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Graphics Software Technology Hardware

What Ever Happened to Virtual Reality? 431

Posted by timothy
from the it-stayed-similar dept.
bergeron76 writes "It seems like it's been ages since I heard of any advances in "Virtual Reality" technology. Was Virtual Reality just hype? Are there any new or existing projects that have made any significant inroads (aside from the first-person shooter games)? Is total virtual immersion a worthless persuit / dead industry? If not, what are the bottlenecks that are delaying it?"
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What Ever Happened to Virtual Reality?

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  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:05PM (#12401344)
    It's all virtual of course!
  • Virtual reality... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ziviyr (95582) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:05PM (#12401345) Homepage
    See Doom 3 or Half Life newblah.
    • by Ziviyr (95582)
      I wasn't trolling, thats about as far as conusmer use of a virtual reality seems to have gone. If you have reason to believe otherwise, I'd like to read it.

      (-1 troll is a pretty weak reason)
      • by mmp (121767) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @06:14PM (#12402036) Homepage
        Though the point is flying over the mods heads, the OP has a good point.

        Back in 1995-1996, VR was all the big thing, SGI and others were promoting VRML and virtual reality (on teh web!) was supposed to be just around the corner.

        At about that some, some game called Quake was getting a lot of attention in the real world. When you compared the experience of playing quake to the experience of "VR", quake was infinitely more engrossing. All the VR stuff then ran at about 5 frames per second, with less detailed scenes than quake was spitting out at 30+ fps. Quake was a successful virtual reality in that it pulled you in and you could forget it was a game (in a sense). None of the VR stuff had anywhere near the same success at making the user forget what was going on.

        The gap between the best of what people did with VR and the best of what people did with games was big enough that it became apparent that VR was not relatively successful. VR researchers were too focused on fancy hardware--data gloves, 3D headsets, stuff like that--and not enough focused on the graphics part. (IMHO).

        Look at games like Half Life 2 today. Or the MMORPGs that many people are addicted to. The reason people spend so much time with them is that they are successful examples of VR. The academic approach to it just didn't pan out.

        -matt
        • by B3ryllium (571199)
          With today's GFX accelerators, you'd think they could take all that old hardware (data gloves, dual-screen headsets) and pump all the latest graphics through in 'true' 3D.
        • by Mac Degger (576336) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @09:16PM (#12403444) Journal
          No. I think the 'acedemic' approach didn't pan out with the cumbersome, intrusive technologies of the time. That's the reason why VR was never immersive: you always felt the heavy headset, you where locked in a sensor cage...it sucked.

          But imagine it with OLED glasses, which actually do feel and fit like sunglasses. And maybe with 3D positional chips, instead of those cumbersome gyros. All you need is a halfway decent, intuitive interface (like the mouse for 2d screens) and you have an immersive VR experience which computers could graphically generate right now.

          But will the money which has already been bitten the first time round be made available again?
        • No. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by raehl (609729)
          I see where you're going here, but it's not really true.

          I was fortunate enough to use the CAVE at UIUC in early '97, just after Quake was first released. 4-walled VR environment where the user only needed to wear "polarized" glasses to see the 3D image. I assure you it was MUCH faster than 5 fps. And I can assure you that it was much more immersive than Quake.

          But there were no texturemaps. Every object pretty much had a single color. Why? Because there was no reason for it to be more than that.

          Quak
  • Easy Answer (Score:5, Funny)

    by KyleNicholson (629756) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:07PM (#12401367)
    The Matrix scared everyone.
  • come on.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by peculiarmethod (301094) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:07PM (#12401370) Journal
    We've been through this.. the most impressive VR advancements are going on at general motors, outside of the military training programs. read more [industrysearch.com.au]
  • by screwballicus (313964) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:07PM (#12401372)
    In 1995, Virtual Reality systems reached the apex of all conceivable technological possibility [nintendo.com], realised its own state of perfection, and ceased to advance for lack of further necessity.
  • The computer loves you.

    Now get back in your pod and shut up.
  • Too risky? (Score:4, Informative)

    by DyslexicLegume (875291) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:08PM (#12401378)
    Developers probably don't want to take any inovative "risks"...remember what happened with the Virtual Boy, so that's my guess as to why we haven't seen a lot of VR stuff.
    • Re:Too risky? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LiquidCoooled (634315)
      My graphics card can output stereo images for feeding into a true 3d headset.

      I was under the impression Direct 3d is geared towards allowing this kind of configuration, and games using it can automatically benefit.

      The only part I see lacking is the gloves and complete immersion kits (Yes I know there are gloves, but I haven't seen them pushed anywhere apart from zzz.com.ru).

      VR is with us already, its just not looking like Tron.
  • Actually (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dante Shamest (813622) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:08PM (#12401381)
    It seems like it's been ages since I heard of any advances in "Virtual Reality" technology. Was Virtual Reality just hype?

