so, what happened to Virtual Reality?

Man, it was going to be the next big thing. It was going to be the next paradigm shift in our communications and entertainment. Doctors were going to perform surgery using VR gloves from states away!

So…what happened? I think the technology is certainly here, as simple consumer items like Playstations and X-boxes (not to mention PC’s) have the power to provide lifelike, convincing graphics and interactive experiences. Certainly, the demand is there for it, even the simple headset + gloves concept that was touted.

So, what’s the deal? Where did VR go? Is it ever going to come back?

VR went away because the hype and the promise didn’t match with the level of technology and actual practical use. As technology advances I’m sure there will be some uses for VR-like procedures, but hopefully it’ll loose the stupid name and be just another tool.

…or so Dan and others “on the inside” would have you believe. My research shows that either, a) Dan and the rest of the Illuminati are hording it and utilizing it to gratify their own personal sexual perversions, or b) you’re actually living in VR right now.

I remember VR from the mid-1990s, I think. It was being used in very expensive video games, natch, and while I could see the obvious potential, I couldn’t help but thinking to myself “80s graphics, 10 years late and $20 overpriced.”

The arcade I played in was shut down pretty soon. The novelty of shelling out the cost of a good meal for a slow game with crappy graphics had apparently worn off.

I’m not denigrating anything. I’m sure the arcade was doing its damndest to stay afloat, but it had to deal with mid-1990s hardware. The hardware makers wanted to churn out the best chipsets, but they had to use mid-1990s lithography processes and component costs. And so on.

It was too little, too early. Like TV in the 1920s, it was a neat idea looking desperately for component costs to drop and a market to be created. Maybe in 20 years, but not too much sooner.

In the early 90’s I was a graduate student in computer science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – one of the hotbeds of VR research – so I got to play with a lot of VR tech first hand.

It boils down to the fact that there are still a lot of hard technical problems to solve, and any one of them alone is enough to trip up the whole enterprise.

Here are some:

  1. You need a display technology for the headmount that weighs a fraction of an ounce but has a pixel resolution greater than existing LCDs. No such displays exist and, as far as I know, there aren’t even any promising technical leads that would allow such big a leap forward.

  2. And somehow this display has to magically avoid the eyestrain caused when the user focuses for a long period of time at something a few inches in front of him.

  3. There are issues with tracker latency, particularly with respect to angular motion. It takes a finite amount of time for the tracker to detect your head position, pass it to the graphics processor to calculate the scene, and get it back down to the headmount. If you turn your head quickly, a lag of even 1/100 of a second is detectable and can induce motion sickness. As far as I know that aren’t any existing tracker technologies fast enough to avoid this “swimming” effect.

  4. The larger an area you can roam in, the less precise the tracking will be. This makes it hard to really let anybody wander around in a large space.

  5. Tactical feedback is a lot more important than people think. Without a steady stream of tactical cues that sync up with the visuals, it’s really hard to sustain an illusion of reality.

  6. Compared to using a mouse, using a data glove is really, really awkward and tiring. You have to hold your arm in odd positions for minutes at a time, which leads to neck and back pain.

  7. There’s no killer app. Yeah, it would be cool and all, but there’s no driving problem where people are saying “we’ve got to use virtual reality for this at all costs”.

Basically, it’s really hard to do, it may be impossible to do well (barring some exotic breakthrough like directly tapping into the brain), there’s no demand for it, and it was majorly overhyped.

Point 7 is approaching the problem backwards. There was no killer app' for Gutenberg's press until it was used to print the new Bible editions. There was no killer app’ for the radio until vaudeville acts moved in. There was no killer app' for TV until Milton Berle. There was no killer app’ for the desktop computer until Lotus 1-2-3. There was no `killer app’ for the Internet until the World Wide Web.

All of those things came out after (very often long after) the technology had been perfected in niche applications, and it was more a case of people reacting to a new piece of equipment.

Killer apps happen after all the kinks are worked out. Not before.

I used VR twice today - once at work where I use 3D goggles to view the protein I’m working on in 3 dimensions. The second was when I played an hour in my MMORPG of choice, Asheron’s Call :smiley:

Progress is being made on these:

‘Laser vision’ offers new insights

The OP was, dare I say, a little too kind to VR. I’ve toured some VR research facilities in my area, including a heavily funded government program that has received fairly extensive hype from science/technology-type tv shows.

But its utterly not-impressive. It’s a crane simulator. The graphics consist of various blocks used to represent things, all rendered in a wonderful EGA-like pallette. I’m not kidding when I say Super Nintendo’s 3D games (ie, Starfox) had superior graphics! Yet this system has been showcased on all sorts of science documentaries and the sort. Meanwhile, I’m sitting there thinking, “congratulations! I see you’ve mastered state-of-the-art 1986 computer graphics!” Would it really be that difficult to get a graphics programmer on the team? Are they just so out of touch they don’t have any clue of the current standard of graphics programming? (It wouldn’t surprise me - these weren’t young guys - I bet they haven’t played a modern video game in years).

IMO, VR is one of those niche areas that the people who were originally involved with refuse to give up on. Ergo, we continue to these embarrassing, terribly disappointing products.

Because, at the height of it’s “popularity,” VR systems could render about 25 polygons onscreen. Badly. In VR’s case, the public’s eyes were bigger than it’s stomach (If by “stomach” you mean, “it’s technological level.”)

I’ve always wondered, though, if you could improve the “frame rate” (which always looked pretty abysmal) for a VR system just by permanently locking the headset and/or glove into some sort of armature. You’d lose a little maneuverability, but at least you’d cut down on all the bobbing around caused by hanging the equipment off a moving human.

I bet 5 quid you played on darktide

This is easy enough to solve. Don’t put the image a few inches in front of the eye. It’s perfectly possible to have a system of lenses and mirrors a few inches in size which put the image as far away as you’d like.

As for the software end of the technology, it’s been there for years. Any first-person engine (from Doom to Unreal) could be used as the engine for a VR system. All you need is to have two points of view moving in a coordinated manner, rather than just one.

Maybe “Actual Reality” is better.