Virtual Reality & The Classroom of the Future: The Evolution of Learning

Virtual Reality & The Classroom of the Future: The Evolution of Learning

In our last post, we discussed Virtual Reality’s place in education and training. 

This time, we want to dig a little deeper into what we have been doing here at V3 to solidify Virtual Reality’s seat at the educational table.

The image of the traditional classroom is easy to conjure in your mind.  

Whether in a K-12 school classroom setting or an on-the-job training class, the mind’s eye automatically pictures rows of learners facing a single instructor. Participants are likely taking notes and observing demonstrations the best they can in a group setting. Hands-on practice with educational materials is likely limited due to time and lack of resources.

Now imagine this: the same classroom, but learners are all wearing Virtual Reality headsets. 

From the outside, the room probably looks like a massive game of charades, but behind those masks, learners are interacting with educational materials in ways that were inconceivable in the traditional classroom. 

Let’s imagine that learners in this scenario are studying parts of a combustion engine. One user is surrounded by parts of an engine, all floating in the air and waiting to be interacted with. Another user is wielding a virtual camera and is filming intricate details of the interior of their engine for further study later. And a third student has leaned in and stuck his face directly into the middle of his own engine to get a first-hand view of the movement of parts within. 

Sound impossible, both practically and financially speaking?

Not anymore.

Not with developers creating robust new software and virtual reality hardware prices finally becoming more reasonable. This scenario is not just attainable; we here at VisionThree are working to make this vision a reality because we believe this is precisely what the classroom of the future will look like.

To understand this emerging reality better, we need to explain a few fundamentals fueling this evolution. 

Three main factors are at play in the success of the Virtual Reality classroom:

  • “6DoF” & New Hardware
  • Powerful Software
  • Timing
6 DEGREES OF FREEEEEEDOM!
New headsets are bringing an improved virtual experience to the market with higher processing strengths and improved depth of experience with “6 Degrees of Freedom” or simply “6DoF.”

This refers to the freedom of movement of a body in 3-dimensional space. Specifically, the body is free to move forward/backward, up/down, left/right, and can rotate about three perpendicular axes (often referred to as pitch, yaw, and roll).

This is an improvement over more rudimentary Virtual Reality (such as that of Google Cardboard, etc.) in that the user can move about in the virtual space, rather than simply view it from a fixed vantage point. This can be described as being underwater in the deep end of the swimming pool versus looking at the deep end from the vantage point of the shallow end.

Now we get to the really exciting part: Giving students Avengers-style strength and the ability to wield objects limitlessly. Limits on depth, width, space, and weight yield in this new environment. 

Improved software is allowing users to “grab” and interact with virtual objects in previously impossible ways thanks to 6DoF. 

Heavy or unwieldy objects can be picked up, manipulated, and studied from every angle, thanks to the weightlessness provided by virtual reality. Think of how this applies to industrial applications from gas turbine engines (check out our work with Rolls-Royce) to the inner workings of a nuclear power plant or a geothermal climate control system. This is what inspires our team: we’re literally making the impossible appear completely natural.

This sort of “up close and personal” study would be physically impossible in the real world. Controllers also allow users to “teleport” around massive spaces, allowing much larger-scale environments to come to life rather than acting as passive backgrounds.

New Gadgets

Virtual Reality is following the same trend we have seen in years past with personal computers, mobile phones, and cloud computing. Quickly falling costs are making the technology approachable for a far wider audience. 

Gone are the days of spending $5,000 per rig for VR gear. The newest devices are extremely approachable around $800 or less (Oculus Quest is set to debut at $400). This makes them extremely attractive to the enterprise. THIS is key to really changing the classroom of the future. Now we can have classrooms full of students, ALL in VR – before at $5k a pop, we could NOT. This price drop is guaranteed to be a game changer for the world of K-12 education. 

