The Past, the Present and the Future of Virtual RealityMarta Skorupko11 Architecture for Society of Knowledge, Faculty of Architecture Warsaw University of [email protected] arch.pw.edu.pl,Abstract.This work presents what has done in the past, what is done right now and what wemight see in a short future, by researching about past innovations of the VirtualReality and observing the news for usage of Virtual Reality devices or plans.Virtual Reality (VR), sometimes called Virtual Environments (VE) has drawn much attention in the last few years. Extensive media coverage causes this interest to grow rapidly. Very few people, however, really know what VR is, what its basic principles and its open problems are. In this paper a historical overview of virtual reality is presented, basic terminology followed by applications of this technology in science, work, and entertainment areas. An insightful study of typical VR systems is done. All components of VR application and interrelations between them are thoroughly examined: input devices, output devices and software. Additionally human factors and their implication on the design issues of VE are discussed. Finally, the future of VR is considered in few aspects: architectural, technological and social. New research directions, technological frontiers and potential applications are pointed out. The possible positive and negative influence of VR on life of average people is speculated.Keywords. Virtual Reality; graphics; Virtual Environment; simulation; architecture.I. IntroductionToday computer graphics is used in many aspects of our life. Nowadays it is difficult to imagine an architect, engineer, or interior designer working without a graphics workstation. In the last years the stormy development of technology brings more faster computers equipped with better and faster graphics boards and other components. It is possible for an average user, to move into the world of computer graphics.What is Virtual Reality (VR)?Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment. On a computer, virtual reality is primarily experienced through two of the five senses: sight and sound.What can Virtual Reality do for us in our normal life?Virtual Reality gives us a lot of possibilities. Not only for explore a complete different worlds as for example in games where we can feel even more like we are part of this artificial world, but also helps us optimizing and planning for operations, and gives people possibility for training new skills for example air force use virtual reality for training new pilots.There are so many things which we can do with Virtual Reality, so in next years we can expect a significant growth in popularity of virtual reality, as well as rapid development of this technology. The prognose says that Virtual Reality will bring up to 2.300 Million US Dollar with even the doubled sales in the years 2017 (“Virtual Reality – Prognose zum Umsatz weltweit bis 2018 | Statistik,” n.d.). Oculus Rift selled 60.000 DevKid1s (Vrland, n.d.) and 45.000 DevKids2 until July 1st 2014 (cybereality, 2014), which indicates that the market is growing and people are aware of the technology.II. HistoryMost of the inventions that are concerning computers, are made in the military or at least sponsored by it. The military was also the driving force for most of the simulators and for the beginning of the virtual reality.Technology of Virtual Environment which becomes popular and fashionable in current decade was launched about 50 years ago.The first one to realize that there hast be more than displaying content on paper was Douglas Engelbar. His concept was to combine video screens and computers, which, as we can see today, worked. His lab, the Augmentation Research Center is also responsible for most of the interfaces developments we use nowadays. In 1966 he gave the first demonstration of his system where he simply opened a document, copy and pasted a part and then closed it. His usage of the mouse and the screen was the beginning of the Virtual Reality we know nowadays (Pimentel).Let us have a short glimpse at the last five decades of research in Virtual Reality:Sensorama – in years 1960-1962 Morton Heilig created a multi-sensory simulator. Film in color and stereo, was augmented by binaural sound, scent, wind and vibration experiences. This was the first approach to create a virtual reality system.The Ultimate Display – in 1965 Ivan Sutherland proposed the ultimate solution of virtual reality: an artificial world construction concept that included interactive graphics, force-feedback, sound, smell and taste.UNC Walkthrough project – at the University of North Carolina an architectural walkthrough application was developed in the second half of 1980s. Several VR devices were constructed to improve the quality of this system.Augmented Reality (AR) – this project dating 1990s, a technology that “presents a virtual world that enriches, rather than replaces the real world” (S. Bryson). This is achieved by means of see-through HMD that superimposes virtual three-dimensional objects on real ones. This technology was previously used to enrich fighter pilot’s view with additional flight information.Virtual Reality used in architectureThe first attempts to apply VR as a visualization tool were architectural walkthrough systems. The pioneering works in this field were done at the University of North Carolina beginning after year 1986, with the new system generations developed constantly. Many other research groups created impressive applications as well – just to mention the visualization of St. Peter Basilica at the Vatican presented at the Virtual Reality World’95 congress in Stuttgart or commercial Virtual Kitchen design tool.III. Virtual reality technologyArchitecture- modeling, designing and planningIn modeling virtual reality offers the possibility of watching in real-time and in real-space what the modeled object will look like. We have several tools for interior designers and architects who can visualize their sketches. They can change