CiteNow!

Virtual Reality

February 26, 2016 • Volume 26, Issue 9
Will consumers embrace the emerging technology?
By Patrick Marshall

Introduction

A patient wears a virtual-reality headset during a therapy session (AFP/Getty Images/Boris Horvat)  
A patient wears a virtual-reality headset during a therapy session on Jan. 26, 2016, at the Institute of Movement Sciences in Marseille, France. The institute uses virtual reality to treat phobias such as claustrophobia and acrophobia. (AFP/Getty Images/Boris Horvat)

Technology that immerses users in artificial, but strikingly realistic, experiences is poised to move beyond flight simulators and other specialized training applications into games, health care, education and mental health therapy, to name a few uses. Improvements in the technologies that drive virtual reality — computing power for creating virtual worlds, cameras that track and analyze users' movements, sensor-rich devices for processing touch and software allowing multiple users to interact — are behind the advances. Programmers can now create an array of lifelike sensations: flying like a bird, fighting off predators, riding a roller coaster or climbing a mountain. But experts are concerned that virtual reality also could cause disturbing physical or psychological reactions, such as paralyzing terror, motion sickness or injuries caused by disorientation. Meanwhile, others worry that so much can be learned about individuals' personalities from tracking their behavior in virtual-reality environments that personal privacy could be compromised. Some are calling for strict regulation of the technology while others say voluntary ratings of games and programs would be enough.

Go to top

Overview

You're shopping online for a six-person tent, but you wonder: Is it really big enough for six people? Instead of guessing, you pop on your virtual-reality headset and click the “VR” button next to an image of the tent on the website.

“Suddenly, you're inside the tent at scale, and you can actually get a sense of how big the thing is,” says Bob Berry, CEO of Envelop VR, a virtual-reality startup company in Bellevue, Wash. “VR allows you to see scale in a way that your brain can actually understand it.”

No such button yet exists on Internet shopping sites. But Berry, whose company is developing applications that run on Windows 10 software in a virtual-reality environment, predicts one soon will be available. He also predicts that e-commerce will be one of the hottest markets for virtual-reality products.

A woman at a virtual reality trade show enjoys a 3-D, 360-degree view of a scene from the film “The Divergent Series: Insurgent” (AP Photo/Rex Features/Tom Dymond)  
A woman at a virtual reality trade show in London last year enjoys a 3-D, 360-degree view of a scene from the film “The Divergent Series: Insurgent” using the soon-to-be-released Oculus Rift headset, which offers high-resolution displays and reduces motion sickness. Facebook, which bought Oculus for $2 billion in 2014, plans to ship the sophisticated, $599 headsets this year, aimed primarily at video-game aficionados. (AP Photo/Rex Features/Tom Dymond)

Virtual-reality experiences aim to provide users with the sense of being immersed in a completely virtual world. While virtual reality has been a staple of hit films such as “The Matrix” and “Avatar,” attempts to deliver realistic virtual-reality experiences to individual users so far have fallen far short of consumers' expectations. Heavy headsets, awkward cables, low-resolution video and slow data processing have left many people unconvinced of virtual reality's value. What's more, in many cases users have become literally nauseated from the disorienting sensations caused by the poorly performing technology.

But technology companies say new and improved virtual-reality hardware scheduled to hit the market this year will be a big improvement over existing equipment. Still, as virtual reality advances, experts are debating its psychological and social implications. Some fear virtual reality could be used to torture people by subjecting them to terrifying or disorienting virtual scenes. Others worry whether data collected by virtual-reality systems could compromise users' privacy. And some wonder whether virtual reality needs a tougher rating system than the one used for video games.1

Those questions, experts say, could delay how long virtual reality takes to catch on with consumers. But eventually, storytelling via virtual reality will become “as disruptive as cinema was to vaudeville,” predicts Forest Key, co-founder and CEO of Pixvana, a Seattle-based startup that is developing tools for handling virtual-reality video streams. He and others say the development of improved virtual-reality hardware, such as goggles and headsets, has reached a turning point.