Beyond pricing, true 6DoF technology creates opportunities to expand curriculum and truly get creative with virtual educational materials. Students can remove a gallbladder, repair a circuit board on the International Space Station, or walk on the moon! Our Facebook page is literally full of examples ranging from fashion design to treating depression to helping disabled senior citizens enjoy nature again. 

As they say, if you can dream it…

For educators, content is only limited by curriculum, and with Virtual Reality, curriculum just became limitless!

Now, let’s talk a bit about this new hardware! The Vive Focus Plus and the Oculus Quest (and the Rift S) are the newest game changers to this area. Tech like this puts VR hardware in reach where previously it was too costly for high quantity use such as a K-12 environment. But all that is about to change…

The HTC Vive Focus Plus

“Professional-grade, portable VR solution that is easy to deploy and manage. Now with 6DoF tracking.”

When it comes to the new eye-tracking features, here’s how HTC is describing this new hardware:

“Most standalone devices come with trade-offs—especially when it comes to visual quality. Not the VIVE Focus Plus. Users will be able to see even more details in excellent clarity with reduced ring effects thanks to all-new lenses.”

The Oculus Quest

The Oculus Quest was announced on Monday, and immediately sold out in pre-orders. It is being touted as a wireless standalone headset that promises: “No PC. No wires. No limits.” A bold claim indeed! Oculus goes on to say that users will be able to:

“Simply set up the device with your Oculus mobile app and Oculus Quest has everything you need to explore VR, right out of the box.”

Like the Vive Focus Plus, Oculus Quest is slated to host top-notch motion-tracking using “Oculus Insight” to ‘instantly reflect [the user’s] movement in VR.’

Both of these devices use the same processor (brain), the Snapdragon processor. The processors are getting better (not requiring the big gaming PC anymore), and developers are getting better at producing content that can play on lower spec devices. Again, ALL promoting the realization of the classroom of the future.

VisionThree's V3CORE

VisionThree has already taken advantage of 6DoF by creating our industry-leading V3CORE platform.Years of development have gone into this robust powerhouse software that delivers the impossible: Multiple people in a virtual environment without the previously associated hardware costs. 

Collaborating closely with our customers has helped us pinpoint common threads in functionality requests. Now a curated collection of functionalities, the V3CORE is among the best options in the industry because it’s been designed alongside our customers. We worked together to meet the needs of real educators and trainers at some of our country’s most respected brands. 

This is not our vision of what training should be. This is customers driving our innovation to deliver a solution that produces measurable results. 

Now the exciting part for future clients: We have a platform that virtually anyone can immediately benefit from due to the fact that our team has already completed principal development. 

This allows us to offer a more robust product at a lower cost, creating a more affordable entry point for new customers.

Our software allows multiple people to interact within the same virtual space, providing unique collaboration opportunities for our customers. Some tools included on this platform include: 

  • Explosion – allows a complicated object to be “exploded” into all of its individual components for easier identification and definition
  • Cross-section – allows an intact virtual object to be bisected to reveal the inner workings “in action” (i.e. the path of air moving through a combustion engine)
  • Interactive camera – users can move a camera around to get better views, close-ups, and capture video or stills images for review outside of the virtual environment

These functions are only possible in the virtual space, and they provide priceless opportunities for on-the-job training curriculums. 

With a virtual classroom, the curriculum can be content-focused, without delivery and execution getting in the way of a single learner’s experience. 

Virtual Reality provides experiential learning that you simply can’t find in a traditional classroom. Rather than having to reset between practicing a skill, users can drill a particular task again and again, resetting at the touch of a button. This unparalleled level of experiential learning increases retention rates in learners and provides unmatched ROI to employers who will see training times slashed due to their employees gaining the ability to practice skills again and again until mastery is achieved.

 In so many ways, this emerging technology is as exciting to trainers and safety managers as the advent of the mobile phone was to communications, mapping, and video. 

 The Time is NOW!

 Like nearly everything in life, timing is always essential. 

Virtual Reality is hitting its stride as a viable tool for more than just hardcore gamers. 

