Virtual Reality, Market, And Developments
Virtual reality and augmented reality are two technologies that will accompany us over the next few decades and will enter our working and private lives.
Already in the next year, the market for these technologies is estimated at around 120 billion dollars, of which 17 billion for the European market alone, which will grow by 74% compared to the previous year.
These two technologies, with fairly similar names, presuppose two different approaches: by augmented reality, we mean those technologies that add information to “real” reality, which is then used as a “support” to the information that is added.
Virtual reality, on the other hand, creates simulations of reality where, in principle, but beyond the current technique, it is no longer possible to distinguish fictitious realities from the “real” one; the user is alienated and is immersed in a programmed world.
This theme, in fact, has been with us for a long time, since the dawn of Western thought. Already Plato and later Descartes wondered if the reality we perceive was a deception or shadows produced by a spiteful “god” and not a “true” reality.
We still do not have an answer to these philosophical doubts; however, man has for the first time the opportunity – thanks to technology – to “immerse himself” in fictitious worlds.
In this article, we will limit ourselves to describing the applications of virtual reality, referring to the topic of augmented reality in another article, and leaving aside philosophical reflections on the use of this technology.
The applications of this technology, as we will see, are many: they range from entertainment, in which the user is immersed in a fictitious world such as that of a video game or a film; this technology can be used for cultural or tourism purposes.
One could, for example, admire the Parthenon as Socrates must have seen it more than 2 million ago.
Virtual reality technologies are part of industry 4.0, the new paradigm for production activities for which the EU and national budget allocates funds and facilities every year to facilitate this transition.
We will analyze which technologies are, how you can enter the market, and what companies are doing; we will also analyze some case studies and, in conclusion, some reflections on which professions this technology will impact.
Technologies on the market
What do we need to buy to try this technology? We need tools that are able to deceive our brains with simulated signals.
As for the sound signals, there are no major problems; even simple headphones offer good audio quality, and quality products, even if not enormously expensive, are fine.
It is the visual technology that makes the difference. To use them, you need to wear special helmets. On the market, there are special kits that, sometimes sold together with movement control pads, offer users a virtual reality experience.
The flagship products come from the video game industry and are the HTC Vive families, developed in collaboration with the US publisher Valve Corp., the products of Oculus, one of the first companies to specialize in the sector and which developed the Rift and Quest models, finally Sony, which has developed a proprietary set for the PlayStation consoles.
Each of these products has different characteristics. Sony’s solution stands out for its ease of use and presents a powerful and exciting solution on the PlayStation console, with the support of the motion sensors on the joypads (sold separately). The limit of this product is the applications, which depend mainly on Sony and which, for now, seem to be “limited” only to entertainment and video games.
As for the HTC / Valve product, it is definitely premium hardware that can enjoy the popularity of the US company’s store, Steam.
On Steam, it is possible to try many experiments in the use of virtual reality, while the destination on the PC market also guarantees the flexibility of the hardware to be used on other software and platforms.
A downside, however, is the need to untangle numerous cables – necessary to achieve above-average audiovisual quality on any medium, along with configuration difficulties.
Finally, Oculus products adapt to the needs of the market, trying to offer intermediate solutions between the previous ones: the Rift family, whose latest model is the Rift S, is aimed at those who want to approach virtual reality and are looking for a compromise between the applications and difficulties of use;
Quest 2, on the other hand, offers a more in-depth use and is the only viewer available that does not require any ad hoc hardware to be used: being equipped with 64 or 256 GB of internal memory, in fact, it needs a simple online app or on the smartphone to be started. Costs range from €350 to €800.
In addition to these kits, other manufacturers such as Lenovo, Acer, and Dell are launching their proposals on the market, so it is likely that in the near future, a reduction in prices, caused by the competition between the various competitors on the market, will facilitate the purchase by multiple interested users.
A similar but much cheaper product are the Google Cardboards: cardboard goggles initially designed by Google – which are now widely produced by others too, even in plastic and other materials – which, thanks to lenses and by inserting smartphones, manage to make a rudimentary augmented reality device.
For those interested in branded products, it is also possible to place your own logo and graphics on these products by creating personalized Cardboard from the company that distributes them. The difference between these “containers” and the previous kits is the loss of “three degrees of freedom”: it is not possible to move freely within the scenario in VR, and basically, it is only possible to observe it from a fixed position.
Tactile suits: Teslasuit
Products such as Teslasuit, which simulates tactile sensations, are also available on the market.
At the cost of 5,000 dollars, the company has decided to focus on use for professional applications: public safety workers, athletes, rehabilitation of the disabled, and corporate training.
They are the cameras that shoot a 360-degree environment, they exist mainly for professional purposes.
An example of a professional quality product is the Insta360 Titan: it consists of 8 cameras that shoot a section of 200° each, which the software will then combine into a single image. The cost is 17 thousand euros.
There are also cheaper cameras while remaining in the segment of professional uses. It is worth mentioning the 4 thousand euro Kandao Obsidian R with six cameras and with dimensions and weight suitable to be mounted on a drone or even alternatives for the domestic market, such as the GoPro Fusion at 400 euros with only 2 180 ° cameras.
A greater number of cameras, with a smaller shooting section, is equivalent, for optical reasons, to a better shooting quality and to offer a better three-dimensional illusion.