VR is coming, are you ready?
What are simulator sickness, spacewalk application and immersion? The answer can be found in Patrik Uhinki’s blog entry which takes us beyond reality.
A Google search on ”VR” gives nearly 500 million hits, the first one about the Finnish State Railways VR. The list goes on with hits on virtual reality. Even Barack Obama is reported to have fallen for VR after trying VR goggles together with Angela Merkel at the Hannover trade fair.
What is it about?
Virtual reality or artificial reality is an artificial environment created using perceptions generated by computer simulation that aims at simulating a real environment, or it can create a completely imaginary reality – for example a game world. There’s nothing really new in that. What’s new is the commercial outbreak of stereoscopic VR goggles which is expected to happen by the end of the year.
Virtual reality goggles put the viewer at the centre of the events instead of looking at them on a flat screen. Acceleration sensors recognise the movement of the head, so by turning your head you can see what’s happening in any direction around you. The VR applications coming to the consumer markets will be games and movies, but when the equipment becomes more common, the number of applications will increase. Ikea is piloting a virtual kitchen experience, and you can experience the climb to Mount Everest on the sofa at home. Only imagination will set limits to the future opportunities opened up by virtual reality regarding education, tourism, entertainment, or for example telepresence.
VR experts are trained in Turku
Students are trained in Turku to create VR applications. Jointly run by the University of Turku and Turku University of Applied Sciences, the Turku Game Lab has the latest VR equipment and development tools. Some applications have already been developed, such as the student project of a spacewalk simulator which enables to try moving virtually outside a space ship.
Many VR applications are created for useful purposes, such as the tourism-promoting Turku Castle application or the VIRDI driving simulator for measuring the driving skills of the elderly. The trailer of the VR sauna simulator created in Turku has been viewed almost 30,000 times on YouTube.
Challenges and opportunities
That’s great, or is it? Most of us remember the hype with 3D television and movies which died down due to a user experience that didn’t meet the expectations. Will VR end up the same way? Regarding problems with VR, the first one that emerges is simulator sickness – a kind of motion sickness resulting from discrepancies between the sense of balance and sense of sight.
Immersion in turn means the player’s concentration on playing so deeply that they are not aware of the world outside the game. That is exactly the experience that VR goggles aim at, but it can also be discomforting.
Virtual reality comes up in conversation whenever game industry people meet each other. Most recently I discussed the topic with two gaming professors from the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. It’s easy to agree with the outcome of our meandering discussion: virtual reality is here to stay, but the solutions based on virtual reality goggles are probably just an intermediate phase in the development of the technology.
The writer works as the Senior Advisor of Game Business in Turku Science Park Ltd and is responsible for the implementation of the ERDF-financed Game Turku – Game Finland project in the Turku region.