By striking while the iron was hot, this powerful technology has finally found its footing and has officially proved itself as more than just a flashy fad. But those gamers ARE making an impact.

“Gamification” of training methods has become an overwhelmingly successful strategy in education.

Schools AND businesses are also discovering that real productivity is possible when cutting-edge software is combined with the newest tech. From the STEM classroom to on-the-job OSHA safety training, education has found a new home in Virtual Reality.

As we discussed in our last post, dangerous and difficult tasks are best learned in consequence-free environments that are only available in a virtual setting. From fixing a jet engine to removing a gallbladder, the possibilities are ever-evolving and only limited by the scope of a particular trainee’s needs.

Education and curriculum development will never be the same, thanks to the contributions of Virtual Reality. Paradigms are shifting, and very soon, VR headsets will be just as commonplace as computers in classroom settings.

We’re investing in the people, the technology, and the relationships that will keep the VisionThree team as the vanguard of this evolution.

The only question left is simple: How big can you dream?

VisionThree, LLC (a.k.a. V3), is an interactive creative agency headquartered in Indianapolis, IN, USA. Focused on Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Touch interactive, we serve and support clients globally with innovative and immersive experiences. V3 specializes in creating experiences that engage, educate, and entertain. Please learn more at VisionThree.com

Virtual Practice Makes Perfect

Virtual Practice Makes Perfect

Experiential Learning.

STEM. (Science, Technology,Engineering, and Math)

Digital Literacy.

Gamification.

These educational trends have been some of the most popular in the last decade. Classrooms have moved past the days of lectures, repetitive memorization, and frenzied note-taking. 

Current educational styles are now more focused on preparing learners for the practical aspects of actually using the materials that they are expected to master. Learning has become more holistic, encouraging users to see a problem or a scenario with a wider lens, rather than trying to force a handful of fragmented, hastily memorized details into a bigger picture. 

From grade-schools, to post-secondary institutions, to on-the-job training classrooms, instructors are reaching further than ever to provide learners with the best possible tools that will equip them to not only learn, but also retain and apply new information.

So… how in the world does this topic belong on the blog of an interactive company?

GLAD YOU ASKED!

With the paradigm shift happening in how people learn, and the fact that educators are constantly pushing to find new ways to teach in our currently technocentric culture, Virtual Reality has found a place to shine in the world of education.

Imagine starting a new job in an industrial field. Your task is to repair large, expensive engines. In your training, you’ve read all the manuals, been shown all the parts, and watched several tutorials. And maybe you had the chance to practice a step or two, because practicing tasks were split up between you and your classmates due to availability of parts to practice on and the cost associated with too many people practicing with (and potentially breaking) expensive parts. At the end of your training, you’re still a bit of a greenhorn the first time you’re turned loose to work on your own. 

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How confident are you?

As an employer, how confident would you be in this new employee? How do you feel about your ROI with an employee whose training has been so truncated?

Now imagine starting that same job. You’re provided your own engine to work on. You can practice repairs again and again with the ability to start over instantly if something goes awry. You have the freedom to fail early and often with unlimited “do overs” until you feel comfortable. Parts are limitless and unbreakable. You have the ability to view your engine from the inside to see how the parts work together. You have one-on-one access to your instructor if you have questions, and you can collaborate with fellow students who are also working on their own individual engines. When you finish your training, you have countless repairs under your belt, but you can rest assured that your own personal practice engine is there waiting for you should you ever need further training.

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How confident do you feel now?

How about as an employee?

This lofty aspiration is completely reachable and is happening right now with Virtual Reality! In a virtual environment, practice materials are limitless, mistakes are consequence-free (allowing dangerous tasks to be practiced from the safety of a VR headset), and hands-on drills can be reset again and again as needed with the touch of a button. Learners are no-longer bound to the physical classroom, but can meet virtually from across the globe to be taught by the best and brightest of their field. Because of its flexibility, the virtual classroom has untold potential as an educational conduit.  

