Computer Graphics World

March / April 2016

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34 cgw m a r c h . a p r i l 2 0 1 6 irtual and augmented reality are making quite a comeback. Indeed, VR made an impression in the 1990s, perhaps even in spite of its role in the creepy science-fiction/hor- ror film Lawnmower Man. In the real world, however, VR applications were limited by the available computer power (or lack thereof) and became mainly the domain of those that could afford it: military, medical, automotive, and aerospace. Oen the applications played out in CAVES, with users tethered to cumbersome devices. A few years ago, I tried out an early version of the Oculus Ri at the Game Developers Conference, and as its design evolved, so, too, did interest in the gadget. So much so, in fact, that in early 2014, Facebook purchased the company and, in doing so, motivated others to buy into the concept of virtual reality. Now, more companies are following suit: Sony's PlayStation VR and HTC/Valve's Vive for games, and Google's Cardboard and Samsung's Gear VR for smartphones, to name a few. To accompany the VR viewers/headsets, there are gloves and other devices to enhance the VR experience. All this equipment, in addition to soware for generating the VR imagery, can be used in a wide range of applications, from training (military, industry, athletics), education, entertainment, design (in- dustrial, urban planning, architectural), therapy, and so much more. Here, we look at the growing world of VR through the eyes of Denise Quensel, who coordinated last year's SIGGRAPH VR Village. Did the resurgence of VR take you by surprise? I think because I work in academia and R&D, it came as no surprise at all that VR came back into focus so quickly. For me, it was actually a bit more like 'Oh, thank you, finally!' Those who have worked in this area have pushed for so long to see improvements in hardware and soware that allow for excellent VR content, both in entertainment and practical application. What is surprising is how well the VR pio- neers work with young people who are new to VR, that despite the gap in age, they share extremely common philosophies. What sparked the interest again? I think the Facebook purchase of Oculus was a huge part of the mainstream interest in VR. As soon as that happened, it was like an overnight switch was flicked that made the general population go from 'VR is only for games and geeks' to 'VR is a social experience and conduit to change.' Also, most people before 2015 had zero interaction with immersion technology beyond stereoscopic 3D in movie theaters and 3DTV. Stereo 3D may be a window rather than a screen, but VR is not the window; it is 'presence' to a new world. One minute inside a head-mounted display, and that becomes immedi- ately apparent. More people are getting their hands on development kits and items like Google Cardboard now, so we've hit the ultimate form of affordable VR. What is different about VR/AR now as opposed to in the 1990s? The hardware finally works! But in all seriousness, the technology really was the main reason why VR fell out of favor in the '90s. There is a significant amount of scholarly papers, reports, and experiments VIRTUAL REALITY 2.0 THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE OF AR AND VR BY KAREN MOLTENBREY V

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