Computer Graphics World

July / August 2016

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j u ly . a u g u s t 2 0 1 6 c g w 7 V I E W P O I N T efforts to create the CAVE and "erased" the many challenging months that led to that moment. I think most of us who were part of that first wave had many similar experiences that made it all worth the effort. VR captured the public's imagination very rapidly, and suddenly, as more and more ideas and visions were being discussed toward shaping this new and unexplored medium, the media started to portray these visions as actual projects and products. We found ourselves facing unrealistic expectations of what the technology could do, and we transitioned from a period of positive creative frenzy to one of disappointment and decline of interest – all before this new medium had the time to mature for real use. At that point, we entered what I call the dark age of VR, between the years of 2002 and 2012. During this period, although there was not much mention of VR in the press, some of us early VR pioneers managed to transition from research to production, mostly working with engineering and military groups in virtual design and training applications. For me personally, this time was perhaps my most productive as far as making VR work with a purpose. I worked with several US Fortune 500 companies to help them introduce VR into their product development cycle. I worked with computer hardware manufacturers to refine their systems to support the performance demands of VR systems. I worked with military groups to incorporate virtual training into their programs. I developed several traveling museum installations to create immersive storytelling and immersive journalism pieces. We staged several dance and theater performances integrating virtual reality into the stage. We did amazing projects, but they were done silently: They barely received any attention from the press, as VR was no longer exciting and "cool," or the work was confidential. A tremendous body of work was created during these dark years by my group and others, and we all learned a great deal about what works and what does not work in VR, as well as the performance parameters and the attributes that define a good immersive experience. In a sense, VR had become an accepted and established tool within certain industries and was no longer new and "enchanting." I T ' S B A C K And then, around mid-2012, VR was back in the front pages with the introduction of a new generation of platforms that were significantly improved, simplified, and, most importantly, very affordable. Suddenly, VR was no longer an exclusive technology accessible to an elite set of computer scientists and engineers. It now had the possibility of becoming mainstream and accessible to pretty much everybody. This has also driven the evolution of the soware tools to create VR applications. From this point on, VR has exploded into one of the fastest-growing businesses today, is capturing the imagination of the public (again), and we are envisioning a myriad of applications that will bring science fiction into reality. People all over the world are now building VR applications for almost every aspect of human life. It is astonishing to see that the current wave of VR is not driven by research, but by industry – in particular, industry serving the consumer market. From my perspective, this means that the work is much more focused on end-user technologies and applications placing strong constraints on the robustness of the technology as well as on the ease-of-use of the tools to create applications. I see this, together with the significant cost reduction, as the strongest improvement over the approaches we had in the first wave, and it gives me confidence that VR can be accepted not only as an entertainment tool, but as a powerful tool to improve industry processes, health care, education, training, and many other disciplines. The lower cost and ease-of-use also opens uncharted territories for human creativity, communications, and social interactions. I am starting to believe that this resurgence of VR is defining a critical milestone in human history and that future generations may call our present "the VR revolution." But within all this excitement, I also feel we need a reality check on what is happening with VR. There is great potential for it to succeed for real this time, but there is also a possibility that VR may collapse again if we don't pay attention to what we are doing as a community. As I said earlier, there is a frenzy to create a profitable market for VR technologies, VR tools, and VR applications. The expectations are starting to be too [CONTINUED ON PAGE 72] LEFT TO RIGHT (PREVIOUS PAGE) VIRTUAL CONSTRUCTION EVALUATION AND UNDERSTANDING PHOTOSYNTHESIS FROM IN- SIDE A PLANT CEL; (ABOVE) USING VR TO UNDERSTAND ANCIENT STRUCTURES AND THE DESIGN PROCESS FOR BUILDING THEM. ©1998, Carolina Cruz-Neira, VRAC, Iowa State University ©1998, Carolina Cruz-Neira, VRAC, Iowa State University

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