    Ah, the irony. I love my job.

    - The Architect

    • Ah, the irony. I love my job.

      Irony! dude, read an MSM [1] newspaper!,

      These days it's nanotechnology thats ironic. "Cyberspace" "information superhighway" and VR were all ironic ten years ago :-)

      [1] MSM = Main stream media... not a blog

  • RIP (Score:4, Funny)

    by Jondro (776355) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:08PM (#12401382)
    Nintendo killed it when they released the Virtual Boy
    • Re:RIP (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NanoGator (522640) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @06:14PM (#12402037) Homepage Journal
      "Nintendo killed it when they released the Virtual Boy."

      Bullshit. That's like saying Enterprise killed the lauching of Titans in Cape Canaveral.

      Here's a few questions for you all:

      1.) How many of you actaully played anything based on Virtual Reality? (If no, did you ever even have an OPPORTUNITY to play VR?)

      2.) Of those of you that have, did you actually have any fun?

      3.) Did any of you enjoy paying $5 for a minute of entertainment?

      4.) Did VR bring you an interesting gaming experience that you couldn't have enjoyed better?

      5.) Was it anything like Hollywood?

      Here, I'll answer my own questions:

      1.) Yes, I have. They set up a VR arcade at a mall near where I lived.

      2.) No. I had to wait in line, put on this bulky ass equipment and visor that detected my motion. Despite being weighed down so much, not a lot more was offered than I could have gotten on my PC. I could turn my head and look any direction. Unfortunately, the tracking on it was primitive. (I could have dismissed that, though, because technology always gets better.) Sadly, I had cables running down the back of my head that made me feel like Dave Lister. Whenever I turned my head I was AWARE of the cables and it limited my movement. The display used color LCD and it was in stereo. Let me tell you something, the Virtual Boy was definitely not to everybody's taste, but at least it produced a clear stereo image. LCDs have a quirk that a row of single color LEDs dont: It takes 3 sub-pixels to make one color. An all red screen with an LCD looks a little like a checkerboard. When you magnify it, then put one over each eye, it looks like you're looking through a screen door. The VB may have been headache inducing for a lot of people, but color would NOT have solved that. It would have made it worse. Increasing the DPI of LCDs would help significantly, but they also have to be really small to work. In short, it was hard to see what you were looking at. Believe it or not, it would have been a LOT easier to see if they DIDN'T have that stereo component.

      There was a belt around my waist that detected which way my body was facing. Pivot your body, and you're turning left and right. However, that stupid cable problem was there... again. (Not to mention that it was heavy.) Try turning 720 degrees and then trying to step over the cable you can't see because you have Laforge's 2 decade old visor over your head. On top of that, there was a safety railing around the play area that was easy to bump into. Ugh. Imagine playing Q3 with that setup.

      There was a handheld unit for firing. Basically, you held your hand out like a gun, that's how you aimed. That's also how you walked. So despite being in "Virtual Reality!!!", you had to turn your body, then use your thumb to run. I mentioned primitive tracking before...

      Did I have fun? No. Even if I were more athletic, it was still hard to play. When I saw Lawnmower Man, I thought I'd get in this rig and have a new exciting game experience. Nopers. Not even close.

      3.) Fuck no. Truth be told, if this thing were in my house where I could play it all I wanted, I doubt it would have lasted more than a few days before being sold or stored. Even the geek in me couldn't love this thing.

      4.) I'm hard pressed to think of a game that would have benefitted from this. Even with perfect tracking, no wires, and gloves, there's still the limit of having to stand in a particular area. Even a room to walk around in would have been problematic.

      5.) No. Even today, I can't imagine somebody could build a VR unit that was as exciting as what we've seen in Hollywood.

      My opinion on Virtual Reality was soured BEFORE the VB actually came out. Frankly, the Virtual Boy was a lot better experience. It had a good stereoscopic display, *and* the games could still be fun because they used tried-and-true controls we all loved. The

      • Re:RIP (Score:3, Insightful)

        It's a chicken-and-egg problem: so long as $50 games won't include a few lines of code supporting head-tracking, people won't spend >$500 on a VR headset; pity game companies won't spend the few dollars needed to jumpstart the headset market.

        I was so thrilled by VR I bought a headset. Magic Carpet 2 was great (although the controls were not real VR-friendly). And that's where it ended, still siting in a box in a closet - because nothing else supported it.

        The problem - the ONLY problem as far as I could
  • by writermike (57327) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:08PM (#12401384)
    Virtual Reality is on TV every night of the week!

    Buh-doom-boom-Sis.
  • Not hyped much (Score:5, Informative)

    by moz25 (262020) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:09PM (#12401387) Homepage
    With all the advances in 3D (gaming) technology, I suppose that the hype has worn off. It's just not newsworthy anymore to be able to simulate a virtual environment.

