Virtual Reality in very broad terms means experiencing a reality that is simulated and not your own; with the help of a VR headset you’re transported to another environment, where you can move around and interact with the elements of the environment, from the comfort of your home.
While headset-based VR technology is relatively new, going back only a decade, researchers have been working on VR for more than half a century. The predecessors of the headset were large, clunky, and not nearly as capable, yet they demonstrated the possibilities of VR and laid the foundation for the current technology.
One of the first public devices that could be categorized as a VR system was the Sensorama.
This ambitious piece of technology dared to venture where even modern technology has had to drag its feet, namely in the areas of sensory interactions such as vibration, wind, and aromas. Lacking in mass potential, however, the project had to be shelved.
Towards the late 60s, we saw the introduction of headset-based technology that is more of a norm now. These cumbersome headsets, engineered in research labs, sometimes for specific use cases, stayed in the hands of a few and were not available for public use. During this time, VR was a niche technology used specifically for flight simulation, medical, automobile design, and industrial and military training purposes.
The start of the last decade saw the emergence of consumer VR headsets that transformed the VR industry. Oculus Rift led the charge, while Google cardboard showed that basic VR experiences need not be expensive.
Today we have headsets like Meta Quest pro with computing so advanced that they aim to be one stop solutions for all your entertainment, office, social needs.
Usually when we talk of VR, we talk about computer generated imagery. But there’s also a form of VR that’s rapidly gaining ground over the years and that’s live action VR, or 360 degree media.
Whether it be in the form of 360 degree videos, virtual tours or live streaming, there’s a tremendous amount of appetite for live action VR.
Many big global events are live streamed in 360 degree, YouTube has 360 degree video support with a large base of content uploaded by creators of all sorts, and virtual tours have become a common feature in many an industry letting.
Live action VR is created with the help of footage captured from multiple cameras or multiples lenses in a single camera, which is then stitched into a 360 degree view. At first, creators were using Gopro mounted rigs to capture 360 degree content but now 360 degree cameras are readily available.
Another related technology is AR. The world at large was introduced to it when PokemonGo made it big.
Augmented reality overlays virtual elements on top of the real world. There are a range of devices capable of handling AR, one of them being your smartphone.
AR also has many use cases, for individuals and for corporations, and in the years to come, we will witness AR become a much bigger thing than it currently is, with wearables making it more accessible.
Written by Manish Bhanushali