Some examples of VR applications

 

 

Over the years, many have argued that virtual reality often fails to deliver on its promises. This is mainly because its technological, and even some academic proponents, have continuously over promised, raised expectations, but just as energetically, also failed to deliver.

Many VR projects around the world are built on very expensive high-end technologies, where the returns can be elusive.

At the Naledi3d Factory, to make VR more relevant to Africa’s needs, we have stripped out most of the high-end VR technologies and also take into consideration the social returns that VR CAN deliver – and these returns are HUGE.

We develop our training simulations for the humble PC, where improvements over the past few years in graphic technologies in particular have made this more than possible.

VR has also had its share of technology breakthroughs and innovative applications and here, we look at some VR technologies that work, and that may yet point the way to truly successful virtual reality.

 

Anxiety Therapy


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For years now, virtual environments have been used to treat anxiety problems with exposure therapy. Psychologists treat phobias and post traumatic stress disorder by exposing the patient to the thing that causes them anxiety and letting the anxiety dissipate on its own. But this proves difficult if your stressor is a battlefield in Iraq. Enter virtual reality. Military psychologists use simulated Iraq war situations to treat soldiers. Other therapeutic VR uses include treating a fear of flying, fear of elevators, and even a "virtual nicotine craving" simulator for smoking addiction. (Thanks to io9.comfor this inspiration)

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VR Training Simulators


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Large-scale, immersive virtual reality environments have also been used as training simulators. The earliest examples were flight simulators, but VR training has expanded beyond that and there are many modern military examples, which in the US, usually means Iraqi cultural situations battlefield simulators for soldiers, as well as counter-terrorism and paratrooper simulators.

On a more peaceful note, this is one of our favourites, a three screened truck simulator, with a full-blown Volvo cab. The cab is mounted on a 5 DoF (degree of freedom) motion platform with controls linking back to the controlling computer, in turn driving the screen imagery and platform motion. 

In this example, installed at a technical training college in Gothenburg (Sweden) in the late ‘90’s, a (human) tutor monitors the student driver throughout their session, giving constant feed-back via speakers on mistakes they have made.

Why is it one of our favourites? The main reason (apart from the beer crate used to step up into the cab) is that this truck simulator was used 8 hours a day, 5-days a week as a compulsory module for young student truck drivers in southern Sweden. To us, implementation is the key to VR success).

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Air-traffic control, Gothenburg (Sweden)
satsaair traffic controlThere are good historic reasons why the Gothenburg region of Sweden has taken well to virtual reality – and in a variety of forms.

This simulation system was designed as an air traffic controller training system, developed by NANCO for SATSA of Sweden.

 

Ship simulators
To wrap up our selection of simulators, Kongsberg of Norway are one of the global leaders in the development of Ship’s Bridge Simu­lators, which are commonly used to simulate movements into and out of major ports around the world. An example of where they are used would be in The National Maritime College of Ireland in Cork.

 

Medical Procedures
http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/io9/2009/06/UKMITATi1_01.jpgModern medicine has also found many uses for virtual reality. Doctors can interact with virtual systems to practice procedures or to do tiny surgical procedures on a larger scale. Surgeons have also started using virtual "twins" of their patients, to practice for surgery before doing the actual procedure. (Image - the Karlsruhe Endoscopic Surgery Trainer). (Thanks to io9.comfor this inspiration)

 

CAVES or CUBES
D:\davesdocs\Projects\Eon sales\a EON Video's and images\Images\I Cube\226_0008_02.jpg The term "CAVE" (sometimes also referred to as “CUBES”) refers to virtual reality systems that use multiple walls / multiple projectors to immerse users in a virtual world. Two projectors per screen (or wall) are used to achieve a stereoscopic effect.

The first true CAVE was built in 1992 as a way of showing off scientific visualizations. Today, many universities have their own systems, which are used for example to visualize complex data, demonstrate 3D environments or testing component parts of newly developed engineering projects.

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Curved Screens and the like
D:\Images\Teesside_PERA\perascreen.jpgThese are great for immersing an audience into a virtual reality experience; curved screens (or more commonly, three straight walls connected at an angle to form a curved effect) are often used in museums as part of the visitor experience.

They are also commonly used for example in science centres for kids and indeed, many other venues that involve large amounts of foot-traffic.

In this configuration, it is easy to share a virtual experience with an audience, which is typically given 3D polarising glasses to see the 3D (stereoscopic) effect.

One elegant solution can be found in EON Reality’s ICube system. In this system, the three screens are adjustable – and can be set to form a 3-wall cube (walls set at 90 degrees), or, by moving the two outer walls- they can be re-aligned to form a curved wall (at 35 degrees or so).

 

“Power walls” and the like
volvo Large, single visual walls can have many names, “Power walls” being but one. In our example here, Volvo Trucks in Sweden use a large screen as a truck design wall, as well as to showcase new designs and products (project designed by NANCO, Gothenburg).

 

Domes
No mention of high-end VR installations would be complete without mentioning the use of domes.