One writer at TeachThought – an educational website focused on professional resources and curriculum development – put it this way: “The immersive nature of virtual reality brings depth to educational content by engaging the senses and allowing exploration to a degree that would be difficult to duplicate within the confines of a classroom, making it an ideal catalyst for curiosity and true learning.”

THE 7 LEARNING STYLES ARE COMMONLY AGREED UPON AS:

  1. VISUAL
  2. AURAL
  3. VERBAL
  4. PHYSICAL
  5. LOGICAL
  6. SOCIAL
  7. SOLITARY

In a diverse group of learners with individual, distinct learning styles, Virtual Reality can cater to each person’s needs without sacrificing the education of the rest of the group. If one person needs to spend time alone with their materials to master a particular concept (Logical/Solitary/Physical), while another needs to discuss methods with the group (Verbal/Social), and still a third needs to just sit back and take in the discussion (Visual/Aural), all of these styles can be accommodated without the associated chaos of a live classroom. Need to process on your own for a minute? Mute your classmates while you ponder your materials. Need to examine something close up? You’ve got your own virtual materials that you don’t have to share. Need to practice a particular skill some more, but the rest of the group members needs to work on other skills? Reset your practice module again and again until you’ve mastered it.

We are currently facing a skills gap in industries that once expected years of apprenticeships before mastering a hands-on trade. The new generation of “digital natives,” now entering the workforce in droves, expect to learn new skills in their native ‘language’ via digital delivery. The generational divide between “digital natives” and the “digital immigrants” who can still clearly remember the days pre-internet is clear, but not difficult to bridge. With Virtual Reality, hands-on training CAN be delivered digitally, spanning the language barrier between generations. 

VisionThree, LLC (a.k.a. V3), is an interactive creative agency headquartered in Indianapolis, IN, USA. Focused on Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Touch interactive, we serve and support clients globally with innovative and immersive experiences. V3 specializes in creating experiences that engage, educate, and entertain. Please learn more at VisionThree.com

The Ballad of the HoloLens

The Ballad of the HoloLens

In February 2019, Microsoft unveiled the HoloLens 2 at Mobile World Congress, and it is being described as “mind-bending” and “remarkable” by some of the first users.

And by all accounts, this could be the first major step in the massive adoption of AR by a public who is eager to see where this technology can take them. It is truly an exciting time! 

But the HoloLens has not always been quite so impressive. When the original version was first unveiled in 2015, the only thing that outdid the expectations were the disappointments. While Microsoft reps stressed that the device’s Augmented Reality software was meant to “complement” the real world, it was in no way as “immersive” as early reviewers had expected based on the tech trends at the time. The coming of the vocabulary of Augmented, Virtual, Mixed reality, caused a lot of confusion, and far too many comparisons were made between these tech cousins. Maybe that’s not fair, but that’s what happened. And the Hololens found itself quickly last picked for kickball. 

Practically speaking, the HoloLens missed more than a few checkboxes of success. Most critics agreed that the three major flaws of the HoloLens were defined as follows:

1)   For starters, the field of view was about the size of a postage stamp, or at least it certainly felt that way. This negative was most likely the product of an unfair expectation generated by the ever present rumor mill. But unless you had the perfect use case or you were 20 ft. from your target, experiences just couldn’t be packaged in that small size. 

Hololens 1 – Released to Developers in March of 2016

2)   The processor ran at a ho-hum 1.04GHz and only 2GB of RAM. Early reviewers were surprised at this lackluster level of processing power, and it was a large contributor to the device’s equally lackluster sales.
 
3)   Ergonomics were sorely lacking. The headset fit awkwardly, was difficult to adjust for comfort, and felt like wearing a toaster on your forehead. The thing got HOT!

While the HoloLens did offer an unencumbered wireless experience, the tech just didn’t live up to the hype. It was quickly labeled an “advertising gimmick,” and the $3,000 price tag all but guaranteed that the general public would not be clamoring to purchase one. Even the Microsoft technical fellow in charge of the HoloLens, Alex Kipman, publicly stated that there was no reason to talk about a consumer version of the device until the price could be brought down to below $1,000.

