This week Inland 360 takes a look at the future – or at least what the future may hold. Here’s what you need to know about the coming reality of virtual reality.What is virtual reality?
Virtual reality, or VR, is a computer-simulated version of a three-dimensional space where it seems to the viewer that they can interact with the environment. A head-mounted display placed over the eyes responds to head movement giving the viewer a 360-degree view as they turn left to right or look up or down. This tricks your brain into thinking it is actually in the virtual space.
Why virtual reality is now a real “thing”
People have been trying to make distant environs seem real since stereoscopes were invented in the 1800s. VR sets now on the market use the same concept, two images of the same thing captured at slightly different angles and viewed together give the impression of depth and solidity. The biggest challenge developers faced was replicating human vision. Early VR sets caused nausea and vomiting because of lag time between the viewer’s head movement and the change in the image. Developers believe they have finally conquered this issue. In response, a variety of VR sets are now hitting the market – from the $20 Google Cardboard headset to the much anticipated $599 Oculus Rift that begins shipping in March.
What virtual reality can offer
Virtual reality drops the viewer into a digital world. Content is in its infancy and people are only beginning to explore the ways it will be used.
Gamers have long anticipated the arrival of VR for the immersive experience it promises. Videos also envelop the viewer. Imagine being able to tour the Louvre or go skydiving from the safety of your living room. A handful of NFL teams are using VR to help train players, giving them the chance to view plays as if they are on the field. At this year’s Sundance Film Festival viewers could explore 30 VR experiences. In one they toured war-torn Serbia. In another they saw the perspective of two young men being apprehended by police.
Many anticipate that people will one day be able to buy virtual front-row tickets to rock concerts or professional sporting events at a fraction of the cost. Businesses could use it for teleconferencing or training.
The near future of VR
Tech companies are jumping on the virtual bandwagon. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg bought Oculus VR in 2014 on the belief virtual reality will become a part of day-to-day life. Sony is releasing PlayStation VR this year. A few days ago, Newsweek announced that Apple is secretly building its own reality headset. Samsung is rumored to be releasing a 360-degree camera this year. These are just a few examples of how the platform is advancing.