    One area in which Virtual Reality has been generating very positive effects is, unexpectedly (?), therapy against phobias and traumas. An example is fear of heights where people can confront their fears in a simulated (and thus controlled) environment and gradually let go of them.

    So yes, I'd say that Virtual Reality does improve people's lives in at least one way that doesn't involve shooting at things.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I don't understand the letting go of phobias - the day I stop being scared of heights is when falls stop hurting me.
    • One area in which Virtual Reality has been generating very positive effects is, unexpectedly (?), therapy against phobias and traumas.

      Also, treatment of burn victims, for whom painkillers are not enough; they spend some time in an immersive 3D environment and it helps distract them from the pain in a soothing way.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      from google:

      vrpsych... [tudelft.nl]

      but there is a mailing list:

      vrpsych-l [tile.net]

      And risking mailing list Etiquette (and I'm chicken sh!t for annon posting) there is perhaps a call for help in this field from the open source community (note the following has been edited and links are not made directly clickable):

      How about some temporary mirrors of some of the stuff below (anti-slashdotting effect) out of respect for these VR medical researchers?

      In a recent email regarding an award this person recently received

      "Dear al
  • Pursuit (Score:5, Informative)

    by metlin (258108) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:09PM (#12401388) Journal
    It's spelt pursuit, not persuit.

    And AR (Augmented Reality) seems to have taken the place of VR lately, lots of progress has been made in that end.

    More importantly, VR equipment and tracking is usually prohibitively expensive, which I'd guess is partly responsible for the lack of any apparent progress.

    Also, the suspension of disbelief in VR is quite important - not so in AR, since it only attempts at adding more information to the existing reality.
    • Re:Pursuit (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:35PM (#12401658) Homepage
      The primary advantage AR has over VR is that AR uses the parts of the body that aren't just the eyes and ears: proprioception, vestibular perception, and othe cues that old-fashioned VR just can't handle. The disjunct between vestibular information and visual information that you get in VR is the source of the motion-sickness that often accompanies it.

      VR, like a lot of early 'cyberspace' mythology, was built on an unrealistic rejection of the body, and a fantasy of "pure mind."
    • Not to mention that if not done right, VR has the capability to make people vomit. Studies found that when some people turned their head in a VR system but the visuals couldn't keep up, they vomited....
      • Re:Pursuit (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jeremi (14640)
        Studies found that when some people turned their head in a VR system but the visuals couldn't keep up, they vomited...

        Yeah, but surely the Super Whiz-Bang Mega-GPU Graphics Cards of 2005 can keep up?

        Actually, what I recall of VR helmets from back in the day is that they gave me a headache from having the screens so close to my eyeballs. Or perhaps it was because the 3D perspective wasn't quite right and my eyes tried to compensate by refocusing, and the headache came from the resulting eyestrain. I

  • Was Virtual Reality just hype?

    There is NO THING such as Virtual Reality, Mr. Anderson.
  • by sniepre (517796) <sniepre@gmail.com> on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:11PM (#12401410) Homepage
    I work with a guy who started up a video game company called Park Place Productions (Which Sony ended up gobbling up in a hostile takeover years ago.) He was responsible for the Madden series of football games among many other things.

    At one stage he was working on a virtual reality headseat (Similar to the VirtualBoy style visor) except you wore it on your head and controlled it with two handheld sensors / input pads.

    It was phenomenal, until during a demonstration with an investor, the user got tricked into thinking it was real and actually stepped backwords and fell over the couch he was standing in front of and twisted his ankle. The product did not sell.

    So yes, the bottleneck is definable in one word: Liability.
    • A bigger bottleneck for the traditional VR approach is the conecpt of the visor itself. Basically, with a visor, you're staring at a screen a few inches from your nose for a protacted period of time. Focusing on that is not fun; put a book in front of your face for an hour and see if you enjoy it. Worse still, to get the stereo effect you're effectively crosseyed the entire time. The eye strain produces headaches after a short while, which definitely isn't something you want every time you play a game.

      Hav

      • by Short Circuit (52384) * <mikemol@gmail.com> on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:42PM (#12401723) Homepage Journal
        That's not true at all. You're only crosseyed if your eyes are focusing on a close common point. If each eye is looking at a different screen, how close that point is is up to the software.

        The whole point of 3D displays is to allow you to forget that your viewing surface is less than three feet away. If each screen held an identical image, and was aligned properly, then that image would appear to the user to be at an infinite distance.

        The only part of your eye that's focusing on a near surface is are the muscles controlling the lens. If you want to test for strain there, try taking two identical wallet photos, taping or gluing them to a piece of paper at a center-to-center distance equal to that of your eyes, and put that close to your face. Then try aiming your eyes to converge at infinity.