“For hundreds of dollars, or certainly in the low thousand dollars, you can build a rig that is superb in its capabilities and fully capable of tricking your brain into the effect that virtual reality strives for,” Key says.

Industry insiders and investors expect major, if somewhat more gradual, adoption in other market sectors, such as health care, education, business communications, product design and industrial training. Virtual reality already is being used to treat phobias, such as the fear of flying or public speaking, by simulating such environments. And it is being used to lessen trauma by recreating battlefields and crime scenes to give combat veterans and crime victims control over how they respond emotionally to past experiences.2

According to SuperData Research, a market research firm that tracks digital games, the worldwide market for virtual-reality gaming alone will reach $5 billion this year and $12 billion by 2018.3 Globally, the market for all forms of virtual reality is predicted to be nearly $16 billion by 2020, according to MarketsandMarkets, another market research firm.4

Game Sales Could Hit $12 Billion in 2018  

What's more, some analysts say a related technology known as augmented reality ultimately may be an even bigger market. Augmented-reality experiences do not remove the user from the real world, as in virtual reality. Some products, such as Google Glass, provide information on what the viewer is looking at in a read-out. Other augmented-reality products overlay images and data on a user's view of the real world, such as information about streets, buildings or art in a museum.

Experts foresee an explosion of virtual-reality “experiences” — especially games — after the release of an array of new, better-performing, more comfortable headsets. Sony, HTC and Oculus — which Facebook bought for $2 billion in 2014 — are scheduled to ship the new virtual-reality headsets this year, priced at $350 to $800 and aimed primarily at video-game aficionados. The headsets will offer high-resolution displays and faster refresh rates — the number of frames per second that can be displayed — high enough to greatly reduce motion sickness.

And Microsoft is also expected this year, to introduce its augmented-reality cordless HoloLens headset, which enables viewers to see realistic-looking computer-generated holograms. The devices are expected to be used for such purposes as architects working together on a building design or engineers testing a car design.5

Besides games, software developers are hurrying to develop other virtual-reality applications to run on the new equipment, such as applications that support business meetings in which participants can “gather” in the same virtual meeting or conference room. “Any kind of one-to-many or one-to-one communication will be very powerful in VR,” Key says.

He also predicts “killer scenarios” for using virtual reality in data analysis and visualization, such as providing a better overall look at how a factory is running. “In an immersive environment, your brain can take in information at a broader scale and at a faster rate than looking at it on a TV screen,” Key says.

Virtual reality could also play a big role in product development, experts predict. Changing the size or shape of a car under design — even just making the inside of its roof a little higher — can cost millions of dollars and consume much time. “However, if a digital model is built, changing its height, width, length, color, etc., is relatively cheap and extremely quick,” wrote Jim Blascovich, director of the Research Center for Virtual Environments and Behavior at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab.6

Virtual reality also is increasingly being offered as a new form of journalism. The New York Times, for example, released its first virtual-reality project — a report on the global refugee crisis that sought to portray the living conditions for children in several war-torn countries — last November.7 The newspaper currently has 11 virtual-reality projects that can be viewed using an iOS or Android smartphone and a Google Cardboard headset after downloading a special New York Times application.

“You'll see more and more from The New York Times on that front,” promises Jake Silverstein, editor of The New York Times Magazine. “VR is going to be something important going forward.”