Dome installations can be very large, vertical systems (such as the ceiling mounted 26-metre Haydn Planetarium dome in New York); or vertically mounted as in the example shown here, in this case, a 12-metre dome housed at the University of Teesside VR Centre in Middlesbrough, Teesside, UK)

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The Nintendo Wii
http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/io9/2009/06/413104380_735cf98cb6_01.jpgProbably the most successful cousin of virtual reality on the market today is the Nintento Wii. The Wii owes its motion capture and intuitive interaction concepts to the virtual reality technologies of the past.

The controller is basically a simplified version of the "virtual reality glove." Both the Wiimote and the Wii Fit control devices offer users another way of interacting with their virtual environment without having to wear any bulky equipment. (Image: a new take on Wii tennis by Meaq). (Thanks to io9.com for this inspiration)

 

 Multiplayer Online Gaming
One modern outcome of virtual-reality research is the existence of entirely separate web-based virtual worlds, inhabited by the avatars of real world users. These worlds are sometimes referred to as multiplayer online games, with the World of Warcraft arguably the largest virtual gaming world in use now, with 11.5 million subscribers.

http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/io9/2009/06/156705595_80a53d78f3_01.jpgAnother example would be Second Life, which can't really be classified as a game, since the goal is to wander around and interact with people, much like in the real world. However, Second Life is being taken further in some areas. For example, a Second Life Shakespeare Company performs Shakespeare's works within Second Life. (Image: The Second Life Globe Theatre, Pathfinder Linden). (Thanks to io9.comfor this inspiration).

 

Augmented Reality
Much has been said of Augmented Reality, where the “real-world combines with 3D simulation techniques. Here’s is a lovely example of how Augmented Reality can work in practice.

Fighting fears with augmented reality roaches
http://cache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/8/2010/05/cockroaches.jpgIf fear is the mind killer, the routes for banishing those fears are equally devastating — it usually means confronting them. But a Spanish study used virtual roaches, which might unlock a less scary path. Six subjects, with a severe fear of cockroaches exhibited a severe level of anxiety when presented with virtual roaches.

According to Popular Science, ”Participants sat at a desk, wearing a virtual reality headset linked to a computer. The headset had a camera, so the person wearing it would see a video of the desk she was looking at — but now also covered in virtual cockroaches. Six female study participants reported extremely high anxiety levels when presented with the simulated cockroaches”.

It's unclear whether the augmented reality treatment can be used to cure the phobia in question. This study was designed to see if the same level of panic could be reached in hopes that far more dangerous phobias 9for example, falling) could be treated is the same manner.  (Via PopSci.com)

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Some failed VR technologies
Over the years, the world of VR has seen some wonderful technology advances, but also some ambitious, but false starts. At one stage, some were also describing the world of home virtual reality as the new wave of the future. In hindsight, most would just call it goofy and expensive. Here are three virtual reality technologies that didn't work, and never will (again, thanks toio9.comfor these inspirations).

 

Giant Headsets
http://cache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/8/2009/06/340x_virtual-reality-8.jpg There are too many examples of this particular item to pick just one. It seemed for years that hard-to-wear headsets were a prerequisite for any virtual reality technology.

The earliest virtual reality headsets looked like a giant television strapped to someone's face. The technology has advanced since then, with smaller and more economical displays, but the headsets of the past made many think of virtual reality as nothing more than a passing, gawky novelty.

 

Omni-directional Treadmills
http://cache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/8/2009/06/340x_ODT_GenOne.jpgBeyond the display, control, and coding problems of virtual reality, there's still the problem of mobility. When you virtually move forward, you also move forward in the real world, so designers had to find a way of allowing people to walk around while staying in one place.

The most common solution was the omni-directional treadmill. This device does exactly what it sounds like it would do, it lets users move in any direction on a treadmill. It's a good idea in theory, and as early as 1997 working prototypes were created. However, these treadmills are also very expensive and very large – and it’s hard to imagine cramming something like the device pictured here into a corner of your living room. (Omni-directional treadmill photo by David Carmein, 2007).

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Virtusphere
http://cache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/8/2009/06/340x_VS_Transp1.jpgEnter the Virtusphere. Users strap on their VR gear and enter a large translucent sphere. The experience is something like a large stationary hamster ball. As an individual wanders about, the ball freely rotates to allow the user to wander around in the virtual world.

While the device clearly does what it claims to do, the average home user seems hesitant to play their games trapped inside something that looks like it just popped out of a giant’s football game…

There have, of course, also been major advances in virtual reality technology. However, as the technology catches up with the vision, it seems that people also develop bigger visions (aided perhaps by Hollywood and the film industry).  Technologies such as the internet and personal computers survived their awkward teenage years, and virtual reality often struggles to keep up.

Hence our approach to virtual reality, where we have stripped down the technology hype to the point where the visually interactive advantages of VR can be used to great effect in Africa, especially in education and training and social development.  Of course there are areas where the higher end VR technologies can also be used to great advantage, harnessing the visual aspects of VR to bring science alive in science centres for our kids being but one example.