        Your lens is perfectly capable of focusing independently of the aim of your eyes; I do it all the time, and suffer no ill effects.
        • by sbaker (47485) * on Sunday May 01, 2005 @07:43PM (#12402750) Homepage
          You are very wrong.

          Whilst your eyes *can* do what you say - they don't like it. It definitely causes eye strain. I talked to one of the Shuttle astronauts who went on the Hubble repair mission. They did a LOT of hours in VR simulation using helmets that didn't employ collimated optics - and they got blinding headaches and other weird visual problems because of it.

          Fortunately, we now have collimated optics which completely solve that problem.
          • by sbaker (47485) *
            Not the incidence angle of a single ray.

            The amount by which the lens of your eye has to distort to make a sharp image on the retina. That requires muscular effort in your eyes - which is physically tiring to them. (Like long periods of reading with the book three inches from your eyes and no way to look off into the distance for a while to relax them every few pages).

            Worse still is the fact that using the lenses in your eyes to focus on something that appears to be very close whilst pointing your two ey
      • by sbaker (47485) * on Sunday May 01, 2005 @07:38PM (#12402716) Homepage
        > Basically, with a visor, you're staring at a screen a few inches
        > from your nose for a protacted period of time. Focusing on that is
        > not fun;

        I work in flight simulation - we have VERY good VR helmets. The light fed into your eyes is 'collimated' - meaning that the light rays from the video display are stuffed through some optics so that they emerge as PARALLEL rays of light rather than rays eminating radially outwards from each point on the screen.

        Collimating the light is the key to avoiding the problem you describe - and it works perfectly. We also employ big curved display screens that wrap all around your face - so it's not like looking at two tiny squares in front of your face - you can swivel your eyeballs and look to either side, up and down.

        You can see our VR helmet at http://www.link.com/ [link.com] - you can even buy one if you can afford the price of a pretty decent Ferrari.

        The only problem with collimated displays it that when something *IS* close to you in the virtual world, it seems that it's too far away - however, because we project a slightly different image into each eye, your brain does a pretty good job of recognising when things are close by noting how much your eyes have to cross to fuse the two images into one.

        There was one very small remaining problem - you couldn't see your own nose! You'd be amazed at just how weird that is (unless of course you happen to have lost your nose in some kind of tragic accident!). A small piece of plastic built into the display at a strategic point fixed that nicely.

        The display is crisp and bright and each display can be driven by either one PC or an entire render farm to get realtime realism that can be almost arbitarily good.

        The helmet can easily incorporate one of any number of head tracker technologies depending on whether or not a magnetically neutral or acoustically reasonable environment is available to allow different kinds of tracker to work accurately.

        So - the helmet problem is completely, 100% solved...except for the price.
    • Sheesh, that's stupid.

      It would be kind of obvious to me that if you're going to play with a headset that completely obscures your vision you should do that in some place where there's no danger.

      Although I suppose that there's the inconvenience of that not everybody can clear enough space to use a thing like that, unless it can be used sitting on a chair or lying on a bed.
  • by warewolfsmith (196722) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:11PM (#12401413)
    I Googled "Virtual Reality" Results 18,100,000 Hits for Virtual Reality. It seems the technology is everywhere.
  • ahead of its time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FidelCatsro (861135) <fidelcatsro@@@gmail...com> on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:11PM (#12401414) Journal
    VR was ahead of its time , it was trying to skip a few steps in the eveloutionry chain.It really was a step beyond its ability , VR is still used for treatment of those suffering mental traumas(physical and pyschological) so it was not an entier dead end. Its jsut the entertainment industry was at the time not ready for it , and in pushing it has set it back a while as its seen as a joke.
    With the advances in 3d Graphics and so forth ,the Reality of Virtualy reality may soon come around . Right now though , its still a joke .
  • by Sai Babu (827212)
    This whole on-line interaction is virtual reality.
  • by MaestroSartori (146297) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:14PM (#12401445) Homepage
    Stuff like the shifty floor seen a while back here on /. (http://www.trnmag.com/Stories/2004/081104/Shifty_ tiles_bring_walking_to_VR_Brief_081104.html [trnmag.com] are helping advance the non-graphics side of things, anyway. Lots of work on haptic interfaces seems to be working on the feedback side, not sure what the current state of that art is though.

    I suspect the questioner is actually looking for a holodeck though, we're still quite a ways from that ;)
  • Sony (Score:2, Interesting)

    by shoebert (819099)
    What about the patent Sony has on the Matrix-esque technology?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If VR porn doesn't show up then this technology will never reach the masses.
  • It's everywhere (Score:2, Insightful)

    by orangeguru (411012)
    Doom3, the Sims etc. these are all virtual realities. People just got over the whole helmet thingy.
  • I though all realities were virtual.
  • Yep, you read it here first. Nobody *EVER* cared about "virtual reality". It was media manufactured hype reinforced by a couple terrible movies and books.

