For too long, we’ve been hearing that VR will change the “game”.
Virtual Reality has, until now, been owned by the gaming industry, that’s largely because the gaming community is used to using fringe technologies, responsible for pushing the possibilities of the digital world, helping them get popular appeal. But Virtual Reality is about to dominate much more than just our passtime, we look in our other blogs at how it’s developing to become central to our everyday lives.
The concept of virtual reality is based on human desire to truly experience another world, without the limitations of imagination, but to best achieve this, we’ve got to invest in more innovative ways of interacting with this digital universe. This is about to get real. We’ve highlighted the top five VR concepts that are likely to catalyse the industry expansion by taking immersion to a whole new level. Enjoy.
1. Ultra Thin Headsets
Emerging technologies are usually driven by software engineers donned as mad scientists, relentlessly trying to get something working. If they manage to survive this gruelling period, that’s when the hardware and design gurus burst onto the scene. From a software standpoint, Virtual Reality really announced it’s arrival in the last few years. That sets up 2020 as the time for the designers to get creative and apply design thinking to make VR headsets look less like a dystopian mind control devices We’ll touch on this later. No, for real we will.
Just as Apple led the way with ground-breaking product design, Oculus are positioning themselves to do the same by introducing Ultra Thin VR Headsets. They’re exploring the use of Pancake lenses (already in use with interchangeable lens cameras) that could slim down headsets and lead to ultra-wide fields of view. This could remove annoying things that users currently endure with VR, like having headset imprints on your skin after a long session or constantly having to re-adjust the wire so that you don’t trip over and end up accidentally leaving both realities. Being wired and weighted down is an understandable frustration for users, holding them back from feeling truly immersed, and losing themselves in their game/work.
With these advancements, we’re not too far away from VR headsets that are marginally thicker than glasses, with images that are as wide as you need. Similar to the journey of the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 11 pro, a headset that would make your Rift or Go look positively ancient is on the horizon.
2. 5G Technology and Cloud Computing
Looking past the bulky headsets, arguably the biggest limiting factor for VR is the processing power needed. In an ideal world, using a couple of AA batteries to create a virtual reality would be easy, cheap and practical. Well, our world isn’t virtual and reality is far from cheap. VR experiences are dependent on the power of your computer and its ability to cope with the rendering and processing of a VR world; it dictates how high fidelity the virtual space can be. This is undoubtedly a huge contributor to the slow adoption of VR in everyday homes, as new VR hardware and software releases are usually coupled with a requirement for increased processing power, which is already substantially higher than the average household computer, inflating the cost for people wanting to venture in VR.
Luckily, the eagerly awaited arrival of 5G technology will be making a stop by the VR industry, helping facilitate the integration of Cloud computing. It’s predicted that the technology will increase speeds of up to 20 times the 4G signal, with increased reliability and coverage than its predecessor. The cloud computing concept is based on the ability to move both the graphics card and computer chip to the cloud, and connect to them wirelessly over 5G, eliminating the need to connect to a computer and chopping down the price of running VR.
Similar to Google launching their cloud-based gaming with Stadia, the idea is that the low latency and high bandwidth offered by 5G will enable streamlined VR content to be delivered over the air, bridging the gap between full VR experiences and ease-of-use and operation. Stadia will help us see how this works in the real world, watch this space!
“Foveated rendering”. Scary word, simple concept. It’s where a device only renders full detail for whatever’s directly in front of your eyes, dramatically improving VR performance by reducing the detail of peripheral imagery and reconstructing it with AI.
Without delving too much into the biology of it all, most current VR headsets only offer 100 degrees FoV (Field of View), significantly lower than human vision is around 210 degrees. The problem is, to produce a headset with 210 degrees FoV with twice the angular resolution of today, it would require 16x the pixels drawn by the graphics hardware dozens of times every second. This would require a crazy amount of processing power, so large that no GPU existing today could handle such a task, and at the current rate of progression it would be more than five years until one emerged, 10 years until it became affordable. Yikes.
This is where Eye-tracking technology comes into play. If you have a look around the room you’re in, you’ll notice that only what you’re directly looking at is in high detail. Everything else seems slightly less clear right? Eye tracking technology can take advantage of this by only rendering where you’re directly looking in high resolution. Everything else can be rendered at a significantly lower resolution, reducing processing power needed, improving quality and increasing field of view.
4. Mind Control. (Told You).
We’re still exploring the best ways to interact within Virtual reality, so why not try them all? A company called Neurable are playing with the concept of using our heads, literally: it’s tracking brain waves in an attempt to provide telekinetic control of the digital world. It’s plausible that the thinking behind this innovation is based on the sole fact it is so freaking cool, but there are actually significant efficiency, practicality and technological benefits from using brain-computing interfaces (BCI’s).
Through machine learning and a non-invasive method of monitoring brain activity called electroencephalography (EEG), they can accurately and instantly detect what your brain wants to do. And since using your brain is faster and easier than using controllers, this would significantly reduce latency, validating the potential for BCI platforms like Neurable to become the future of VR.
So, you’re likely not going to become a powerful mutant telepath who goes on to found a school for gifted youngsters around the world to teach them how to use their powers and coexist with humanity. But hey, baby steps.
5. Full Immersion
Answering the pleas for a greater look at the world of VR, Spielberg produced some magic in 2018 with the film Ready Player One. Using VR to eradicate the limitations between crossing over to an alternative reality cemented this film as a sci-fi classic, and ballooned our imaginations of what a fully immersive VR experience could entail. With most sci-fi films, the potential for them to transition to reality is usually minimal. But, with the introduction of the immersifying technologies such as the Teslasuit and Birdly VR simulator, this reality may not be as far away as we thought.
Elon Musk, known for his unapologetic drive to push the boundaries of human capability, fittingly created the Teslasuit, a full-body VR suit. In an attempt to achieve greater immersion, the Teslasuit explores interacting with a virtual world through senses other than sight; using haptic feedback to foster 360-degree awareness, engaging muscle memory and accelerating the improved use of movement, reflexes and instincts. Imagine feeling a gripping hand on your shoulder as you receive last minute encouragement from your commander as you charge into battle. It takes gaming to a whole new level. Just make sure you don’t get shot, you may feel it…
Last but not least, Birdly have created a full-body simulator that captures the biologically-embedded human dream of flying, allowing you to spread your wings and fly over a city’s night sky. It’s made possible by the use of highly intuitive control and quality position, audio, wind, and smell feedback. For instance, the faster you fly, the more wind you feel in your face, immersively blurring the lines between reality. Awesome.
These concepts behind the future of virtual reality are based upon theories about a long held human desire to escape the boundaries of the ‘real world’ by embracing cyberspace. Every iterative development and concept is part of a greater drive to bring us closer to blurring these lines; we need to move beyond the keyboard and mouse, standard forms of interaction that are an unnatural form of working, forcing people to adapt to the demands of the technology rather than the other way around, the way it should be.
That’s why we’re so excited about the potential of the Massless Pen. We’re striving to help break down the boundaries between realities by enabling a more accurate and true VR experience. Our pen is democratising design in VR by removing the barriers to entry, changing the ways that we design and create. This will help to enable the next generation of VR experiences, letting the emerging technology finally reach its potential.
Our flagship product, the Massless Pen, is crowdfunding through indiegogo in early 2020. To find out more, visit https://massless.io/crowdfunding-3d-vr-pen/