In the end, the original $3,000 HoloLens was aimed at developers, and overall unit sales were only in the thousands – a rather disappointing figure, considering that the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset sold at a rate of 4-5 units per minute on its 2012 release day alone. The feedback for HoloLens was so bad that Microsoft decided to duck out of the spotlight for LOTS of R&D. They had their noses back to the grindstone for so long that there was talk of skipping Version 2, and goings right to a Version 3 almost 3 years after the first model.

Fast forward to February 2019. Microsoft appeared at MWC in Barcelona to announce the HoloLens 2, a successor that boasts improvements in immersiveness, ergonomics, and business friendliness, and promises to provide “industry leading value out of the box.”

MICROSOFT'S PROMISES INCLUDE:

IMMERSIVE:

See more holograms at once through the greatly increased field of view. Read text and see intricate details on 3D images more easily and comfortably with industry-leading resolution.

ERGONOMIC:

Wear HoloLens 2 longer and more comfortably with a dial-in fit system designed for extended use. And keep your glasses on—the headset slides right over them. When it's time to switch tasks, flip the visor up to step out of mixed reality.

UNTETHERED:

Move freely, with no wires or external packs to get in your way. The HoloLens 2 headset is a self-contained computer with Wi-Fi connectivity, which means that everything you need goes with you while you work.

INSTINCTUAL:

Touch, grasp, and move holograms in ways that feel natural—they respond a lot like real objects. Log in to HoloLens 2 instantly and securely using just your eyes with Windows Hello. And voice commands work even in noisy industrial environments through smart microphones and natural language speech processing.

Microsoft is still targeting enterprise customers with the HoloLens 2. At MWC, the company stressed that this device will provide “immediate” value to large businesses. Partners such as Airbus, Honeywell, Pearson, and Saab are already working on launch software. Microsoft also teased “true collaborative computing” with a workspace app called Spatial that will allow multiple people to collaborate and share ideas.

Hololens 2 – Projected release date is late Spring/early Summer 2019

So it will truly be interesting to see if Hololens 2 can shake the demons of its predecessor and become the Horatio Alger story we all want and need. Or if promises and big talk once again outperform real capabilities and end up dealing yet another blow to the tech giant who swears they belong in the space. Regardless of the outcome, ten years from now, we’ll look back at a harrowing story that took place in the equivalent of the Bronze Age of Augmented Reality. The questions remain, how fair will history be? And is history truly written by the winners? 

VisionThree, LLC (a.k.a. V3), is an interactive creative agency headquartered in Indianapolis, IN, USA. Focused on Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Touch interactive, we serve and support clients globally with innovative and immersive experiences. V3 specializes in creating experiences that engage, educate, and entertain. Please learn more at VisionThree.com

BUSTED! Debunking 5 Common Rumors About Virtual Reality

BUSTED! Debunking 5 Common Rumors About Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality has become a valuable tool with surprising new uses cropping up every day.

From the medical field to construction, users are solving everyday problems with custom virtual environments and specialized solutions, utilizing a once-scoffed technology that many today are still skeptical about. Today, we’d like to help clear the air a bit about this oft-misunderstood tech, and hopefully debunk a few of the more prevalent rumors along the way!

I CAN’T USE VIRTUAL REALITY… IT CAUSES MOTION SICKNESS!

That definitely used to be the case for many users. In the early days of Virtual Reality, flashy demonstrations allowed the user to feel as though they were flying through space or riding a roller coaster, and the user was powerless to control their perspective in the scene besides looking around from a fixed point in their “seat.”

When a user’s confused perception of self-motion causes communication between vision and balance to break down, chaos ensues in the body’s vestibular system (which is responsible for balance), and the user will sometimes feel physically ill. “Virtual Reality Sickness” is a very real phenomenon that occurs when the inner ear does not detect motion that the eyes are seeing.Early methods of correcting this side effect included introducing a static frame of reference such as a virtual nose in the user’s immediate field of vision. Others simply reduced those eye/ear discrepancies by limiting rotational movement, teleportation, and moments of zero gravity, and limiting the user’s field of view.