    "Virtual Reality" was a grossly inaccurate prediction of the future of entertainment. As it turns out it is completely impractical, and more then that people are generally happy with plain old boring 2d entertainment in the first place.

  • by rmpotter (177221) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:18PM (#12401485) Homepage
    York University in Toronto has an interesting facility:

    York's virtual reality room turns perception on its head

    Home to Canada's only fully-immersive environment

    TORONTO, March 31, 2005 -- Jumping into the virtual world of a
    videogame is helping York University researchers understand how humans orient themselves on solid ground and in outer space.

    Professor Michael Jenkin and his team at York's Centre for Vision Research have developed a 'virtual reality room' called IVY (Immersive Virtual Environment at York) in order to study our perception of gravity and motion, and how we orient ourselves spatially.

    "We're displaying an environment from [the popular videogame] Doom right now, but of course that's just an example of one simulation," Jenkin says.

    The room is the only six-sided immersive environment in Canada, and one of a mere handful internationally. Its walls, ceiling and floor are comprised of pixel maps generated by a cluster of computers running Linux. The entire structure is made of the same glass used in the CN Tower's observation deck. The floor alone took two years to complete.

    Researchers are able to manipulate the environment within IVY, changing the scenery and its orientation, in order to understand how people become disoriented and how their internal perception of 'up' and 'down' is informed.

    "Some people become incredibly confused. I've actually seen people fall over in there," Jenkin says.

    The research is being used by the Canadian Space Agency and National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) to find ways to help strengthen astronauts' sense of 'up' and 'down' in zero gravity environments.

    Jenkin's team also hopes to find methods of counteracting the gradual loss of spatial orientation that occurs as we age.

    One of the most challenging aspects of IVY's design was to create a system that allowed subjects to experience both the look and feel of moving through the virtual space.

    A graduate student developed a wireless 'head-tracking' device that follows subjects' movements and alters the displays accordingly. Users wear stereo shutter glasses which give a 3-D effect.

    "The computer compensates when you move around so it looks correct. It knows where you've moved, where your eyes are," says Jenkin.

    As the country's only truly immersive environment, IVY is also in demand from private industry for a myriad of projects.

    "If someone brings us their data set, we can render it and they can walk through and interact with it," says Jenkin.

    "We're constantly pushing the boundaries and learning how better to do VR."

    -30-
  • by TangLiSha (737850) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:19PM (#12401492) Homepage
    Who needs virtual reality when you have reality tv?
  • It's a UNIX system! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mr_spatula (126119)
    I hate to retread a previous comment, but according to the movie "Jurassic Park," it was replaced by UNIX systems.

    The concept of VR has amused me for a very long time. It's what makes watching movies like "Lawnmower Man" so amazingly funny in this day and age.

    I've been taking a 3D modeling class, and it has about three paragraphs dedicated to VR. The content is pretty worthless - but the picture of a dolphin leaping out of a monitor towards a man who is leaning back to avoid it is completely priceless.
  • Slashdot posted on article on uses of virtual reality the other day...
    http://games.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/04/30/ 1819253&tid=126&tid=10 [slashdot.org]
  • by SPYDER Web (717344) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:20PM (#12401509)
    I think progress in VR is going on all the time its just not labeled as such because it is such an expansive category. If you look at the next generations of games that are coming out and the pushing of PCI-express and the new graphics cards, graphics are progressively looking closer to Reality. Now having said that that is only part of the VR question. Interacting more realisticly with that world is essential. We are seeing new steps into 3d Projection,almost holographic displays, and what I feel is the most important step experiements using brainwaves to control movement in simulated enviroments. The techologies havent collided yet into a single form but when they all catch up to each other then we will have true VR. Forget about Virtual Boy which as most of us no was neither true 3d nor Virtual Reality, also excuse the PS2 Eyetoy which are both just novelity items.
  • by east coast (590680) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:21PM (#12401512)
    People still have too many problems with the 2-d monitor and the standard 104 or 101 keyboard. Adding anything to this design at this point would only highten the learning curve and would generate less interest. Perhaps there is a handful of people who can honestly make good use of VR but the majority of us (not just Joe Sixpack) aren't living up to the potential of the box sitting on our desk.
  • do browsers still support it? I haven't seen a page using that in about 10 years.
  • It was *ages* ago that i donned the ForteVR helmet and played Duke Nukem 3D on a Pentium 120Mhz. 3D accelerator cards weren't around yet. 3D sound cards weren't around yet. LCDs were low resolution, low refresh -- no wonder it made us sick as dogs! The helmet had a serial connection to the PC! I'm waiting for LucasArts to pave the way by bundling a bluetooth wireless force-feedback lightsabre and helmet with some future incarnation of Jedi Knight. You *know* we'd all buy one, even if it was *expensive*.
  • Limitations to VR (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mage Inq. (651824)
    I once took a class back in college which discussed some of limitations of virtual reality (this was back in '93). Until some of these things are addressed, and not just the economic factors, VR might not really ever take off.

