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When Virtual Meets Reality

It Can Get Bizarre

14Sep

Imagine yourself walking through a house, from room to room and smelling food cooking, hearing TV chatter and rain drops on the window. Except, you’re not actually walking through a house. Instead you’re experiencing it through high tech glasses and headsets. Believe it or not, we live in a day and age where virtualization is becoming more realistic.

So, what is virtualization? Where is this technology headed?

Virtualization basics explained is akin to “Star Trek’s” Holodeck or “The Matrix,” a completely virtual environment that you can walk around in and interact with. Current virtual reality technology achieves this by putting a screen in front of your face, The image is then rendered in stereoscopic 3D and viewed through advanced lenses, tricking your mind into believing that you’re looking at a real environment and not a screen in front of your eyes.

In 1962, Morton Heilig created the Sensorama Simulator, which was a bulky, and heavy virtual-reality machine that displayed 3D films while pumping in the corresponding smells, sounds, and the feeling of wind. It was never very successful and has since been all but forgotten.

Since then, virtual reality has come a long way, and there are several ways to experience it, such as the Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR, Microsoft HoloLens, and several other headsets which are either available, or still in development. But what happens when you combine virtual reality with the real world?

There are a few startups trying to do just that.

A Utah-based startup, The VOID VR is trying to create a virtual reality "theme park" in which you can explore one of several detailed virtual worlds while also interacting with corresponding objects in the real world, by using their patented rapture head-mounted display, vest, and gloves. This will provide detailed visuals, immersive audio, haptic feedback and advanced hand control. They can also modify the environment around you by changing the smells, temperature, air pressure, and moisture levels of the room. They are crafting a unique experience that will make you feel as if you are really in their virtual world. And they plan to open their doors to the public sometime in the summer of 2016.

VOID VR explains, “Our advanced technology allows us to create the illusion that the user is exploring large tracts of terrain or incredibly large structures without ever leaving the game. The end result is a physical connection to our virtual world and a sense of exploration which has never before been possible.”

Then there's Wild, which is another startup company that has also been working on building a unique experience which combines virtual reality with elements of real life. Visitors will wear an advanced virtual-reality headset, so they’re surrounded by 3D virtual images as well as music and sound effects to aid immersion. But the 3D scenes may also include directions to do things with real world objects, such as a door, lever, window, or another object.

They make this surreal experience work by utilizing a large number of advanced sensors to gather real-time data about what you're doing, and what direction you're facing. They also employ several of Microsoft's Kinect sensors to locate your current position in the room, as well as many sensors on real world objects, such as doors, levers, windows, or various other props from which they can draw data on the object's current rotation and position.

Their founder, Gabe Paez explains, “We like the idea of combining the real world with virtual worlds because it grounds the user in the experience more than simply floating through the ether"

Wild has hopes that other startup companies will also want to build these kinds of virtual-reality experiences for trade shows or events, or even as some sort of theme-park ride.

In the near future, virtual reality will become more affordable, immersive, and widespread, it could have widespread use in science, medicine, gaming, recreation, sports, and even military training. In the past, virtual reality was a distant dream, something that only existed in works of fiction, or huge, bulky devices that were far too expensive and impractical to be of use. Now, it's quickly becoming a reality with startup companies working tirelessly to perfect virtual reality and even integrate it into the real world.

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