Friday, April 6, 2007

Virtual Reality (1980s-today)

10 Zen Monkeys has a great article about the paleo-futuristic promise of Virtual Reality. As the article points out, we may have things like Second Life, which is mentally gripping but is far less physically immersive than what was projected.

I remember looking at Nintendo's Virtual Boy in the mid-90s and thinking, "Finally! It's just a matter of time before virtual reality takes over the gaming market."

Jaron Lanier, the developer that was interviewed for the 10 Zen Monkeys article has a Top Eleven Reasons VR Has Not Yet Become Commonplace. It's worth a look. I find number 7 the most intriguing in a lot of ways.

"Because human acuity is so good that you can't get away with so-so specs as you can when the interface is less intimate, as with existing mass produced devices." I can't decide if the Wii proves number 7 or shows that technologies that are becoming more immersive are more attractive for their playability than their graphics.

The image above is from the Walt Disney World attraction Carousel of Progress which was updated in the late 1990s to include a futuristic family playing a virtual reality game.


Nick Teeple said...

The Wii definitely has taken a step forward in the immersive direction. The playability versus looks question is very interesting. It seems that we are finally just achieving the former and still have quite a way to go on the latter. Hopefully the Playstation Quattro or the Xbox 1080 will come with a headset or something....

Ricardo Jimenez said...

VR is an obvious future prediction, is just that there are many "in between" milestones that we in our technological mainstream culture need to asimilate first. We need to mature. Is like being a baby and knowing that you will eventually run and jump, but not acknowledging that you have to walk first. Some pieces of the technology might be ready, but there are many others that are not. One for example is bandwith, which will require an additional order of magnitude for VR to be successful. Other requirement will be programming languages that simplify VR game creations, in a way like creating networked or 3D games was simplified during the last decade. If you are into computer science it is easier to understand this. For example remember the movie "The Lawnmower man"? (1992), it clearly showed what many are still dreaming, and in a time where we didn't have 1/10th of the computer power nor the programming languages we have today. When you realize that just in the past 3 years we have things like WPF that is bringing 3D apps to the masses, is easy to understand why we don't have VR in games just yet. It just requires too much computing power that we can easily predict we'll get there someday, but we are still at least a decade more away from this.