    For example, how do you address the gravity problem? How can you virtually simulate something that has physical weight, like throwing a virtual ball and catching it?

    And if we have public access to VR devices (assuming it's still economically unfeasible for mass market personal purc
    • For example, how do you address the gravity problem? How can you virtually simulate something that has physical weight, like throwing a virtual ball and catching it?

      Compressed air (or pumped water, if you're immersed) vents on the suit. "Ball" hits hand, suit palm stiffens in the appropriate curve, fingers lose the ability to close through the region where the "ball" is supposed to be, and compressed air blows out of the palm, hard. You have to use your muscles to push back or your arm is driven ba

  • Porn! Screw flying cars, where's the VR smut?

    Porn drives innovation in ways that Bill Gates can only dream about. Bring on the 3D titties now, and in a few years 'legitimate' uses will be commonplace.

  • Ok if you want total immersion you will minimally need the following technology:
    1. head mounted display (HMD), which has the following functional requirements:
      1. 3D motion tracking/telemetry
      2. high resolution display
      3. "ease" of use
    2. Full body tactile feedback suit also supporting basic telemetry (i.e. position of limbs)
    3. devices for simulating body position (i.e. treadmill for walking, chair for sitting, etc.)

    All this stuff can use USB2 or firewire to interface with the computer. Then all you need to do is write

  • As long as computer nerds like us yearn to have sex with famous models, celebrities, and porn stars, there will never be month or a year where progress is not made in virtual reality technology.
  • by femto (459605) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:26PM (#12401575) Homepage
    Contrary to popular belief [slashdot.org], virtial reality was not perfected in 1995. In reality VR was perfected in 1994. 10:42pm on 29th November to be precise. At this time, the US population was sedated by the United Nations via a dose to the drinking water supply. When they woke up 24 hours later, the entire nation was "Trumanised".

    To keep suspicions at bay, advances in VR were removed from this new reality.

    It's hard on the US people, but that was the only way the world could keep their growing nuclear arsenal at bay. On the bright side, GWB is just a bad dream (one they will never wake up from).

    This post will not be posted on the VR version of slashdot.

    • by Jeremi (14640)
      On the bright side, GWB is just a bad dream (one they will never wake up from).


      Initially they tried to make it a utopia, but after Al Gore won the election, no one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost.

  • It's the hardware... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sterno (16320) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:29PM (#12401603) Homepage
    The problem is that the concept of VR has run into the physical limitations of hardware. For example, you can play a game where you can look around and hold a gun like device and point it at people. But once you try to walk, duck, roll, etc, you run into the limits of the system quite quickly.

    So while we can trick the eyes and the ears, we've still got some senses that are firmly grounded in this reality that keeps it from being totally effective. VR does have some practical applications in the medical and manufcaturing fields, but as it was envisioned for entertainment, it's not quite there.

    If we can ever manage to figure out a way to connect a computer to all human sensory input, it won't really get much further. That could mean using some sort of body suit that can fake the sensations of movement, etc, or perhaps a direct interface into the brain.
  • TrackIR! It rules for flight simulators, http://www.naturalpoint.com/trackir/ [naturalpoint.com]

    Allows you to use your headmovement instead of a hatstick to change your view direction in the game!
  • by Nooface (526234) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:30PM (#12401617) Homepage
    This presentation from Virtual Reality pioneer Jaron Lanier [advanced.org] reveals the Top Eleven Reasons VR has not yet become commonplace [advanced.org]. He identifies a number of factors that have held back the adoption of VR by consumers, including key limitations in hardware capabilities and backlash from unsound business practices in its early days. He also points out where research still needs to be done. However, he concludes with the observation that VR has already succeeded as an industrial technology, where it is used regularly in product design and other automation tasks.
    • I've met Jaron, and I tried his very first VR system back in the 1980s. He still isn't admitting what's really wrong.

      Now that there's no real hardware obstacle to gloves-and-goggles VR, it's clear that the basic concept is flawed. There are two fundamental problems. First, eye-hand coordination in empty space sucks as an input method. And second, full-surround visual motion without physical motion makes you feel funny.

      Various "haptic interfaces" have been tried, and some of them actually work. Mos

  • 320x200 pixels, (or even 640x480) might be ok when it's on a monitor - 10% of your field of view, but when it's your entire field of view, as with VR glasses, it's horrible.

    There are now VR glasses which are lightweight and even aesthetically discreet, but the resolution remains atrocious. I'm not an engineer, so I don't know why that is, but my guess is that anything commerically viable has to use off-the-shelf LCDs that are physically small, which basically means low resolution.

