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On 23 June 2016 Wall Street Journal published an article that raised the question is Virtual Reality the next frontier in Marketing? On 24 June 2016 Cool pad came in news when it launched its VR 1x Virtual Reality head set only for ₹999 ($15 Approx). Global VR market is expected to be of $120 billion by 2020 but what is Virtual Reality? VR can take you to the grassy fields of Scotland while you're at home. VR can give you experience of a roller coaster ride while you are sitting on your sofa. All this can be done in the world of Virtual Reality, where the impossible becomes possible. It is taking over the world by storm with the advent of many products like the Oculus, Google glass and Samsung Gear VR. Read more to know about Virtual Reality concepts in simple words.


What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality (VR), is a computer technology that replicates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user's physical presence and environment in a way that allows the user to interact with it. It is an emerging trend which is now bringing more public attention.

In more simple words VR makes you to see things or places around you that don't really exist but looks so real, it almost (if not actually) makes you feel like you are right there in the action.

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Benefits of Virtual Reality :

Virtual Reality is fun and extremely tempting to try and enjoy for many people. It gives a new perspective for people in the field of entertainment and education:

1. Entertainment

The main reason for Virtual Reality is for entertainment purposes. The financial growth of this area can be calculated from Global Virtual Reality Industry Report 2016 report of Research and Markets. There are so many ways to have fun in virtual environments. Disney brings movies to life with Disney VR movies. Along with VR movies, there are several new games that uses head mounted displays to give an immersive feel for the users. Some games to note are Chronos, Valkyrie, and The Climb. They are powered by Steam, an entertainment platform. The VR cinema in Amsterdam now provides a 360 degree movie experience to people by giving them an almost real life movie that unfolds around you! Click here to watch the video of VR cinema.


2. Education

Not only for fun, but Virtual Reality can also be used for effective and immersive learning experiences. Learning how to repair a car or a bike by using a Head Mounted Display (HMD) is much better than reading a huge book. Here is a video that uses Virtual Reality to learn about the human body. It look so real it feels like you are actually traveling in the body and its parts. All this coolness by just some extensive coding and no dead body parts used! That saves a lot of money and is a lot more safer. VR makes real expensive experiences a lot more cheaper (comparatively, keeping the VR set up cost in mind).

What do I need to experience Virtual Reality?

It is not hard to get into the groove with VR. There are different requirements depending on different companies that are providing VR (e.g. Sony, Oculus, Samsung, etc.)

The most easiest way to enjoy the virtual experience is with the smartphone. Samsung has come up with an easy way with the idea of Samsung Gear VR, where one just have to keep their smartphone inside a goggle like structure. For using VR with smart phones, this is what you will need:

  1. A smartphone (preferably larger 5 inches screen size).
  2. A head mount like the Samsung gear or the Google cardboard.
  3. An application for VR.

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The major contributor of cost is the phone which is around ₹ 20000 (INR), depending on the phone. Samsung gear is cheap and the Google cardboard blueprint to make your own head gear is totally free and can be downloaded here.

The other more expensive but effective way to experience Virtual Reality is through the high-end computer systems, for example Oculus. The components for these type of products in general are:

  1. A high-end computer system, preferably with Windows OS.
  2. A compatible graphics card (e.g. Nvidia GeForce Titan X)
  3. Software for the VR experience (The Oculus Runtime)
  4. A VR kit given by Oculus and similar companies. They usually have:
    1. A head mounted display
    2. A sensor that need to be attached to the monitor of the system (the Oculus IR sensor)
    3. An optional game controller

Virtual Reality is not only for the millionaires, its headsets are available on amazon at affordable prices. Click here if you want to buy Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard Kit, Oculus Rift or View-master virtual reality starter pack from Amazon USA at cheaper prices with international shipping. The prices may not burn a hole in your pocket but will require some savings.


Is Virtual Reality a new field?

Actually Virtual Reality is not so new topic. It dates back in 1960s when Ivan Sutherland came up with what was known as the "Ultimate Display". He introduced the concept of complete sensory input and output, which is now the current trend in Virtual Reality. Click here if you like to see the paper written by Ivan. But it was not much popular at that time and gained popularity from 2012 when Palmer Luckey came up with the Oculus Rift.

What is the current state of Virtual Reality?

Palmer Luckey Founder of oculus(As on July-2017) The world of Virtual Reality (VR) gained it's current popularity undoubtedly due to Palmer Luckey's Oculus Rift. He had the vision to make affordable VR headsets which became a reality on August 1 2012, when he launched the Kick starter campaign that raised a million dollars in just a few days! Now with Palmer's success, VR is taken into a whole new level. Many companies are now in the fight to be at the top.