However, some researchers are concerned that immersive virtual reality may present unforeseen psychological and social challenges. They warn, for example, that virtual-reality experiences can have real physical and emotional consequences. “The brain often fails to differentiate between virtual experiences and real ones,” wrote Blascovich and Bailenson. “Walking a tightrope over a chasm in virtual reality can be a terrifying ordeal, even if the walker knows it's virtual rather than physical.”8

Others have warned that violent virtual-reality video games may be so emotionally powerful that they could have a much greater impact on children than violent video games. “Playing violent video games seems to lead people to think of themselves as more aggressive people overall,” wrote New York psychologist Mark Koltko-Rivera. Virtual reality could have an even stronger effect, he fears. “Participating in a violent VR game [produces] more aggressive thoughts than either watching a game or acting out the physical movements,” he wrote.9

Some analysts have even suggested that virtual reality is powerful enough to be used as an instrument of torture. Just as it can help treat phobias and trauma, “it could be just as powerful in doing the opposite,” says technology journalist Doug Bierend. “Virtualized trauma would leave no marks,” and like Room 101, a torture chamber in George Orwell's dystopian novel, 1984, “could confront victims with exactly the worst thing imaginable.10

As the industry, researchers and others debate the impact of virtual reality on individuals, society and the economy, here are some of the questions being asked:

Will virtual reality become a mass consumer product?

Virtual reality has been available for decades in niche markets, such as in flight simulators and other training scenarios. However, the expense of the equipment, the amount of space it requires and the fact that virtual-reality experiences caused nausea in some users have kept the technology from reaching mass consumer markets.

Headsets Attract Most Investment  

But industry insiders say the technology finally is ready for widespread consumer use. “I came to it as a VR skeptic, and I was that way for a long time, [for] well over a decade,” says Matt McIlwain, managing director of Madrona Venture Group, a tech-oriented investment firm in Seattle. “That was my mindset up until about 18 months ago.”

McIlwain became a booster after visiting virtual-reality companies developing software for the soon-to-be-released Oculus Rift and HTC Vive virtual-reality headsets. “The initial applications … were pretty darn good,” he says. “Two things … were different about them. One was that they were these cool, good experiences. Also, I didn't feel woozy coming out of the experience.”

McIlwain describes being on a virtual basketball court with other players and not only being able to shoot baskets, but to talk with the others. “The system knows that I'm hearing your voice in the virtual room,” he says, “and so I hear you out of my left ear, not my right ear.” After those experiences, his company became a lead investor in several virtual-reality startup companies, including Pixvana and Envelop VR.

Pixvana CEO Key agrees that new virtual-reality technologies have largely solved the problem of motion, or “simulator,” sickness. “VR in the 1990s made me vomit. It made most people vomit,” he says. But thanks to recent advances in virtual reality-related technologies — faster processors, better graphics and new methods for tracking movements — the headsets are both more immersive and less likely to result in nausea for the user, Key says.

Of course, affordable, non-nausea-inducing hardware is only part of what is needed to sell virtual reality to large markets. “I think the hardware is here,” says Tom Furness, director of the Human Interface Technology Lab (HITLab) at the University of Washington and a virtual-reality pioneer who worked on the technology for the Air Force in the 1970s. “Now it's about the tools to help us develop content easier and better. We don't have those tools right now.” Hardware companies such as Oculus and Vive did not return requests for comment.

Key says putting on virtual-reality goggles can be as “uninteresting” as watching a film of a stage presentation. The technology is “not yet exploiting any of the unique capabilities that [eventually] will be exploited,” he says. Those innovations will require new kinds of tools. For example, he says, accommodating real-time, multiplayer interactions in virtual-reality scenarios will require new techniques for processing video streams and delivering them to users.

It likely will take time to develop the tools and content that will provide enough applications to attract large numbers of consumers. “Right now this whole industry is in a learning phase,” says Berry of Envelop VR. “There is still more that we don't know than we do. A lot of the research … done over the last 30 or 40 years has been completely invalidated now that we have really good hardware to test assumptions on, so we are having to learn a lot of new things.”

