An Insight Into Virtual Reality


Virtual Reality is a creation of a highly interactive
computer based multimedia environment in which the user
becomes a participant with the computer in a "virtually
real" world We are living in an era characterized by 3D
virtual systems created by computer graphics. In the
concept called Virtual Reality (VR), the virtual reality
engineer is combining computer, video, image-processing,
and sensor technologies so that a human can enter into and
react with spaces generated by computer graphics. In
1969-70, a MIT scientist went to the University of Utah,
where he began to work with vector generated graphics. He
built a see-through helmet that used television screens and
half-silvered mirrors, so that the environment was visible
through the TV displays. It was not yet designed to provide
a surrounding environment. It was not until the mid '80's
that virtual reality systems were becoming more defined.
The AMES contract started in 1985, came up with the first
glove in February 1986. The glove is made of thin Lycra and
is fitted with 15 sensors that monitor finger flexion,
extension, hand position and orientation. Connected to a
computer through fiber optic cables. Sensor inputs enable
the computer to generate an on screen image of the hand
that follows the operator's hand movements. The glove also
has miniature vibrators in the finger tips to provide
feedback to the operator from grasped virtual objects.
Therefore, driven by the proper software, the system allows
the operator to interact by grabbing and moving a virtual
object within a simulated room, while experiencing the
"feel" of the object. The virtual reality line includes the
Datasuit and the Eyephone. The Datasuit is an instrumented
full-body garment that enables full-body interaction with a
computer constructed virtual world. In one use, this
product is worn by film actors to give realistic movement
to animated characters in computer generated special
effects. The Eyephone is a head mounted stereo display that
shows a computer made virtual world in full color and 3D.
The Eyephone technology is based on an experimental Virtual
Interface Environment Workstation (VIEW) design. VIEW is a
head-mounted stereoscopic display system with two 3.9 inch
television screens, one for each eye. The display can be a
computer generated scene or a real environment sent by
remote video cameras. Sound effects delivered to the
headset increase the realism. It was intended to use the
glove and software for such ideas as a surgical simulation,
or "3D virtual surgery" for medical students. In the summer
of 1991, US trainee surgeons were able to practice leg
operations without having to cut anything solid. NASA
Scientists have developed a three-dimensional computer
simulation of a human leg which surgeons can operate on by
entering the computer world of virtual reality. Surgeons
use the glove and Eyephone technology to create the
illusion that they are operating on a leg. Other virtual
reality systems such as the Autodesk and the CAVE have also
come up with techniques to penetrate a virtual world. The
Autodesk uses a simple monitor and is the most basic visual
example for virtual reality. An example where this could be
used is while exercising. For example, Autodesk may be
connected to an exercise bike, you can then look around a
graphic world as you pedal through it. If you pedal fast
enough, your bike takes off and flies. The CAVE is a new
virtual reality interface that engulfs the individual into
a room whose walls, ceiling, and floor surround the viewer
with virtual space. The illusion is so powerful you won't
be able to tell what's real and what's not. Computer
engineers seem fascinated by virtual reality because you
can not only program a world, but in a sense, inhabit it.
 Mythic space surrounds the cyborg, embracing him/her with
images that seem real but are not. The sole purpose of
cyberspace virtual reality technology is to trick the human
senses, to help people believe and uphold an illusion.
Virtual reality engineers are space makers, to a certain
degree they create space for people to play around in. A
space maker sets up a world for an audience to act directly
within, and not just so the audience can imagine they are
experiencing a reality, but so they can experience it
directly. "The film maker says, 'Look, I'll show you.' The
space maker says, 'Here, I'll help you discover.' However,
what will the space maker help us discover?" "Are virtual
reality systems going to serve as supplements to our lives,
or will individuals so miserable in their daily existence
find an obsessive refuge in a preferred cyberspace? What is
going to be included, deleted, reformed, and revised? Will
virtual reality systems be used as a means of breaking down
cultural, racial, and gender barriers between individuals
and thus nurture human values?" During this century,
responsive technologies are moving even closer to us,
becoming the standard interface through which we gain much
of our experience. The ultimate result of living in a
cybernetic world may create an artificial global city.
Instead of a global village, virtual reality may create a
global city, the distinction being that the city contains
enough people for groups to form affiliations, in which
individuals from different cultures meet together in the
same space of virtual reality. The city might be laid out
according to a three dimensional environment that dictates
the way people living in different countries may come to
communicate and understand other cultures. A special
camera, possibly consisting of many video cameras, would
capture and transmit every view of the remote locations.
Viewers would receive instant feedback as they turn their
heads. Any number of people could be looking through the
same camera system. Although the example described here
will probably take many years to develop, its early
evolution has been under way for some time, with the steady
march of technology moving from accessing information
toward providing experience. As well, it is probably still
childish to imagine the adoption of virtual reality systems
on a massive scale because the starting price to own one
costs about $300,000. Virtual Reality is now available in
games and movies. An example of a virtual reality game is
Escape From Castle Wolfenstein. In it, you are looking
through the eyes of an escaped POW from a Nazi death camp.
You must walk around in a maze of dungeons were you will
eventually fight Hitler. One example of a virtual reality
movie is Stephen King's The Lawnmower Man. It is about a
mentally retarded man that uses virtual reality as a means
of overcoming his handicap and becoming smarter. He
eventually becomes crazy from his quest for power and goes
into a computer. From there he is able to control most of
the world's computers. This movie ends with us wondering if
he will succeed in world domination. From all of this we
have learned that virtual reality is already playing an
important part in our world. Eventually, it will let us be
able to date, live in other parts of the world without
leaving the comfort of our own living room, and more. Even
though we are quickly becoming a product of the world of
virtual reality, we must not lose touch with the world of
reality. For reality is the most important part of our
Bains, S. "Surgeons Slice a Virtual Leg", New Scientist,
Vol. 131, Pg. 28, July 6, 1991
Baudrillard, J., The Ecstasy of Communication, 

Translated by Bernard and Caroline Schutze,
New York: Semiotext, 1987
Helsel, K. Virtual Reality-Theory, Practice, and Promise
London: British Library, 1991
Neira, C. "The CAVE: Autovisual Experience Automatic 

Virtual Environment", Communications of the ACM,
vol. 35, pg. 65-72, summer 1992
Venkat, P. "Integrating Virtual Reality", IEEE Transactions,
vol. 36, pg. 35-38, 1991


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