    Hopefully, DLP micromirro
  • Tech Limitations (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Effugas (2378) * on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:32PM (#12401631) Homepage
    What's wrong with VR? Hmm, this was the first tech subject I ever investigated in depth, and it's kind of amusing it hasn't gotten much better after all these years. I was just ranting about this a little while ago [slashdot.org], but I'll go more in depth here:

    There are some real problems with latency. Modern operating systems have a really hard time with the idea that there are hard deadlines that must be met on a sub-100ms basis. Even some graphics programmers hold onto the myth that 30fps has anything to do with how fast the human eye can detect motion. The reality is that we detect different faults at different rates, but anything that's tied to our own sense of motion has to be accurate at somewhere around the frame rate of touch.

    The frame rate of our haptic senses is something on the order of 3000 frames per second.

    That doesn't mean you need to update a display at 3000fps (though ironically enough, that's approximately the frequency of the fluorescent backplane on an LCD), but it does mean that if you're trying to show someone something at the same time a touch simulator is telling them they are, frames need to interrupt-updated at a speed that even the core operating system has trouble handling.

    What do I mean by touch simulators? Nothing so complex as this per-finger force feedback weirdness that pulled back on each finger as I touched a virtual cockpit back at SIGGRAPH. No, anything involving a head-mounted display and a position detector is a touch simulator; the "feel" comes from within your head and neck and the reaction is to be visually accompanied by a display of motion.

    But the display is always, always, always late! Look at the monitor. Now move your head and eyes, look at whatever's 90 degrees off to the right. For a noticable sub-second interval, you went blind, so that your brain would not need to contend with this blurry streaky mess. To be immersive, VR systems need to detect your motion, synthesize the appropriate blur-frames, and (hardest of all) have a convenient stable frame in front of you as you're escaping motion-blindness.

    Everything head-mounted fails this just brutally.

    There are vague successes in VR, of course. Driving simulations work fantastically, but it's not like driving is a massively natural feat for our brains to have adapted to in the first place. Screens on every window clean up the above quite neatly. And the phobia work functions because the fears operate on such a low level that your brain isn't able to employ resources such as "heh, that spider's moving wrong". These are useful and impressive successes, but in terms of general purpose "you are elsewhere" mechanisms -- until latency is dealt with appropriately, this will continue to be broken tech.

    --Dan

    • by 5n3ak3rp1mp (305814) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:05PM (#12403796) Homepage
      In the late 80's/early 90's, I was all about VR. I devoured "The Media Lab" by Stuart Brand, about MIT's media lab, etc. Then I was a psych major at Cornell who focused on perception. I was going to post largely the same information that you just did. So instead I will add an interesting anecdote.

      Yes, latency is the main bitch here, but there are a few extra bits of interesting info. One is that your nervous system already has its own latency "lag", and you are already adapted to it. The upshot is that it is possible to adapt to a bit more latency incurred by extra hardware. This has been shown in military virtual cockpit simulators that attempt to present a lot of information to a fighter pilot with a 3D display inside a helmet, as if he can "see through" the hull of the aircraft. The negative is that once you leave that environment, adjusting to the "normal" real-life latency leads you to get nauseous sometimes ;)

      Another interesting phenomenon of perception is that if you are walking in a curve with a large enough radius, you will not be able to tell (if blindfolded... or wearing a 3D VR HUD) whether you are walking in a straight line or not. So in theory you can have a fully-navigable VR system inside, say, a hangar, that tricks you into thinking you are walking forever in a straight line (i.e., in any direction in the world) when in actuality you might be walking in large figure 8's on the hangar floor. This of course conjured images in my head of real-life Holodecks and whatnot, but it's interesting nevertheless ;)
  • by pato perez (570823) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:35PM (#12401664) Homepage
    Lanier was VRs biggest promoter in the late 80's. I remember seeing him give a demo at the time, at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. It was a pretty exciting and compelling talk about cool stuff just around the corner. But then, years passed, and nothing happened.... He recently gave a talk about why VR hasn't happened, after all: http://www.baychi.org/calendar/20030909/#1 [baychi.org]
  • Not all hype (Score:2, Informative)

    by siilarsi (836310)
    Virtual Reality is actually in use today.
    It's being used by architects to inspect their yet to be buildings.
    It's also used in the medical industry as well, apparently it's particulary useful as a mean of viewing strings of DNA in.

    When VR first emerged it was thought by many to be the next big thing for gaming, but not a lot of people thought about it being used in the industry.
    I guess these days it's the other way round.

    I think it's matured enough to be useable by now. People just need to find out how

  • My guess is they realized "Virtual Reality" won't really have much potential (which translates to profit) until there are better ways to interact with the games then a keyboard/controller/clunky motion sensors. Not to mention decent head-mounted displays are still quite costly.... I for one can't wait till input systems improve, and you aren't limited by the controller.
  • VR hasn't died, it's evolved [newstarget.com]. Apparently.

