As much as I wish I could say I enjoy a nice holiday on the beach, I don’t.
Actually, I only have a small cardboard box in front of my eyes that directly takes me to the beach, though not quite.
So how did this little cardboard box make me think I am several thousand miles away from where I really am? How does one create a virtual reality?
Let’s take a look at what’s inside a pair of VR glasses.
If we now open up this little box made of mostly cardboard, it looks pretty simple on the inside. There is a place where you can place your phone, the rest of it looks like a normal cardboard box with two plastic lenses.
It is precisely these lenses that are crucial. To tell my brain and my eyes that what I see around me is my own Virtual Reality, these are the ones that create the 3D experience itself.
3D vision is actually quite simple
We have two eyes that are spaced about 5-7 centimeters apart and because of this separation, each of our eyes sees the world from a slightly different perspective. Our brain combines these two different perspectives and creates a sense of depth in what we see.
- This is something that can withstand testing
- Hold your thumb in front of you and close your left eye.
- Now try to close your right eye.
- Now notice how your thumb jumps a little to the left and right as you switch between the different eyes.
- If we now put our thumb a little closer to the eyes and try to do the same procedure again.
- Then the thumb seems to make an even bigger jump, right?
Depending on how close or far from your eyes you hold your thumb, the greater or lesser the jump when you switch between left / right eye.
Our brain gets an idea of how far away an object is by taking in and working with the two different images sent from each eye. This is 3D vision. The brain’s way of creating a deep vision thanks to the two different images it merges.
VR tries to fool your brain in the same way
The cardboard box keeps the monitor (in this case a phone monitor) at a perfect distance from my eyes. The screen then divides the image into two so that each eye focuses on each image.
This type of video or image is called a stereoscopic display. The stereoscopic display simulates what our eyes do under natural circumstances. It deceives our brains into believing that what we see is a 3D image. All this by creating a sense of depth in our way of looking at the picture.
But the cardboard box in the video does more than creating a 3D feel.
When you move your head around as if you look around in a room, it reveals new areas of virtual reality.
The phone has a pair of sensors that indicate position and angle much like a GPS, so it can track how the head is moving. When you then move around your head, the phone adjusts the image to give you the feeling that you are not only watching the video but you can actually move it as well.
Why we do not live in a virtual world
So if it is as easy to create a virtual reality as to insert a mobile phone into a cardboard box, why don’t we live in a virtual world today?
There are a couple of reasons:
First, the reality is more than just what we see. If I really want to feel like I’m on the beach, what are some other factors I would like to add? The feeling of sand between the toes, the smell of water, the sound of the wind, and the waves.
Yes, so even though we have come a long way, we are not quite there yet and it should be a while before any of these features are found in VR glasses. It would probably then require something in the style of a suit that is directly connected to your brain. But these are much more difficult things to create virtual than vision. Things like haptics and the science of touch will help us better understand our real senses and then simulate them in virtual reality.
By the way, simulation of these other senses like taste, smell, or touch will eventually help us remove the motion sickness that many people who have tested virtual reality glasses today know.
In addition, creating a completely enveloping virtual environment would be very time-consuming. It’s much more than just filming a scene from two different perspectives to create a 3D vision. You have to create and capture a whole three-dimensional world where you can walk around and move your head to see all possible views. Several companies have developed special software and cameras for this purpose. But it is still very expensive and time-consuming to create this of high quality.
Virtual reality is really cool, but even if you could create an absolutely perfect virtual reality. Then there is nothing that can replace the real reality we live in today. We still want to experience some things in real life like, for example, snow and your first kiss.
And as a society, we have only begun to scratch the surface of the ethical and moral aspects of creating simulated realities.
So VR (Virtual Reality) may look simple but it is very complicated and today we have just opened the first door of many. The cool thing is that the better understanding we have of real reality, as well as how our minds work. The better virtual reality we have the opportunity to create. Plus, the technology is growing immensely with many virtual Reality Companies being born every single day. It’s really an interesting industry that will evolve and grow immensely in the next decade.