colors, textures and positions of objects, observing instantaneously how the whole surrounding would look like.Nowadays we have well developed softwares for creating 3d models and virtual environment. These programs are user-friendly and intuitive.”The 3D model linked to a data base concerning the lighting system management characterizes a collaborative virtual environment. It means that it can be manipulated by partners interested in creating, transforming and analyzing data in order to obtain results and to make decisions. The process of developing the prototype interface considers this proposes. Then, the model is easy to use and not require sophisticated computer skills by users, as many are not computer experts. The human perceptual and cognitive capabilities were taken into account when designing this visualization tool. It uses an interactive 3D visualization system based on the selection of element directly within the virtual 3D world. Further more, associated with each component there are integrated databases, allowing the consult of the require data in any point in time.” (A. Z. Sampaio)The interactive application allows the examination of the physical model, visualizing, for each element modeled in 3D.”In the area of architecture, VR models are generally applied to the visualization of static physical models in the definition of itineraries of walk-through, as a means of transmitting the functional and geometric aspect of the building. This paper contemplates incorporation of the 4th dimension, the time, into the concept of visualization. The focus of the work is on traveling through time: the ability to view a product or its components at different points in time during their life. It is envisaged that the incorporation of the time dimension into 3D visualization will enable the designer/user to make more objective decisions about the choice of the constituent components of the building.” (A. Z. Sampaio)In the context of architecture VR can also be applied by preserved through physical restoration or renovation of historical buildings.”In the context of architecture, historical buildings can be preserved through physical restoration or renovation; however, these procedures are costly and may not be feasible due to deterioration of materials over time.” (A. Rafi)Training and educationThe use of flight simulators has a long history and we can consider them as the precursors of today’s VR. First such applications were reported in late 1950s, and were constantly improved in many research institutes mainly for the military purposes.Nowadays they are used by many civil companies as well, because they offer lower operating costs than the real aircraft flight training and they are much safer. In other disciplines where training is necessary, simulations have also offered big benefits. Therefore they were prosperously applied for determining the efficiency of virtual reality training of astronauts by performing hazardous tasks in the space. Another applications that allow training of medicine students in performing endosurgery, operations of the parts of body.GamesWhen hearing of Virtual Reality, many people think about games and the Oculus Rift that was is hyped at the moment. There has been so much improvement the last few years that thinking of what might be in the future gets every gamer excited.Head-mounted displaysFor example, Sony made an approach in this directory. The “Wearable HDTV, 2D/3D, Virtual 7.1 Surround Sound” head-mounted display like glasses are enabeling the user to watch a show in 3D or 2D with great sound anywhere the user wants. It is connectable to many mobile devices and a PC. According to the homepage one can also use the glasses for gaming, similar to the Oculus Rift. The difference here is that the Oculus Rift is still in developing while the Sony HMD can already be bought for about $999IV. Future Developments and ConclusionsIn conclusion, we have many things that might change or changing right now. The problems we had before with size and prices are solving themselves, companies are investing and people are experiencing the wonders.Virtual reality will become also an essential tool for architects and every architect will soon design using 3D goggles. Virtual architecture can be as convincing as the real thing within couple of years.”Virtual reality technology has opened up possibilities of techniques and effective ways for research, especially in the field of design, architecture, interpretation and preservation of cultural and natural heritage (Ch’ng and Stone, 2006) and education at least for the last 15years. According to them virtual heritage (VH) sets out to designate the use of computer-based interactive technologies to record, preserve, or recreate artefacts, sites and actors of historic, artistic, religious and cultural significance and to deliver the results openly to a global audience in such a way as to provide formative educational experiences through electronic manipulations of time and space.” (A.Rafi)As we can see in the news, more and more companies are finding the Virtual Reality for their usage.With Facebook’s Oculus Rift headset now available to pre-order, Sony’s PlayStation VR and HTC’s Vive on their way, and millions of cheap Google Cardboard headsets out in the wild already, this year will see a barrage of experimentation around VR.Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg didn’t spend $2bn buying Oculus VR to release a niche headset for high-end PC owners, even though that’s pretty much what its first commercial version – retailing for $599.”One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people,” wrote Zuckerberg in March 2014It might be slowly, but Virtual Reality is wining its way into our lifes and everyday we find new stories in the news where we use it now. As already said in the Introduction, the prognoses are there, the selling rates are going up and the technology gets better everyday. How long it still needs is hard to say, but we can already see the first impacts in our lifes.