In addition, some analysts are not convinced that researchers have fully resolved the nausea problem. In fact, some manufacturers such as Oculus have acknowledged that whether their equipment causes nausea or eye strain depends on several factors apart from the hardware. Some individuals are more prone to motion sickness than others, and certain scenarios — such as a virtual roller coaster — are more likely to induce such symptoms. As a result, companies reportedly are encouraging game developers to avoid creating virtual environments likely to cause discomfort.11

Oculus chief technology officer John Carmack told a conference of game developers in March 2015 that his company is moving cautiously to avoid a “nightmare” scenario in which “people like the demo, they take it home and they start throwing up,” he said. “The fear is if a really bad VR product comes out, it could send the industry back to the 1990s.”12

During a demonstration, a woman tries out the Birdly flight simulator (Getty Images/Jason Moskowitz)  
During a demonstration in New York City, a woman tries out the Birdly flight simulator, which mimics the experience of a bird in flight, using a virtual-reality headset. (Getty Images/Jason Moskowitz)

Ironically, recent research indicates that individuals with the best 3-D vision are most prone to nausea in virtual-reality environments. A recent University of Wisconsin, Madison, study found that nearly two-thirds of people who tested a motion-heavy video using Oculus Rift equipment quit watching the video early due to nausea.13 They turned out to be the users with the best 3-D vision in the real world.

The cost of virtual-reality equipment also could slow adoption. While the $350 to $800 price tag of a headset may be inexpensive compared with previous generations of VR equipment, it is still beyond the reach of many consumers. And the computer equipment required to use the new headsets is more powerful than what most consumers currently own.

In fact, according to NVIDIA, a graphics device manufacturer in Santa Clara, Calif., fewer than 1 percent of the personal computers currently on the market will be able to handle virtual-reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift.14 Thus, many consumers will have to spend about $1,000 for a new computer in addition to the cost of the headset before they can experience the new virtual reality.

Will virtual reality's adverse physical and psychological effects outweigh its benefits?

Psychologists and others acknowledge that any tool as powerful as virtual reality can have both beneficial and adverse effects.

On the positive side, researchers say virtual reality can help treat some psychological disorders in addition to boosting the economy, entertaining consumers and enhancing business productivity.15 For example, virtual reality has been used to place veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder on a simulated Afghanistan battlefield, where they can process their traumatic experience in a safe, therapeutic environment. The virtual experience is so realistic that the users even feels the simulated weight of the rifles they once carried in battle.16

In addition, some researchers expect the new generation of virtual reality to be especially effective at sensitivity training. “One of the areas where we are focusing a lot of our energy right now is empathy,” says Bailenson of Stanford's Human Interface Technology Lab, where diversity training software creates scenarios in which the user becomes another person, such as a person of a different race or a war refugee.

“You turn around and there's another person in VR with you, and they discriminate against you,” he says. “You feel prejudice while wearing the body of someone else. You walk a mile in their shoes.”

But some experts worry that being able to deliver powerful, realistic experiences could have unwanted effects that are more potent than motion sickness. In other words, virtual-reality games may be like video games on steroids — not only in their entertainment value but also in their psychological and social impact.

“You can play eight hours of violent video games a day and still fundamentally be a pretty decent person,” says Bailenson. “The research does show that it does make you more aggressive, but in general, there are a lot of really great, wonderful people who play violent video games.”

But virtual-reality games are different, according to Bailenson. “Once video games get immersive — where, in order to kill somebody, you literally have to take your hand and saw their throat and get [sensory] feedback as you go through their bones and you're literally going through the muscle memory of killing them — I don't think that's going to work,” he says.

Jesse Fox, an assistant professor of communications at Ohio State University who studies virtual reality and other new media technologies, agrees. “We already know that a lot of elements of video games are problematic and … that they can have negative effects for certain people in certain circumstances,” says Fox. “But the more we get into virtual reality, the more of the senses we're replacing and the more likely we are to really experience it as real. That could completely change the way our brain is processing this information.”