Thanks to improved motion-tracking technology available in newer hardware, users can move about the virtual space and get a better sense of where their bodies are in the environment. The inner ear receives less confusing feedback about the user’s balance, which causes far less “sea sickness.” Improved frame rate and refresh rate of newer hardware has also all but eliminated the dreaded “Screen Door Effect” that once caused visible spaces between pixels, resulting in graphics appearing as though through a screen door.

With these massive leaps in hardware quality, users who once couldn’t use Virtual Reality can now experience all it has to offer without a fear of motion sickness!

BUT STILL… IT COSTS TOO MUCH!

Not any more! One of the biggest barriers that Virtual Reality technology faces in the consumer market is that of cost. A quality Virtual Reality-capable computer can cost upward of $1,000, plus the cost of an upgraded graphics card and other internals required in order to provide the best user experience possible.

And then there are the headsets. A high-end headset like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive will set you back another $600-800. These costs were poised to impede Virtual Reality’s growth in recent years, and have indeed been cited as “barriers to entry” for many who are interested in using Virtual Reality solutions as productivity tools, but that is all changing as we speak!

Newer Virtual Reality headsets are ditching more than just cumbersome cords. Many are also losing the sticker shock of previous models that have scared away a large portion of the market. The newest iterations of Oculus headsets (the Oculus Go and the Oculus Rift +) are retailing for $199 and $349, respectively. A few lower-end options like the Google Daydream and the Samsung Gear VR ($99 and $130) also offer better-than-average Virtual Reality experiences, though their software options may be more limited than their powerhouse predecessors.

While the future holds several new standalone wireless headset options like the HTC Vive Focus, set to retail at around $800, we will also see other prices drop as these companies compete to become more cost-conscious and consumer-friendly. It is already happening now as the “little guys” of the industry continue to surprise consumers with budget-friendly options that deliver on experience. And when you compare all this to an exorbitant “CAVE” setup or where hardware was 10 years ago, $800 becomes “cheap,” relatively speaking!

YEAH, BUT IT’S JUST FOR ENTERTAINMENT…

It certainly started out that way! Virtual Reality has evolved so much since the early days of the “Telesphere Mask” (see our recent post on the History of VR here). From the days of the Virtual Reality gaming “CAVE” to today’s real-world applications in training and education, the use-cases for Virtual Reality span a vast spectrum for an ever-widening audience.

Physicians are seeing uses for Virtual Reality in practicing surgical techniques, as experiential learning is a necessity in the medical field. Having a simulation that provides a virtual gallbladder to remove again and again makes it easier for more med students to access hands-on practice when actual patients are in short supply. Virtual Training has also shown promising results in construction and the automotive industry. Trainees can drill specific skills in a risk-free environment where materials aren’t wasted and expensive equipment isn’t put at risk when mistakes are inevitably made.

Learning techniques are changing. Today’s workforce is made up of more and more visual and experiential learners than ever before, and career training is evolving right along with them. If it seems like these skills practice scenarios sound a lot like a game, you’d be right! Gamification is a technique that many industries are moving toward in training their workforce. Besides, who said learning can’t be fun?

IT'S ADDICTIVE.

Ok, now you’re just being silly. While users who are truly impressed by Virtual Reality environments will likely want to return to them frequently to continue their experience, there is no documented evidence that using Virtual Reality is any more or less addictive than any other media usage.

FINE. BUT WE ALREADY HAVE 360˚ VIDEO AND VIRTUAL REALITY ON OUR PHONES… SO WHAT MAKES ALL OF THIS NEW STUFF SO SPECIAL?

 Great point! 360˚ video and smart phone Virtual Reality software have been major players in the Virtual Reality industry in the past decade.

