Computer Graphics World

July / August 2016

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6 cgw j u ly . a u g u s t 2 0 1 6 V I E W P O I N T A s a veteran of virtual reality, I find myself tremendously enjoying the resurgence of VR through the frenzy of new companies and new technologies that keep emerging le and right, the excitement of the press covering every effort, and the increasing number of students who are requesting to join my research program. It is very clear that this time around, virtual reality is here to stay and, hopefully, to stay for good. As a difference from what I call the "first wave" of VR in the late '80s and early '90s, when virtual reality was a luxury of a few well-funded research labs and highly knowledgeable computer scientists and artists, today's virtual reality has emerged driven by the consumer market, in particular the gaming and entertainment industries. As such, it is becoming available to pretty much anyone, and with a rapidly growing choice of applications for anything we can imagine. As much as I am enjoying VR's resurgence, I find myself at times frustrated. This is mostly due to the belief of the current generation of VR inventors, developers, and users who are "discovering and inventing" VR right now. They have little knowledge that VR has been around for over 30 years with many successful developments. For example, people look at me in disbelief when I mention the fact that pretty much any brand of car we drive today uses VR at different stages of the product development cycle. Whether it is for engineering design reviews, manufacturing planning, or driver analysis, most car manufacturers have been using VR for years and years. The same holds true in the oil and gas industry and several other markets. Many incredibly talented researchers and practitioners have been working since the mid-1960s on defining what we know today about VR. S T E P P I N G B A C K Let me share a little bit of what VR was like at the beginning. Those of us who rode that first wave know how challenging (and expensive) it was to create VR applications. We had to have expertise in both hardware and soware development, as we were creating the first VR technologies at the same time we were creating the first VR applications. We had to be ingenious, creative, and resourceful, and we were driven by a strong passion, commitment, and perseverance, all because we believed that VR would be the way of the future. We were living the pioneering days of VR in which almost every day was one of wonder and discovery. I will never forget the many, long, sleepless nights, weekends, and holidays I spent in the lab while designing and building the first CAVE. I was doing clustered VR before PCs even existed. I was developing new hardware that enabled me to display synchronized stereoscopic images (the foundation of what now is found by default in most graphics cards). I was building fiber-optic network drivers so I could optimize the communication among the nodes in the cluster driving the CAVE (which now are standard drivers in almost every OS). I was developing low-level C++ libraries to help others use the CAVE (which now are bundled as much simpler SDKs). At the same time, I and many others were also learning the impact that this technology had on end users through a wide range of experiments to quantify the performance parameters of the integrated VR systems required to provide a compelling, as well as safe, VR experience for the user. It is hard to describe the sense of fulfillment I had when the CAVE was shown for first time in 1992. Thousands of people came to the exhibit, waiting over four hours in line for less than five minutes of experience. The look of wonder, the imagination spark, the happy faces, the "wows" I saw in all the visitors completely validated my THE RENAISSANCE OF VR BY CAROLINA CRUZ-NEIRA © 2001 Carolina Cruz-Neira, VRAC, Iowa State University © 2016, Carolina Cruz-Neira, EAC, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

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