Have there been any advances or mainstreaming of Virtual Reality?

I found the following old threads:


Have there been any major updates since?

Of course, as one of the OP’s in one of the linked threads states, back in the day (late 1980’s - early 1990’s), immersive VR was heavily in the public eye as where video games were headed. The idea was that you would wear a helmet and body sensors, the computer would detect your movements, and project images directly into your eyes so that it would feel like you were actually there.

Nowadays, we have virtual worlds galore, worlds with far more detail and number of simultaneous users than I dreamed of back then. The old 3d world image was the “Tron” image - polygon worlds and polygon objects with primary color edges, steeped in a black void. Now, we have fully textured worlds that, on a computer screen, almost look and feel real.

Where’s my VR gear? Are there still major technological hurdles to face, or it more the economics of it (nobody’s interested, or it’s still too expensive for most people, and the video arcades of yesteryear are dead anyway)?

I’m not a gamer, so I’m kind of winging this:

Though not as immersive as 1990s VR promised to be by now, I wonder if technology such as the Wii controller and the K’Nect X-Box thing (motion sensor?) hasn’t sort of pushed wearable VR gear aside.

I think there are major technological hurdles still. The displays that are light enough/small enough/high-res enough to fit into glasses are still in their infancy. My SIL was working on one of those research projects that would create the micro-mechanical mirror system that in combination with a few LED lasers could create a picture on the retina - she says there are still major problems with it.

Another problem would be the controls. The “Kinect” style stuff is fun, but it is not viable for long time play - too tiring (although man, it would do wonders with the obesity epidemic, won’t it?). Running in place is just not equivalent to running forward etc. A direct neural connection would be great, but, although I have seen some inkling of progress with the prosthesis industry, I think it is still multiple decades away from being viable for VR. Anything else is both awkward and takes you out of the “VR” into the mundane RL.

The technology has improved. Here and here is some information about a 3D headset that Sony is going to start selling next month, for $799. The resolution and weight are much better than was available in the 1990s. But I think that it’s a technology in search of a need. I mean, are you going to want to sit there wearing a wired headset and watch a movie, or play a video game?

I would be inclined to say that the major advance has been price, and not a great deal more.

Back in the early days, VR was insanely expensive. By default you needed an SGI Reality engine per screen, and not even a low end one. You could sink a million dollars into the graphics engine and only get to mid range performance for a Cave. Nowadays it is hard to buy a PC with graphics that slow. There are no million dollar graphics engines anymore, the performance has leveled off in that sense. The other thing that has got cheaper are projectors, you no longer need go out and spend huge amounts of money with the likes of Barco or Christie to get HD levels of resolution. You can, and the high end can use 4k resolution, which are insane prices. High end glasses used to be beyond belief, with some running into little change out of $10,000. Now affordable. Shutter glasses used mean CrystalEyes glasses at silly prices (change out of $1,000), and they broke all the time. Now affordable, and almost disposable.

The cost of motion trackers is not a lot reduced, Ascension’s Flock of Birds is still much the same as it ever was. What is starting to look interesting are things like Knect, and other camera based systems. But latency and accuracy remain important to get a good result. You need to know the location of both eyes, and include rotation, since the user may put their head on its side.

But the fundamental limits to immersive VR remain, and show no signs of going away.

The big one is that the depth illusion is only created by stereopsis. There is no depth of field. The image remains solidly in focus on at the distance to the screen, not at the distance that the stereo image presents it. This usually leads to a blinding headache after about an hour. Indeed it remains one of the limiting issues in 3D cinema.

A big problem with VR glasses is that motion in the virtual world does not track motion of the wearer, which leads to motion sickness, and significant disorientation. We used to joke that glasses required two users, one to wear them, the other to catch them as they fell. So you fall over, get sick, and get a headache. It hasn’t improved.

So the only thing that has really advanced the state of the art is Moore’s Law, which basically has reduced the price of entry, but not otherwise improved the experience. Software can use the increased performance to provide higher detail within the virtual world, in much the way we see that in any other graphics system, but the basics of the VR experience are otherwise mostly unchanged.

I don’t think the majority of people are that bothered by the idea, which is an impediment to mainstream commercial advance. It needs someone to spearhead it well and persuade them they want it.

I played a VR game during the '90s, it was a basic enough 1st person perspective shoot 'em up and for all I know it was the only VR game produced. You moved around (IIRC) using a paddle on the gun but you could look around you anywhere. I spent quite a bit of money playing it. I imagine if you had a unit with modern graphics and a similar set up it would do well in cinema lobbies, pool halls or wherever else arcade units still exist. A VR House of the Dead would be class. I wonder if health & safety is a significant barrier.