industry, education, social media, and business. Surgeons could be using VR for surgeries, and patients for therapy sessions. Education could become much cheaper if entire courses begin to be taught by one teacher embedded into an immersive software. Social media platforms will become entirely new realities with virtual social spaces and avatars. Mark Zuckerberg has created a plan to do something like this in combining Facebook and VR.

So VR is not restricted to gaming; gaming is simply the gateway to people’s interest in VR. But the “gods of technology” seem to have greater plans for Augmented Reality. Virtual Reality will forever be an experience that takes us away from the present and physical world around us. AR, however, could potentially become an everyday part of our lives.

 

Having trouble believing this could be a close representation of our future? Samsung has already put in patents for smart contact lenses. Get ready world!

Headsets and Devices putting Virtual Reality on the Map

There are a plethora of Virtual Reality (VR) products and devices that are available in the current market, the objective of this post will be to provide an in-depth look at the capabilities of current VR devices. One article from TheVerge.com categorized all VR devices in “three general classes” as “Cheap” “Mid-range” and “High-end”.

Cheap forms of Virtual Reality include things like the Google Cardboard where a smartphone can be put into the cardboard hold to generate a low-quality VR experience using various apps on both Google Play and the App Store. This form of VR is a very basic experience where the user is staring at their smartphone using a simple holder with holes to see through.

The absolute best-quality VR experiences, unfortunately, can’t be powered by a mobile phone. High-end virtual reality devices include devices like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR all run on external devices such as computers or game consoles. These devices can offer sophisticated features like motion tracking, high-resolution screens, and the best graphics possible. Higher end devices also offer more comfort, they are better at blocking outside light and are less prone to inducing motion sickness. The HTC Vive, in particular, is known for its seamless integration of external controls in your VR experience.

Motion tracking involves both tracking of your body with external controls and even tracking of your eye so that the display screen can shift based on where the user is looking. One groundbreaking VR headset that has integrated eye tracking technology is called FOVE. The most notable examples of high-end VR headsets are the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR. A comparison of these devices can be seen in this short video.

Google has produced numerous VR devices including goggles, headsets, monitors, video case holders, glasses, etc. These new VR accessories  cost roughly between a dollar for a do it yourself cardboard device, or up to $1,716, for an Editor’s Choice gaming computer used to power a VR headset. These devices are the latest and hottest trend on the market.

Samsung is offering customers for a limited time a deal when they purchase a Galaxy S7 edge or Galaxy S7 cell phone. Once the customers purchase a new phone they will receive a free Gear VR or 256 GB memory card. This Gear VR headset allows the customers to obtain 360-degree angles to truly experience their surroundings while capturing special moments to always remember later on. This headset not only takes pictures it enables customers to dive into video games, movies, and news like never before.

Apple has recently announced their newest additions to the latest iPhones the iPhone 7 and the iPhone Plus. With the new iPhones having many advanced features they are perfectly compatible with a VR headset or device. Apple failed to describe to future customers that they were releasing the first mass-market virtual reality camera. Apple has not necessarily released a headset for virtual reality but we can look forward to FaceTime VR in years to come.

Sony has also taken a leap to create its own virtual reality device. The product will be released October 13th, retailing at $399. According to Sony, PlayStation VR will be most people’s introduction to ‘good’ VR. The device has some flaws but is tailor made for console gamers. PlayStation VR uses Sony’s PlayStation 4 game console along with the PlayStation Camera to provide tracking. The screen in the headset allows for a 100-degree field of vision of and is able to locate the back of the head as well as the front so users can look directly behind them. The camera tracks the VR headset around 1,000 times per second providing a seamless experience.

As we approach 2017, VR is beginning to take itself beyond entertainment and move closer towards an everyday part of our lives. Check out Google’s incoming headset, the Daydream. The Daydream immerses its viewers into a realm that incorporates VR apps into it. These apps are not just games but can range from anything between YouTube, CNN, and video-chats. Once these headsets become assimilated into our culture, we may find ourselves plugging into a VR device instead of our clunky laptops. During Google’s I/O 2016 Conference, Product Manager Nathan Martz invited the audience to be developers of the Daydream; “For all of this information about how you can be a Daydream developer, including how to build your own Daydream developer kit, check out developers.google.com/vr/” This is significant because just like Facebook, Amazon, and Uber don’t own inventory and rely on their customers to create their product, Google is now allowing people to develop their own stuff. Lindsay Metcalfe, Design Manager at Google, said “What we are really excited about is seeing what you are all going to create.” Not only is Google looking ahead and anticipating new technological products of the future, but it is also creating its own innovative business and research strategies in order to get ahead of the competition.