Friday, December 9Hampton Roads Weekly

Virtual Reality

School of Athens

Virtual Reality (VR) is a buzzword that is everywhere today, whether in the gaming and movie worlds of entertainment or in the practical would of industry. Still, this is a term that we have heard since the first 3D movies from the 1950’s, and it has come in and out of vogue since then. Recently, however, VR has made a resurgence and is positioned to truly change the way we perceive our information and the world itself. But, what is virtual reality, and where did it come from?

Here is how it works. We have two eyes that see what is in front of us from two slightly different points of view. This small difference is what gives us depth perception. Our brains take these two images, run them through an algorithm, and then allow us to perceive depth, or 3 dimensions. When we see a friend standing in right front of us and then another friend across the street, the friend furthest away looks smaller. Now, we know she is not smaller, but because she looks smaller we know she is further away. If you have ever squinted your eyes and tried to squeeze or pinch something far away with your thumb and index finger, you have seen this.

The Renaissance artists such as Da Vinci and Raphael realized and capitalized on this phenomenon. Their paintings look three dimensional (3D), not flat like a South Park episode, but like there is actual depth to the paintings. This is because they understood line of sight which is what allows us to see in 3D. In fact, if we look behind many of their paintings, we see a grid as in the painting below the one below that allows them to accurately portray this simulated dimension.

School of Athens

Still, what does this have to do with VR? Well, in a 3D movie, two cameras shoot the same thing from slightly different angles. When we see these angles in each eye, it tricks our minds into thinking we are in a 3D or virtual environment. Some may remember the old 3d movies from the 50’s. Remember those glasses with the blue and red lenses? They used the same principle.

Today, when we play games, we can walk around in these virtual environments and because our eyes trick our brains into thinking there are 3 dimensions, we can move about and feel like the environment is real. Our brains are tricked so well that many people even experience motion sickness when playing the games or even watching films such as Ready Player 1.

So, now that we understand virtual reality, what is coming in the future; that step is augmented reality. Next time, we will look at what augmented reality is and explain the mix of the two into what we have come to call Mixed Reality. Keep creating.