Virtual Reality is a creation of a highly interactive computer based multimedia environment in which the user becomes a participant with the computer in a “virtually real” world1
We are living in an era characterized by 3D virtual systems created by computer graphics. In the concept called Virtual Reality (VR), the virtual reality engineer is combining computer, video, image-processing, and sensor technologies so that a human can enter into and react with spaces generated by computer graphics.
In 1969-70, a MIT scientist went to the University of Utah, where he began to work with vector generated graphics. He built a see-through helmet that used television screens and half-silvered mirrors, so that the environment was visible through the TV displays. It was not yet designed to provide a surrounding environment. It was not until the mid ’80’s that virtual reality systems were becoming more defined. The AMES contract started in 1985, came up with the first glove in February 1986. The glove is made of thin Lycra and is fitted with 15 sensors that monitor finger flexion, extension, hand position and orientation. Connected to a computer through fiber optic cables. Sensor inputs enable the computer to generate an on screen image of the hand that follows the operator’s hand movements. The glove also has miniature vibrators in the finger tips to provide feedback to the operator from grasped virtual objects. Therefore, driven by the proper software, the system allows the raptor to interact by grabbing and moving a virtual object within a simulated room, while experiencing the “feel” of the object.
The virtual reality line includes the Data suit and the Eye phone. The Data suit is an instrumented full-body garment that enables full-body interaction with a computer constructed virtual world. In one use, this product is worn by film actors to give realistic movement to animated characters in computer generated special effects. The Eye phone is a head mounted stereo display that shows a computer made virtual world in full color and 3D.
The Eye phone technology is based on an experimental Virtual Interface Environment Workstation (VIEW) design. VIEW is a head-mounted stereoscopic display system with two 3.9 inch television screens, one for each eye. The display can be a computer generated scene or a real environment sent by remote video cameras. Sound effects delivered to the headset increase the realism.
It was intended to use the glove and software for such ideas as a surgical simulation, or “3D virtual surgery” for medical students. In the summer of 1991, US trainee surgeons were able to practice leg operations without having to cut anything solid. NASA Scientists have developed a three-dimensional computer simulation of a human leg which surgeons can operate on by entering the computer world of virtual reality. Surgeons use the glove and Eye phone technology to create the illusion that they are operating on a leg.
Other virtual reality systems such as the Autodesk and the CAVE have also come up with techniques to penetrate a virtual world. The Autodesk uses a simple monitor and is the most basic visual example for virtual reality. An example where this could be used is while exercising. For example, Autodesk may be connected to an exercise bike, you can then look around a graphic world as you pedal through it. If you pedal fast enough, your bike takes off and flies.
The CAVE is a new virtual reality interface that engulfs the individual into a room whose walls, ceiling, and floor surround the viewer with virtual space. The illusion is so powerful you won’t be able to tell what’s real and what’s not. Computer engineers seem fascinated by virtual reality because you can not only program a world, but in a sense, inhabit it.
Mythic space surrounds the cyborg, embracing him/her with images that seem real but are not. 2 The sole purpose of cyberspace virtual reality technology is to trick the human senses, to help people believe and uphold an illusion.
Virtual reality engineers are space makers, to a certain degree they create space for people to play around in.3 a space maker sets up a world for an audience to act directly within, and not just so the audience can imagine they are experiencing a reality, but so they can experience it directly. “The film maker says, ‘Look, I’ll show you.’ The space maker says, ‘Here, I’ll help you discover.’ However, what will the space maker help us discover?”4 “Are virtual reality systems going to serve as supplements to our lives, or will individuals so miserable in their daily existence find an obsessive refuge in a preferred cyberspace? What is going to be included, deleted, reformed, and revised? Will virtual reality systems be used as a means of breaking down cultural, racial, and gender barriers between individuals and thus nurture human values?”5
During this century, responsive technologies are moving even closer to us, becoming the standard interface through which we gain much of our experience. The ultimate result of living in a cybernetic world may create an artificial global city. Instead of a global village, virtual reality may create a global city, the distinction being that the city contains enough people for groups to form affiliations, in which individuals from different cultures meet together in the same space of virtual reality. The city might be laid out according to a three dimensional environment that dictates the way people living in different countries may come to communicate and understand other cultures. A special camera, possibly consisting of many video cameras, would capture and transmit every view of the remote locations. Viewers would receive instant feedback as they turn their heads. Any number of people could be looking through the same camera system. Although the example described here will babbly take many years to develop, its early evolution has been under way for some time, with the steady march of technology moving from accessing information toward providing experience. As well, it is probably still childish to imagine the adoption of virtual reality systems on a massive scale because the starting price to own one costs about $300,000.
Virtual Reality is now available in games and movies. An example of a virtual reality game is Escape from Castle Wolfenstein. In it, you are looking through the eyes of an escaped POW from a Nazi death camp. You must walk around in a maze of dungeons were you will eventually fight Hitler. One example of a virtual reality movie is Stephen King’s The Lawnmower Man. It is about a mentally retarded man that uses virtual reality as a means of overcoming his handicap and becoming smarter. He eventually becomes crazy from his quest for power and goes into a computer. From there he is able to control most of the world’s computers. This movie ends with us wondering if he will succeed in world domination.
From all of this we have learned that virtual reality is already playing an important part in our world. Eventually, it will let us be able to date, live in other parts of the world without leaving the comfort of our own living room, and more. Even though we are quickly becoming a product of the world of virtual reality, we must not lose touch with the world of reality. For reality is the most important part of our lives.
28, July 6, 1991Baudrillard, J., The Ecstasy of Communication, Translated by Bernardand Caroline Schutze, New York: Semiotext, 1987Helsel, K. Virtual Reality-Theory, Practice, and Promise London:British Library, 1991
Neira, C. “The CAVE: Autovisual Experience Automatic VirtualEnvironment”, Communications of the ACM, vol. 35, pg. 65-72, summer 1992Venkat, P. “Integrating Virtual Reality”, IEEE Transactions, vol. 36,35-38, 1991
1Helsel, K.Virtual Reality-Theory, Practice, and Promise(London: British Library, 1991) 52Venkut, P.”Integrating Virtual Reality”
IEEE Transactions(vol. 36, 1991) 353Helsel, K., 734Helsel, K., 1055Helsel, K., 123
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