The technology that attracted the most attention from participants at CES 2016 held in Las Vegas early this year, and MWC 2016 recently held in Barcelona was Virtual Reality (hereafter VR) related technology.
Unlike at CES, where VR was catching people’s eyes along with automobile related technologies, it was taken as the most important topic at MWC 2016. The attention on VR was so huge, smartphones and automobiles almost looked like sidekicks to the show. We can easily see the high expectations the industry has on VR, through Mark Zuckerberg’s public remark that VR is going to be the next-generation platform.
Virtual Reality refers to a virtual and artificial environment in which we can see, hear, and touch what’s around us. Although the term VR and Augmented Reality (AR) were used separately in the past, they are now combined into the VR category
Also, unlike the past in which VR was created and experienced with computer generated images, it now provides realistic user experiences using actual images.
The various VR contents introduced at MWC 2016 show the recent trend emphasizing the reality and vividness by utilizing actual photos and videos instead of computer generated images. LG and Samsung, for example, exhibited a VR experience that let people feel as if they were on an actual rollercoaster. SKT’s exhibit showed what it would be like under water in a submarine, and GoPro’s content was all about running through and atop multiple buildings’ rooftops on a bicycle. There were various other VR contents on display which provided realistic experiences by using the actually images rather than computer graphics.
Terminals for VR have changed quite a lot as well. Instead of PCs and Console game machines that were connected to VR terminals, smartphones are now being utilized as VR terminals. This change demonstrates that smartphones have much better performance these days, and that we can enjoy VR anywhere and anytime we want.
The VR terminals launched recently are usually designed to be connected to smartphones. Gear VR from Samsung and Oculus as well as Cardboard from Google are made to play VR content through smartphone screens. LG 360 VR created as an accessary for LG G5 has its own VR screen, but the content itself is supposed to come directly from G5. Smartphones are now becoming the basic terminals for VR, and as a result, portability of VR has improved.
Many experts believe that VR will be the primary platform in the future. YouTube has already begun providing and aggressively promoting 360 degree video contents. There are countless fields where VR can be applied, and I would like to mention some of them that are expecting huge changes through the application of VR.
The field which VR can be adopted to and make progress the fastest is education. VR can create the best content for various subjects such as science and history.
For example, traveling around the human circulatory system to see what it looks like will be much more helpful when trying to learn about the structure of our bodies compared to looking at flat pictures of human organs. For history class, students can experience historical events in person. If you learn how to drive in virtual reality, you don’t really have to worry about getting in a car accident when driving on the actual streets. VR is definitely a technology with a lot of potential for its development and adoption in the education field.
VR is already quite popular in the gaming industry. A large proportion of all VR content is related to games. Games and VR are also the most compatible as users are supposed to act as the characters in the situations depicted.
VR in gaming will be developed so that users can have even more realistic experiences than they do now. Although currently only visual and auditory senses are experiencing VR, soon olfactory and tactile sensations and even the sense of your whole body moving will be possible. Experiencing VR with all five senses will make it much easier for users to immerse themselves in the games they are playing.
When VR is applied to the remote control technology, its capability will grow exponentially. Hospitals for example, are now performing a lot more surgeries using robots. Once they create a very small and precise robot that can be put inside a patient’s body, the VR remote control technology will make it possible to perform the surgery in the VR built with the visual information the robot transmits. VR remote control technology can also be used for other activities that are considered dangerous, such as cleaning skyscrapers and exploring the ocean floor.
There are many obstacles to overcome in order to commercialize VR. First is to make the process of content creation easier and more accessible. Only when there is a large amount of content, can we expect more users and a sounder VR ecosystem.
Most VR devices currently available are big and heavy, as they’re connected to smartphones and use their screens. LG 360 from LG Electronics, unlike others in the past, showed that it is possible for a VR device to be light and slick by adding its own screen. VR devices in the future will focus on their usability through better and lighter designs.
Some say that VR will repeat the fate of 3D TV, which collapsed despite its high hopes. Once VR devices with better usability and quality content are introduced, and service companies such as YouTube and Facebook keep supporting this new area, VR can definitely become the next-generation platform.
Written by Hak-Joon Lee (http://poem23.com/ pen name: “Hakjooni”)