VR is widely adopted already in many areas, including manufacturing, automotive and aerospace, for simulations, assembly and prototyping. Instead of building multiple actual prototypes, which requires a lot of time and material, the manufacturers fine-tune their products in virtual reality. That not only speeds up the development by up to 50 per cent and cuts cost but evidence exists that the resulting products are also less prone to defects.
Computer games make widespread use of VR too. Meanwhile medical exploration and surgery is also successfully adopting VR elements such as S3D visualisation, and it plans to start using more haptic technology as well.
At the University of Hertfordshire, we have developed a 3D endoscope that captures three-dimensional imagery of the patient’s insides. There is quite a bit of evidence that 3D visualisation provides surgeons with better awareness of the space in which they are operating, which in turn results in better accuracy and less unwanted damage.
- All sorts of weird things can be experienced in virtual reality. This guy crashes with a passenger jet.
What could happen in the near future depends on the success of VR being adopted by the consumer market, e.g. to remotely observe landscapes and cities as well as buildings, houses and merchandises, bringing e-shopping, e-tourism and house e-viewing experience to a new level.
For example, when you are looking to buy or rent a new house or flat, today you always have to travel to the area and arrange the viewing. But in future, you would only go to see the really best candidates because you would be able to rule out the not suitable properties either from the comfort of your home or the real estate agent’s office through a virtual reality tour.
Similarly, when deciding on your next holiday destination, you wouldn’t just look at photos, you would get a taster experience through a virtual reality headset.
3D viewing will enable an operator to remotely ‘visit’ a dangerous place, for example a broken nuclear reactor, using a virtual reality headset and a ruggedized robot.
In fact, at the University of Hertfordshire, we have developed technology that does exactly that using a commercially available smartphone and a Google Cardboard-like headset. Everyone who has ever tried our technology was quite impressed. The users get a three-dimensional 360 degree view of, for example, a beach in Sicily. They can look up and down, turn around and it feels perfectly realistic. Add haptic experience, sound and the sense of smell to it and you get a perfect illusion.
Travel agencies could use this technology to show hotels or let the customers experience some of the highlights of the destination such as significant cultural or historical sites.
Virtual reality, or 3D viewing, will also play an important role in the field of robotics where an operator would be able to remotely ‘visit’ a dangerous place, for example a broken nuclear reactor from the comfort of a control centre via a virtual reality headset and a ruggedized robot capturing and transmitting the 3D imagery.