The difference lies in the experience being offered. Options like the GoPro and Google Cardboard certainly do put “Virtual Reality” into the hands of content-producers in a far more wallet-friendly capacity. While these options are consumer-friendly, accessible, and not to mention, CHEAP, they do not offer the “interactability” of their higher-end older siblings. When it comes to the hardware, think of it like this… Yes, technically, you can play baseball with a child’s molded plastic bat, but wouldn’t you have a much more successful experience with a Louisville Slugger? Or maybe ask yourself this question when it comes to software: What’s more enriching? Watching a video tutorial or practicing a skill with your own hands? While all of these scenarios offer perfectly valid experiences on their own, it comes down to what a user expects to gain from each experience. 360 video and smartphone Virtual Reality software just can’t offer the same level of “hands on” interface as higher-end headsets.

So, in the end, Virtual Reality is no different from any other adolescent technological breakthrough. It’s had its growing pains and challenges. But by and large, this is a technology that is discovering itself at a very rapid pace. And what was true nine months ago, doesn’t remain true today, and may not be true nine months from now! Pre-conceived notions were born out of the rumor mill and cemented into the minds of skeptics somewhere along the line. But as Virtual Reality continues to evolve, hopefully those rumors become extinct one at a time. 

VisionThree, LLC (a.k.a. V3), is an interactive creative agency headquartered in Indianapolis, IN, USA. Focused on Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Touch interactive, we serve and support clients globally with innovative and immersive experiences. V3 specializes in creating experiences that engage, educate, and entertain. Please learn more at VisionThree.com

The Evolution of the Revolution: A Brief History of Virtual Reality

The Evolution of the Revolution: A Brief History of Virtual Reality

“VIRTUAL REALITY? IT’S JUST A FAD!”

Many skeptics think that Virtual Reality is a new invention – a tech fad that will fizzle out along with Google Glass and that 2017 hoverboard that was prone to spontaneously combust… The truth is that head mounted Virtual Reality displays have been around since the first patented model, the “Telesphere Mask,” appeared 1960 (see the patent drawing in the header image!). This first model predated digital computing, and its patent application described the device as “a telescopic television apparatus for individual use…The spectator is given a complete sensation of reality, i.e. moving three dimensional images which may be in colour, with 100% peripheral vision, binaural sound, scents and air breezes.”

But by the end of the 1960’s, “Artificial Reality” programs began featuring computer-generated environments that had the ability to respond to the actions of the users in them. In 1987, Jaron Lanier founded the Visual Programming Lab (VPL), which became the first research lab solely dedicated to Virtual Reality. VPL was the first company to sell Virtual Reality goggles and gloves, changing the direction of the field with the introduction of “haptics” which stimulated the senses of touch and motion. 

“Ambitious” is the theme

The hardware of Nintendo’s “Virtual Boy” delivered monochromatic visuals, uncomfortable ergonomics, and little else.

The 90’s were all about Virtual Reality gaming, with the invention of the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (or simply “CAVE”), which is an immersive virtual space where projectors are directed to the six walls of a room-sized cube. CAVE systems are still in use today, with flat-panel displays becoming more commonly used over projectors. General consumers also had access to Virtual Reality hardware with video game companies SEGA and Nintendo announcing consumer-level Virtual Reality headsets for home use. Both systems were huge flops. The Nintendo hardware was uncomfortable, and its graphics were lackluster. SEGA’s hardware never actually made it past the prototype phase.

The failures of these two gaming titans to bring Virtual Reality to the mainstream tarnished the general opinion of Virtual Reality possibilities in the real world. Virtual Reality became a concept associated with fantasy storylines akin to The Matrix, and was not well received as a real-life solution to real-world problems.

Market Success

The 21st century brought even more research and development. Oculus VR was founded in 2012, and the introduction of the powerhouse Oculus Rift changed the perception of Virtual Reality forever. Originally, the Rift was most often hyped as a powerful piece of gaming hardware, selling at a rate of 4-5 kits per minute on the first day of pre-orders, but as more and more developers in other areas outside of the gaming industry got their hands on Developer kits, the resulting software began to branch into more “practical-use” territory. Educators saw the possibilities that Virtual Reality offered, and over a short period of time, Virtual Reality began to “grow up” and offer real-world ROI that no one could have expected. In 2014, Oculus VR was purchased by Facebook for $3 billion, and has spent the last few years developing Facebook VR as well as new controller hardware.

