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30.6.2016

Utilizing Virtual Reality tools – Examples and opportunities

Utilizing Virtual Reality tools – Examples and opportunities

Virtual reality (VR)  and augmented reality (AR) applications have been on the market for some years and are now developing fast, hand-in-hand with the computer hardware. With computer power increasing and its size getting smaller, we are starting to see even more amazing VR and AR applications on the market. In AR part of what is experienced is real, part virtual through computer-generated overlays whereas in VR, the entire scene is computer generated.

Many companies have worked with VR and AR applications for years already, but this year will become a breakthrough for most people, as new hardware and software enters the market.

Many have experienced 3D movies and game applications on a TV set, or through using cheap cardboard VR glasses using the smart phone as the screen. Also 360 degrees movies are becoming popular. More sophisticated solutions are offered through Oculus Rift, this year being released globally as is PlayStation 4’s Project Morpheus which have its own built-in screen and the HTC’s Vive powered by game maker Valve’s StreamVR. The Samsung Gear which uses the smartphone as its screen, is developed in collaboration with Oculus.

The more expensive headsets are fitted with their own high-resolution screen displays projecting a separate image to each eye. Oculus Rift, for example, is also fitted with integrated 3D audio headphones, with 3-axis rotational tracking plus 3-axis positional tracking using IR LED sensors. HTC Vive is fitted with cameras and needs just two lasers placed in the space of use to track user movement. In order to interact with your 3D environment, a separate hand-held game controller is needed. These systems use a powerful computer connected to the glasses. Google Glass was a first test adaption of consumer AR technology. The company, convinced in augmented reality, has since invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Magic Leap, an early adapter of AR, whereas Microsoft is developing their own version of an AR device called the HoloLens.

Virtual reality is gaining market shares in segments ranging from gaming to healthcare, the music industry, in digital entertainment and media, real estate, retail, education, and in a number of enterprise applications. Citing Statista the PitchBook Virtual Reality 2015 Analyst Report reports that the video game software market in 2015 is valued at some $56 billion total with $27 billion from the hardware side. Even an initial small slice of this for the VR and AR industries is much.

New Virtual Reality solutions

Last autumn Autodesk released its Stingray game engine and real-time rendering software. This is a comprehensive new platform for developing 3D games based on the computer-powered architecture in Bitsquid – the game engine purchased by Autodesk in 2014. Stingray supports a number of industry standards for game development workflows while the software also contains powerful interfaces for Autodesk’s 3D animation software. This is a feature that facilitates game development across several different platforms. Stingray is presented in the The Outcome, as well as Autodesk’s design philosophy under the slogan The Future of Making Things‘.

VizMove Walking VR by WorldViz is a virtual reality solution where one can experience full freedom of movement in a wide-area walking environment using a VR headset. One can move freely through the virtual world of any size and shape with high-precision tracking for both head and hands. The software and advanced computing allows for rapid develop and deployment of most complex virtual reality applications. VizMove Walking VR is well suited for a broad range of applications including design visualisation, architectural walk-throughs, industrial training and behavioral research. The company has provided consulting and technological development to Fortune 500 companies and top research institutions since 2002.

Another advanced company is AltspaceVR which is developing a number of VR applications through their SDK allowing 3D content to be viewed in VR, and VR objects to be coded and experienced in the 3D environment of a web browser. Supporting the main VR devices 3D Virtual interaction over the web is the key, with Social VR, as they describe as ‘hang out with real people in virtual reality’ being a growing niche.

The VR hardware and software markets are estimated to follow those of PCs and smartphones regarding cost, with prices falling 5-10% annually.

Industry examples

3D CAD makes it easier to design for good access and maintenance. With VR, this 3D space can now be accessed in a more realistic way than achieved on the computer screen with a mouse or touch screen. Companies use this 3D VR and AR technology in a number of various applications.

Shipyards, such as BAE Systems, use it to design the often complex machinery spaces onboard, often networked together, to allow for remote design and 3D access. Wärtsilä, again, tests Augmented Reality goggles in onboard machinery system service, where a service person onboard a vessel repairing, for example, some electronics circuits can use AR glasses and is provided advice remotely located persons from several locations if needed. Along with a growing number of companies, Airbus Defense and Space recently showcased its products and services at a trade show in London using the entire stand designed around virtual reality cockpits.

We will for sure see much more of this in 2016 and forward.

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Images text: Wärtsilä uses Augmented Reality goggles in onboard machinery system service with advice and instructions provided remotely. (Picture courtesy Wärtsilä)

Banner image text: VizMove Walking VR enables full freedom of movement in a wide-area walking environment with a VR headset. Wireless navigation wand, with ergonomic and lightweight one-handed design, allows easy and intuitive interaction within a virtual world.

Text by Henrik Segercrantz