Reality Bites...

Published Date
01 - Jun - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Jun - 2006
Reality Bites...
Remember those 3D comic books that came with glasses with one blue and one red lens? There were movies that used the same principle…

The idea was simple: make movies or comics, which were all so boringly two-dimensional, into something that appeared three-dimensional, and thus more real! These were perhaps the first attempts at Virtual Reality (VR), and they failed miserably!

Move along forward in history and we come to the basic displays of today, which are basically 2D, but offer the depth and immersiveness of looking through an actual window at all the action happening on screen! Games, movies, basic television, that India vs. Pakistan cricket match… they all look absolutely surreal on our televisions or computer monitors today. However, they have no interactivity!

Think about it. If you were standing at your window, looking out at the world (perhaps at the street below), you would be experiencing a real-life scenario, right? Now, put a camera into the same window, and sit in a closed room and watch the same scene play out on your TV or monitor… get the picture?

The Next Step In Entertainment…
VR was supposed to be the next big thing in terms of entertainment. It seemed that everyone with a science degree was working on VR in some way or the other. A lot of weird gadgets were developed, and none of them delivered what they had promised.

Many fans of VR and developers in the VR field will aver that it was the general public that expected too much, too soon, while many others place the blame of failure squarely on the researchers, saying that they got carried away by the initial progress and made ridiculous claims...the debate continues, but the truth is, VR bombed big time!

The problem was simple: in order to be even called virtual reality, a device or technology had to immerse the user in a world that was indistinguishable from the real one. Though the field of graphics was moving forward by leaps and bounds-which is best understood by watching the evolution of special effects scenes in  science-fiction and fantasy movies -everything else remained where it was. The problem was that we were approaching visual reality, not virtual reality!

Visual Reality
Have you played any of the latest games? For they are beginning to look incredibly real. It's doubly real when you look at the latest movies and the special effects-if anything, we've achieved visual surreality! But forget the movies, because we still haven't figured out a way to make them interactive, even if directors let you choose your own endings on DVD versions of major blockbusters. The fact is, games are the most immersive of all forms of entertainment, because you're actually the proponent in one, instead of being a bystander!

Gaming Goofs
Now games come with their own share of problems. Visually, everything in today's games can look as good (and real) as you want it to. If you spend enough to buy the latest hardware, you can run games such as F.E.A.R. at the highest settings and enjoy the near-real experiences on offer! However, all this is just visual, and just seeing isn't believing!

A few of the problematic areas in games are the physics and AI factors. When you see someone standing on thin air, or getting stuck in a corner just because your team-mate refuses to move out of your way, it's a rude awakening!

Other Interests
Another very important but embarrassing implementation of VR was in the pornography industry. The concept was simple, instead of sitting back and watching, you would much rather participate in your fantasies. At least that was the initial idea. Thanks to the same drawbacks that have plagued games, this, too, turned out to be just another un-achievable idea.

Not at all! VR did not keep the promises that its supporters made in terms of entertainment, and that's the reason it finds its way into Digit's demerit list. However, mass consumption aside, VR is very, very helpful in a lot of fields. Take flight simulators, for instance. Here, VR is the perfect pilot training tool, because it allows people to learn to fly without actually endangering a plane or themselves if they make a mistake. Then there are its applications in the field of medicine, and so many doctors are now training on computer-controlled dummies, robots and even software-practising operations that will save so many lives.
VR is also used to train soldiers, and can be used to construct the surface of Mars for instance, by collating data from all the probes we've sent there.

The bottomline is that though VR holds much promise, it's being held back by the lack of development in areas such as AI. It's turning out to be just another audio-visual experience, it's nowhere near what's needed in terms of entertainment computer generated  realities!           

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