A while ago, I started writing a blog about my views on Virtual Reality. But about a third of the way through, I suddenly realised something. Let me explain.
My original blog was on 'True' Virtual Reality. I then realised that my concepts and theories on 'True' 3D and VR were virtually the same. And so I restarted the blog, gave it a new name, and threw some new ideas around.
So here we are.
We've all heard of 3D graphics, and we've all heard of Virtual Reality. Above, I mentioned 'True' 3D and 'True' Virtual Reality. But what am I talking about?
3D and 'True' 3D
3D graphics that you see in cinemas, games and even TV shows are all well and good. But as long as it's on a screen – which is a two dimensional plane, by the way – it will never by truly three dimensional. For it to be truly 3D you need it off a screen; depth will need to have a physical presence.
So, whenever you see a movie claiming to be 3D...it really isn't. They are still giving you the illusion of depth – just an enhanced stereoscopic image – and charging you more for it.
However, current 'false'-3D technologies are becoming increasingly more convincing. The 3DS, for example, projects depth into the screen rather than out. However, I discovered something far more interesting last year. That was HoloVizio (HoloGrafika). Some of you early adopters may have heard of this.
HoloVizio isn't like any conventional 3D screen. Here's why. First of all, unlike other 3D screens, HoloVizio uses voxels instead of pixels. Each voxel can project multiple light beams – each with different intensity and colours – in multiple directions simultaneously. What that means is that everyone crowded around the screen – at whatever angle they're sitting at – have a different perspective to each other. And the best part? No glasses required.
*At the moment, HoloGrafika have four different displays available – all of which are compatible with PCs only.
However, that brings me back to my original point. Despite how brilliant that tech is: it isn't 'True' 3D. But at CES 2010 and 2011, there were tech demos of 'True' 3D from two separate companies: Burton Incorporated and InnoVision.
Both were highly impressive, however, the Burton demo of their 'Aerial 3D Plasma Device' was the most impressive. Now, I would explain it, but the following video from the two companies at CES 2011 is much better.
Virtual Reality and 'True' Virtual Reality
Let me start with this: as many of you will have heard, Sony recently unveiled their Personal Headset Display (PHD) at CES 2011. Some articles are shouting out that it is 'Virtual Reality Reborn!' or the 'VR Viewer'. But that is all false. In fact, the PHD is more in the line of 3D Headset Display rather than VR.
The concepts and theories of VR are vast. Some think of it the way some think of Sony's PHD; just with movement and physical action involved. You might even think about the movie Gamer when you think of VR, and who could blame you? It does involve the correct theories. All of those ideas are perceived as Virtual Reality. However, as you probably expect, I disagree.
During my research for this blog, I discovered that my own theory on VR is similar to philosopher, Philip Zhai's (or Zhái Zhènmíng), views on VR.
In his book, entitled 'Get Real: A Philosophical Adventure in Virtual Reality', Zhai critically asks if Virtual Reality is just a mere video game that totally consumes and distracts the player immersed in its simulations? Or is VR an immaterial world rich with meaning that beckons humanity to migrate into a better world held inside computers?
These two questions show two opposing theories on VR. To me, it appears that the majority of VR researchers seem to lean towards the first. Zhai, on the other hand leans towards the second. I also lean towards the second – slightly.
Zhai's theory is as follows:
"The combination of three technologies – digital simulation, sensory immersion and functional teleoperation (telepathic operation) – in a well co-ordinated manner amounts to a Re-Creation of the whole perceived universe. In other words: Virtual Reality could literally replace the living world if we choose to live in the newly-formed universe..."
WebCite query result. 2011.WebCite query result. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http://www.geocities.com/Athens/3328&date=2009-10-25+05:33:04. [Accessed 05 March 2011]
My theory is that 'True' Virtual Reality is exactly like Zhai's vision of VR, and the 'False' VR is like other theories. However, is 'True' VR a good thing? Is it a good thing to lose yourself in a false world?
I don't think so, myself. Otherwise we will be living in a very Matrix-esque world. Besides, what should happen if the tech that we've wired ourselves too breaks down? Zhai explains that it would be an event on cosmic levels in the real world. I don't think so. Cosmic levels would imply an implosion of our universe or explosion or disintegration. In fact, if something like that were to happen while we are wired in, we – like in the Matrix – would simply just cease to exist.
So, that is my view on what 'True' VR is. The Matrix films, to me anyway, appear to have either voluntarily or involuntarily shown the world what 'True' VR is. This brings me to the point of my blog.
'True' 3D. 'True' Virtual Reality. One and the Same?
Above, I explained my views on what I mean by 'True' 3D/VR. But now I ask, aren't they pretty much the same thing?
If the future 'True' 3D in gaming is the projection of environments, characters and objects, then isn't that nearly the same thing as 'True' VR? The only difference – albeit a large one – between True 3D and VR is the platform: real world and digital world.
You see, the problem with True 3D is the barrier of the 5 senses. True 3D only really accounts for the visual (and probably audio), but what about touch, taste and smell? Okay, sure taste and smell would be fine leaving out of it, but feeling is important.
If you cannot feel the environment around you, then how do you tell if you've been shot, or if you are leaning against the wall or even standing on the ground? We could probably do without the feeling of pain, but physical pressure of weight and the pure physicality of the world around you need to be felt. If we cannot feel it, how can we play properly?
True VR answers this. However, it takes place on a false environment – an illusion. A false world. All three axes are an illusion. Which brings us back to the fact that True VR isn't truly 3D.
At this point, you're probably wondering "if they are so different, how can they be the same"? Simple: Both are aiming at producing the exact same effect. They both produce a world which you immerse yourself in. Both try to convince you that it is the real world by playing on your senses.
True 3D and VR has only one difference. A big one, I admit, but only one.
True 3D takes place in the real world around us. True 3D is the physical projection of a world and its characters and objects. True 3D is a Physical projection.
True VR takes place in a Virtual World. True VR is a world and its characters and objects which are projected into your mind – tricking you into thinking it's reality. True VR is a Mental Projection.