Virtual reality has been a long promise. But as is often the case; the technology wasn’t ready yet. Now it is. This is what has become know as the long nose of innovation. Because of Moore’s Law, accompanied by the rapid improvement of processors, screens, and accelerometers, driven by the smartphone boom — VR is finally at a tipping point.
About to go boom
According to ABI Research, shipments of virtual reality and augmented reality devices will explode, from 3 million in 2015 to 55 million in 2020. Right now, VR devices fall into three categories: stand-alone, mobile-reliant (headsets like Samsung’s Gear VR and Google Cardboard, which connect to phones), and tethered (like Oculus Rift, which connects to some sort of external device).
Moore’s Law and the virtual
Moore’s law, which holds that the amount of computing power per chip doubles every couple of years, is crucial to everything that has to do with graphics. Take video games. Video games represent 3D scenes as a sequence of polygons; the more computing power you have, the more polygons you can render.
A perfect example of this is Lara Croft aka Tomb Raider. At the left of the image is the Lara Croft character as she appeared in the original 1996 game. On the right is Croft as she appeared in 2014’s Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition.
The original Lara Croft was rendered with a few hundred polygons. The latest models use tens of thousands, producing images that look almost indistinguishable from the real thing. The increasing realism is a reflection of Moore’s law.
Virtual Reality in Business
But applications of VR far exceed the realm of entertainment like games and movies. Here are 5 innovative and business focused applications of VR that you can experience today.
1. Giving a virtual tour of anything
The concept of VR is perfect for virtual tours; an estate agent can guide a potential buyer through a new home, pointing out its best features in real time. CommonFloor Retina aims to do just that. CommonFloor.com, India’s leading online real estate platform introduced CommonFloor Retina, world’s first virtual reality innovation in real estate. The application offers ‘real’ property experience for the seekers allowing them to view/review/assess multiple properties from anywhere at any point of time.
2. Test, training and simulation environments
From surgery to building sites, virtual reality allows employers to test their workers in a range of detailed and realistic environments, without unnecessary risk. Arch Virtual is a company that translates architectural drawings and models into a real time 3D gaming engine for the Oculus Rift. Here’s a look at their safety training demo.
3. Controlling a robot
Researchers at NASA unveiled a rig that allows an operator to use the Oculus Rift headset to see through the eyes of a robot avatar. The system also includes Kinect 2 motion-sensing software from Xbox One, which picks up the operator’s gestures to move the robot’s arm.
This has great potential for use cases on factory floors, operating industrial robots at any distance or in medical contexts like surgeries.
4. A First Person View of your Drone
Parrot’s newest quadcopter drone, the Bebop, is compatible with the Oculus Rift. This means you’ll be able to see exactly what you’re drone sees through its 180-degree fish-eye lens. The person in the image above is piloting the drone using the controller in his hand and the Oculus Rift. There’s even some open source on Github to build your own. Really interesting for use cases with drones used for inspecting building sites in construction or agricultural purposes.
5. In the battlefield
The Norwegian military is testing a new system that utilize the Oculus Rift to get a full view of the battlefield from inside the tank. According to Norwegian TV station TuTV, tanks are equipped with a series of cameras that offer a 185-degree view of their surroundings. Soldiers inside the tank can then view their environment without having to pop their heads above the hatch. This use case is great for movement of big objects in tiny or fragile spaces.