Kate Edwards, executive director of the International Game Developers Association, a New Jersey-based group that represents video and computer game developers, says, however, that virtual reality may not have a greater effect on users than do current video games. “The best way to describe the impact is ‘different,’” she says, adding that trying to compare the effects of virtual reality and video games is “as useless a concept” as comparing the effects of a short story versus a novel, a film or a television program.

An employee of tech giant Google demonstrates the Google Cardboard virtual-reality headset during an event (AFP/Getty Images/Alain Jocard)  
An employee of tech giant Google demonstrates the Google Cardboard virtual-reality headset during an event in Paris on Jan. 21, 2016. (AFP/Getty Images/Alain Jocard)

Also, any heightened effects of virtual reality likely will be temporary, she contends. “VR adds a heightened sense of presence, and since that experience is new to many people, it may feel more impactful initially, the way the earliest audiences responded to the first moving pictures,” she says.

Edwards agrees that more research is needed on the potential effects of virtual-reality games, but she argues that the research must be unbiased. “We've had far too many studies from people with undisclosed, anti-game biases and methodological flaws,” she says.

Concerns should focus on the violence in video games, not on the virtual-reality technology, according to Furness of the HITLab at the University of Washington. “Games aren't bad in themselves; it's the violence in games that is the problem,” he says, noting that adults, not children, design the violent games. After spending years watching children build virtual worlds, he says, he has observed that “when you put them to work building a virtual world, there's no violence in any of them.”

Some experts also worry that virtual reality may magnify the addictiveness and social isolation experienced by some individuals with video games and the Internet. “The more that we can simulate experiences [with virtual reality] that we should be having with real people in the real world, that can be a problem,” says Fox.

The checks and balances of interactions with the variety of people one meets in real life, she adds, are vastly different than the programmed feedback one gets from digital encounters.

Key, of Pixvana, doesn't buy into the idea that virtual reality is uniquely addictive. “Certainly it will have some compulsive, addictive traits like all media does,” he says. “I wouldn't be surprised if in five or six years there is discussion of the intense isolation that virtual reality has. But that's a larger problem in society; it's not a VR-specific problem. And I think we will come to understand the medium and develop best practices.”

Furness acknowledges that much is unknown about the long-term effects of either virtual-reality hardware or of yet-to-be-developed content. “Up to this point in time, people have worn [the devices] for maybe an hour at a time or a couple of hours,” he says. But as for people spending all day working in a virtual-reality environment, “That's something that requires more research.”

Nevertheless, Furness sees far more benefits than risks in virtual reality.

“I believe that it's a way to enhance humans — not only by extending our senses but by actually awakening our senses,” he says. Like the blind person who adapts by developing a sharper sense of hearing, he says, “I am hoping that we can retrain capabilities that we've always had but that we shut off because we haven't used them.”

Should virtual-reality games be regulated and rated?

Because virtual reality is so immersive and convincing, some analysts have suggested that VR games be regulated to prevent inappropriate material from being sold to certain age groups.

“There are going to be violent games out there, and, let me tell you, it's scary when you take it into VR, because you're now doing it in a way that seems real,” says Furness of the Human Interface Technology Lab. “It's got to be numbing the mind and numbing the heart.”

As a result, he says, virtual-reality games should be rated just as films and video games are.

But video games are rated through a voluntary system of industry self-regulation, which some experts say may not be enough when it comes to virtual reality.

Seeing the Future  

“We will have to consider the fact that people's brains are going to process VR a little bit differently, and we have to be mindful that people are going to experience things like cybersickness that they may not have experienced before,” says Ohio State's Fox.

Virtual reality currently can stir “deep emotional and psychosomatic responses,” warns tech journalist Bierend, and be used as a weapon. He wrote in a recent article: “But given how powerful VR is becoming, and how widely used it's evidently going to become, one logical misuse is especially disturbing: torture.”17

As a result, Bierend calls for greater regulation of virtual-reality applications than video games receive. “There's got to be something higher than an [industry-run] rating system,” he says.

