We all hear about Virtual Reality.
Virtual reality is used to provide an experience of â€œbeing there.â€? Virtual reality systems fabricate a detailed model of an environment and render it in response to user actions. In video games, for example, the environment is modeled by the system, and the user interacts with the modeled environment as if he were really there.
Mark Wallace has a very interesting article in NYTimes on virtual worlds and how people are enjoying and commercializing it. In it he says:
More than 10 million people around the world travel to such imaginary destinations regularly. They get there via software that lets them guide their onscreen representatives, known as “avatars,” through places built entirely of pixels where they can interact with one another. Their destinations include virtual dance parties and nightclubs, auto races and yachting events, “Star Wars”-style cantinas, whimsical underwater jazz clubs and much more.
In a world called Second Life, especially (where the virtual Hawaii described above can be found), so many people visit that profitable businesses have sprung up that earn their proprietors real money, not just virtual currency – in fact, a handful of people earn six-figure incomes there. There are discos, casinos and other sites that can be rented for private parties or even for the virtual weddings many people hold.
â€œReal realityâ€? is the next step. Real reality systems will allow a user to experience and interact with realâ€”not modeledâ€”environments, using all human senses. These environments, however, will not be the environments where you are physically present but will be somewhere on the other side of the globe or the universe or may even by inside a computer or inside another person’s body. The real reality environment could be anywhere where sensors could be placed to observe what is happening in real time.
The Web, currently a web of documents, will soon become a web of events. People will share events by cataloguing them on the Web, and other people will be able to experience these catalogued events in an all-senses, â€œreal realityâ€? format. Each â€œviewerâ€? will experience the event from his/her own point of view, rather than that of the author or producer. The Web will provide omnipresenceâ€”you will be able to experience other real realities, past and present, through all five senses.
I’m glad that someone is actually still trying, (though quoting the NYT isn’t really hard work), to pay attention to “virtual reality”.
However, I’ve seen this nonsensical drivel before. Experience the web via all five senses? Give me a break. I heard that fifteen years ago, and if you think it’s going to happen now, it will be driven by the military or medical industry, not by kids who want to be virtually married.
You are very right about the hype and reality. More complex a technology, longer is going to be the hype period. And this is a difficult area. I don’t think that you will use all your senses on the Web for quite some time. The progress is going to be slow.
On the positive side, the progress in technology has removed some technology barriers (sensing, bandwidth, processing, and storage) but much reamins to be done here. Particularly in getting information about the real environments in real time, reconstructing it, and then distributing it in meaningful way.
Every real technology has been realized because first people visualized it — or deamt about it — and then started persistently working towards it.