Oculus Rift Dev Kit 1 represents the first of the “modern” Virtual Reality systems.

Consumer-minded

Google “Cardboard” viewers offer cheap alternatives to pricy headsets.

The rise of smartphones has also enabled a new generation of portable, lightweight, and practical Virtual Reality devices. Companies like Google and Samsung have driven development of consumer-level Virtual Reality, utilizing camera sensors, motion controllers, and user interfaces that were already an industry-standard on those devices. With the release of Google Cardboard in 2014, developers produced a steady stream of consumer-minded Virtual Reality software, and the possibilities of Virtual Reality once again opened like floodgates. 
Not just for gamers any more… But what can it do?

As we previously discussed, an all-too-common assumption about the uses of Virtual Reality is that it is best used for gaming, and little else. Indeed, developers have already created enough Virtual Reality games to keep the most avid gamers busy for a lifetime, but the practical applications of Virtual Reality stretch far beyond just entertainment. In fact, thanks to the engineering of some of those same game developers, the ability of Virtual Reality to fully-immerse a user into a virtual environment now allows for practically endless possibilities in the business world. Need to see blueprints come to life in order to secure an investor? Mock it up in Virtual Reality. Need hands-on training for a physically dangerous task like tuning a jet engine or removing a gallbladder? Practice it in a consequence-free virtual setting. Want to sell an item that is too bulky or awkward to physically present to potential clients? Let them see it in context in a virtual environment. The possibilities are only limited by imagination.

Here are some practical examples of Virtual Reality working for some of our clients:

VisionThree Announces $80M Initiative to Reimagine Recruiting Through the Power of Virtual Reality

VisionThree (V3) is proud to announce the launch of V3TOUCH as part of the interactive room for LUME Year 2 at Newfields. The engaging touch interactive Timeline experience is featured on two displays, showcasing historical highlights about the culture, technology and artistic development through the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist eras.

VisionThree Announces $80M Initiative to Reimagine Recruiting Through the Power of Virtual Reality

VisionThree (V3) is proud to announce the launch of V3TOUCH as part of the interactive room for LUME Year 2 at Newfields. The engaging touch interactive Timeline experience is featured on two displays, showcasing historical highlights about the culture, technology and artistic development through the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist eras.

What Lies ahead?

While Virtual Reality technology is nowhere near perfect, the current hardware has opened the door to possibilities that the developers of the 1960s could barely even dream of. With new hardware such as the Oculus Quest and the HTC Vive Pro Eye entering the marketplace this year, and the HTC Vive Focus on the horizon, developers are still finding new and innovative uses for this powerful tech on a daily basis, from training to sales. Oculus and Vive continue to be the industry leaders in powerful and immersive Virtual Reality hardware, and as they venture into wireless headsets, the real-world application of Virtual Reality software is poised to explode once more. We here at V3 are excited to be a part of this continuing expansion into real-world applications.

The upcoming HTC Vive Focus promises to be a self-contained mobile headset that tracks a user's motion with outward-facing cameras.

VisionThree, LLC (a.k.a. V3), is an interactive creative agency headquartered in Indianapolis, IN, USA. Focused on Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Touch interactive, we serve and support clients globally with innovative and immersive experiences. V3 specializes in creating experiences that engage, educate, and entertain. Please learn more at VisionThree.com

VisionThree in the News!

VisionThree in the News!

VisionThree was recently featured on Inside INdiana Business as a leader of innovation in Virtual Reality.

We recently had the opportunity to showcase some of the exciting things that we've been working on in the realm of Virtual Reality! Check out the video above to see our own Jeff White answer some questions about our recent advancements!