    Back in the days of VR being a buzzword, I, like many others, was most interested in the game potential. The problem of the VR world not being very touchable lead me (like others I assume) to imagine games where the VR word corresponds to real-world walls, but the VR supplies the fantastical element. Eg, Like how a game of laser-tag is played in a building, but key your headset so that a circular wall becomes the base of a kilometre-high tree or something, or other
  • Hiro Protagonist (Score:4, Interesting)

    by antifret (811770) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @05:53PM (#12401812)
    Anyone ever notice while reading Snow Crash that Stephenson never described how users work their avatars? He mentions goggles and lasers that track the user's eye, but stuff like the ubiquitous VR gloves or even a damn joystick, not a blip. I don't think this is an oversight, btw, but more a very clever example of what NOT to write.
  • by jjohnson (62583) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @07:26PM (#12402636) Homepage
    In general.

    We don't have VR for the same reason that websites aren't authored in Shockwave--it's massive overkill for the vast majority of things it might be applied to. The useful applications of VR are very specific, niche apps, and the rest it could be used for can't possible afford the equipment to make it work well.

    Given that, there's little demand to work out the technical wrinkles that make it practical and cost effective. Do you really want to jack in just to check your mail?
  • VR is dead? (Score:3, Informative)

    by cr0sh (43134) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @09:23PM (#12403493) Homepage
    OK - maybe VR isn't what you thought it would be - it certainly hasn't become what I had hoped it would - I have a very healthy collection of VR stuff, from back in the day, mostly - hardware, software, and many magazines and books (as well as a complete collection of the old PCVR homebrew VR magazines).

    No - we aren't enjoying our VR with full headtracked HMDs and fully tracked gloved interfaces, etc...

    We are, however, experiencing VR in other forms - every time you fire up Doom 3 or some other FPS - you are using VR. Your interface is pretty desk-bound (what was at one time termed "desktop-VR") - but VR it is. Fully interactive, multi-player, fast 3D simulation - it is all there. What isn't is the interface.

    Today, it is possible to still get HMD's, but you must be prepared to spend a lot - a good quality HMD will set you back a few grand, top level ones can go stratospheric in price. Most of the price issue has to do with it being a very tight niche market (mainly catering to the oil industry, medical industry, military, and auto industry as the main users) with few buyers. But there are enough players that you can get a decent 800x600 HMD for under $2000.00. If you are adventurous, you could also easily build your own HMD like we used to do it in the old days, using newer LCD display technologies (back then, we used low-res LCD TVs - today, you could easily do it with higher resolution PS2 LCD monitors).

    Tracking is still a big issue - very few players in the market, and their systems are prohibitively expensive - a few grand to track two sensors in 6DOF (enough for head and hand tracking) - Polhemus and Ascension being the two main players which use pulsed magnetic systems (one does AC, the other DC) - all other players tend to using inbound or outbound camera or IR-sensor based systems.

    There is also the issue of software - today, the big thing (besides simulation - such as in DARPA's Dismounted Soldier training project) is entertainment. Today's FPS games seem like a perfect fit, but because the interfaces don't exist, I don't expect many players to experience today's or even yesterday's FPS games on anything more than a monitor.

    Finally, the main issue you don't see much of anything, tends to also be stagnation of the market due to IP and patent issues. Back in the early nineties, when VR was getting hot, many companies were latching onto the technology and patenting everything under the sun. VPL's patent portfolio was pretty huge - one of the main reasons glove interfaces never became big was because they held so many patents on the technology, especially for lightweight gloves, that nothing else was very commercially viable. They got lucky and invented a glove system that was lightweight and tracked fairly accurately (it had its own problems, though). Other companies did the same with tracking technology (ie, Polhemus and Ascension seem to be the only companies with magnetic tracking systems because they both patented the crap out of them - and rightfully so - such tracking systems are very difficult to construct and calibrate, both in hardware and software - one of the companies uses AC, the other pulsed DC - the only way around each other's patents - other companies went ultrasonic and IR based with inbound or outbound systems).

    Then - the internet started taking off. Consumers and other users weren't seeing the "Lawnmower Man"-esque worlds promised (there is only so much a 386 or 486 can do), and the internet was gaining popularity - so were computers for that matter. All of that, plus the lack of hardware - caused VR to be eclipsed as a technology path, at least for the time being.

    Those early VR companies? They either folded or became other things. VPL, IIRC, was sold to Thompson Electronics, and the patents got flung far and wide - but someone still owns them. The other companies, especially for tracking, managed to survive mainly because as the nineties continued and 3D gaming took off, there was a need for tracking systems for 3D input (modeling) as w

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