Virtual Reality (VR) still seems like something you’d encounter in the depths of a science fiction novel, not readily accessible in your own living room. The development of virtual reality has grown exponentially since its initial conception in the 1980s, although attempts at creating the sense of visual transportation were practiced as early as the 19th century in the large panoramic paintings of landscapes and battles.
Virtual Reality is, in essence, about creating 3D computer generated environments that act as a form of reality emulation. Whether it is completely fantastical or closer to our true environment, VR is immersive storytelling and gives the user the ability to live through an active narrative rather than being a passive subject. It is only in the last few years that t VR take-up has become more widespread, with marketing implementation for films and entertainment, and the availability of Head Mounted Displays (HMD’s) compatible with our existing mobile and gaming technologies from companies such as Oculus and PlayStation.
Another form of reality manipulation that has captured the attention of the younger generation is Augmented Reality (AR), made exceptionally popular by Nintendo’s latest addition to the World of Pokémon; Pokémon GO. This is available as a mobile app that uses the existing camera functions of your smart phone to explore your own neighbourhood in order to capture, evolve and train your own Pokémon. AR is also being used in technology like Google Glasses and Head Up Displays (HUDs). Currently, AR is more widely accessible and available to consumers due to smartphone-compatibility reducing costs. Whereas VR requires a greater consumer investment: usually a few hundred pounds for a full kit.
Recently hosted by one of the leading names of real-time rendering and virtual reality technology, the Unreal Engine London Build was the utter fantasy of anyone even vaguely interested in VR or CGI. Lifted to the top of a London Skyscraper you were transported into a hipster’s dream, with wooden floors and computer equipment covering the walls. The London Build presented the future of technology and how VR fits into it. Sol Rogers, CEO of Rewind, a creative production agency specialising in VR and Mixed Reality (MR) production, spoke to a crowd of industry professionals and journalists about the future of the industry and VR’s potential impact.
Until now the main focus of VR and AR has been integration into entertainment and gaming media, but Unreal Engine demonstrates a much more ambitious future for VR; with integration into the development of vehicle and architectural design. Plus the potential for extra-terrestrial training! VR experiences like Field Trip to Mars, the first ever group experience without any s, and BBC’s Home, an interactive narrative of life on the International Space Station, show how VR is blurring the line between reality and imagination.