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Visualising the future with virtual reality

Virtual reality has become an exciting new piece of technology and is quickly evolving. William Richardson looks into how virtual reality may change how we work and live in the future

Virtual reality (VR), following the trend in most technology, is likely to become integrated into our lives, whether that be on the commute to work, in the home or professionally. But what applications will VR have in the future and how will it change how we work and live?

A London-based company, Hammerhead VR, has trialled a couple of potential innovations. One of their most ambitious projects being an advanced research tool designed to help scientists analyse significant amounts of genomic data. Funded by the Wellcome Trust to create a VR solution to big medical data, the project aims to integrate information from scientific studies into a fully interactive virtual display. A 360° video capture was created as a mock-up of the system and is available on YouTube.

Continuing with YouTube, Google has been supporting the rise of VR on there by adding VR support for mobile devices, using the gyrometer to assess the movement of the user and output the resulting perspective. This raises a great question: how will VR change entertainment? Film, TV and games have fantastic potential to be integrated with VR to create immersive narratives and environments. Google’s main focus appears to be adapting mobile devices to fit the VR trend by using simple cardboard frames to hold a phone, thus limiting consumer expense. Earlier this year, Oculus Rift, a company specialising in VR, created a short film called Henry, a cartoon movie concerning the exploits of a rather loveable, yet lonely, hedgehog. However, it represents a fantastic proof of concept, showing that future movies could be entirely VR-based and truly immersive.

With respect to gaming, the future possibilities are also significant. Developers are working to create games that capture the imagination, and the prototypes already available are a reflection of that goal. The developers of Crysis are set to release a game called Robinson: The Journey. The game is set to be released in 2016 and involves the protagonist trekking through the ecosystem of a mysterious alien world. The user can utilise haptic feedback gloves to interact with the rich detail of the surroundings. With more VR games expected to be released in the coming years the industry may not even be recognisable.

Another surprising use of this technology is the potential to rehabilitate injured people. Some research into this is happening here, in Birmingham, in which a new technique called Neurorehabilitation is being trialled. In the UK, over 450,000 people are affected by strokes which can compromise their balance and situational judgment. Using a sophisticated simulator, patients can relearn handling everyday tasks and help themselves live better lives. This joins other potential future applications such as treatments for PTSD, surgical training and even pain management.

With companies competing to find innovative uses for VR, we will probably be seeing it become more integrated into society.

From Issue 10

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