GearVR Hero Gold 2 Samsung Gear VR is a product from the collaboration of Oculus and Samsung, which is a headset that which contains an embedded smartphone to give a wireless experience for the lucky ones to wear it. Google has a cheap way to give VR experience with Google cardboard, which is just a cardboard box in which a smartphone can be inserted to feel VR on the move.

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Project Morpheus2 minGaming experience is taken to the next level with VR entering the gaming field with Sony's Project Morpheus (Playstation VR) and HTC Vive. Just put on the virtual reality headset and feel the real meaning of first person shooter as you tear the field with your guns and bazookas. It will feel so real you better watch out for that bomb!

Other smaller companies are coming up with new ideas to change the virtual experience. FOVE is one such company with the idea of tracking the movement of the eyes to give a more realistic experience. Its gaze feature can give a new 'look' to VR as the possibility for eye contact with an avatar in the virtual world is awesome.


The next feature comes from Mind Maze VR, which uses EEG (ElectroEncephaloGraphy) sensors and depth cameras so it can support actual hand interactions to the virtual world.
Augmented Reality (AR) is another boon in VR where virtual objects are incorporated in the real world environment. Google explored this field with the Google glass. Although not much of a success due to the fact that it was considered intrusive for the public, the skepticism was later gone after the Oculus came to view. Then other AR headsets like the OSR Vision and the Leap Motion then came to light.
The next big leap came in the form of Microsoft's Hololens, where one can see the real world through its see-through lens and the virtual objects are embedded. The accuracy of the human eye cannot be matched with a digitized feed and Microsoft saw that well. It was an excellent option for the 'Mixed Reality' feel.

Current research challenges in Virtual Reality?

Let's look at some of the challenging tasks that are currently (July 2017) being tackled in this field of VR by researchers around the world:

  1. Using your own muscles in VR: VR currently has controllers that uses infrared technology and other means to be tracked in the virtual space. The actions are performed by the corresponding buttons in the controllers. The next step is to use the users own muscles to give the corresponding action, this time directly. Ideas are underway to use sensors attached to the muscles of the human body so a move in the arm will correspond to an arm in the VR world to move. This will increase the immersive experience in VR.
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  2. Using force feedback: One of the challenges in VR is to 'feel' the world and not just see the world. One work includes computer controlled stilts that will change in response to the VR terrain. For example, if a person walks in the virtual world upstairs, then the real world will respond accordingly. This will give the feeling of reality to a whole new level. The haptic technology is advancing rapidly to give users the 'feeling' of being in the virtual world. Impacto is a product trying out this field, it is a device that provides haptic feedback based on the situation. It simulates muscles tactile sensitivity by giving the users a shock impact feeling upon a virtual stimulus. In simple words, if someone punches your arm in VR world, your gonna feel it in the real world! It won't be much force as to send you flying but a simple tap is all it takes to increase the immersive feeling of VR.

  3. Mixed Reality: A problem currently tackled by Microsoft's Hololens and other such gadgets is the mixed reality situation. Picture this: If a person currently in virtual space drops his / her controller in real world. Then how will he / she find it in the real world when it is blocked currently? Or consider this: While playing VR games, a person would like to eat some popcorn on the table. Can they see the bowl on the table while they are in a VR room shooting bad guys? The solution to this is providing a method in which the real world can be mixed with the virtual world on demand. This is the term Mixed Reality.
  4. Cyber-sickness: A queasy problem with many HMD sets is the lack of other sensory inputs, namely the vestibular input. This input is the feeling of balance that originates from glands in the ear. If someone is tilting at an angle in the VR world, like rolling down in the VR roller coaster ride, then the corresponding feelings should be felt in the real space, else this conflict between the eyes and the ears will give some nasty side effects for the less-used-to users. Hence wearing the headsets for long period of time is inadvisable. This situation is being tackled by using other outputs for the user such as a six degree axis environment that will tilt and swirl according to the VR world.
  5. Research Papers: Click here to get the latest / current research publications related to virtual reality.

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Health issues related to VR : The presence of a large screen actually close to the eyes is bad for the eyes since a large amount of light is emitted to the eyes and long periods of time will result in similar side effects as watching too much TV. Doctors have recommended a maximum time of about two to three hours for viewing in an HMD. If you experience any headache or dizzy feelings while wearing an HMD during the VR experience, it is highly recommended to quickly remove the HMD and take a half an hour break before wearing it again.

Conclusion:

Its surely hard to overlook these big feats in the field of Virtual reality. From the advent of Ivan Sutherland to the campaign of Palmer Luckey, VR has been and will surely be a big thing to look out for in the world. Perhaps soon everyone will be using VR in their daily lives from virtual gaming to visiting dream place of the world (virtually). Hence in one way, VR does make your dreams to reality! Do not forget to Like and Share this article. I would like to know your views and answer your questions related to VR in comments section below.

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