Though he did not provide specifics, stricter measures potentially include prohibitions on sales to certain age groups of material considered too violent or otherwise inappropriate.

Industry associations respond that regulating virtual-reality games is not only unnecessary but unconstitutional. “This … was settled by the Supreme Court in 2011, when it ruled that games are protected by the First Amendment, and [it's] not really up for debate,” says Dan Hewitt, vice president of media relations and event management at the Entertainment Software Association, a Washington, D.C.-based industry association supporting video and computer game companies.

The court's 7-2 ruling in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association struck down a California law banning the sale of certain violent video games to children without parental approval.18 While the court did rule that video games were protected speech, a concurring opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito indicated that there might be future limits to that protection as new technologies develop.

“If the technological characteristics of the sophisticated games that are likely to be available in the near future are combined with the characteristics of the most violent games already marketed,” Alito warned, “the result will be games that allow troubled teens to experience in an extraordinarily personal and vivid way what it would be like to carry out unspeakable acts of violence.”19

According to Alito, different media may have different effects on people, and he chided the court's majority for prematurely “dismissing this possibility out of hand.”

Startups Raised Nearly $4 Billion  

“I would not squelch legislative efforts to deal with what is perceived by some to be a significant and developing social problem,” Alito wrote. “If differently framed statutes are enacted by the states or by the federal government, we can consider the constitutionality of those laws when cases challenging them are presented to us.”

Edwards, of the International Game Developers Association, says virtual-reality experiences “are protected speech just as clearly as video games are protected speech, just as clearly as movies are protected speech and just as clearly as books are protected speech.” The fear of new technologies “and bad science caused video game developers to suffer a long legal road to the incontrovertible recognition of those rights by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Edwards adds. “Our hope and expectation is that VR will be spared a similar, unnecessary legal quagmire.”

Some industry insiders argue that fears about virtual reality triggering violent behavior are exaggerated. “I reject that thesis completely,” says Key of Pixvana. “My kids are into first-person shooters” — video games in which players aim and fire fake guns — “and I was a gamer. I think people who are into gaming and respect gaming are the last people to suggest that there is any correlation between gaming and violence in society.”

Bailenson, of Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, says he isn't so sure. “Should it be regulated? I don't know. I believe very strongly in free speech,” he says, adding, “Personally, I don't let my daughters” play violent video games.

Go to top

Background

Early Entertainment

Two markets have driven the development of virtual-reality technologies: the entertainment industry and the military.

The first device designed to provide a “you are there” feeling was Charles Wheatstone's 1838 stereopticon, an image viewer that offered a 3-D effect.

Wheatstone, a British physician, had discovered that the brain processes two-dimensional images, viewed separately by each eye, into a single image, providing depth perception. Initially, Wheatstone experimented with viewing identical drawings, slightly offset, through two lenses. It wasn't until the mid-1830s, when effective photographic techniques were developed, that Wheatstone's idea produced dramatic results — a realistic 3-D view of subjects viewed through the stereopticon, which became known as a stereoscope.20

The device quickly became a craze in Europe and North America, with companies such as Keystone View sending photographers around the globe to capture famous scenes, notable people and major events. The popularity of the stereoscope remained high until a newer technology, motion pictures, captured the public's imagination at the turn of the 19th Century.

It's not known whether Stanley G. Weinbaum, an American science fiction writer, was inspired by the stereoscope, but in 1935 he published a short story, “Pygmalion's Spectacles,” which offered the first detailed model for a full virtual-reality experience. In the story, the main character meets a Professor Ludwig, who has invented goggles that deliver a multi-sensation experience, including sight, sound, taste, smell and touch.

“Suppose I make it so that you are in the story, you speak to the shadows, and the shadows reply, and instead of being on a screen, the story is all about you, and you are in it,” said Ludwig. “Would that be to make real a dream?”21

Four years after the Eastman Kodak Co. introduced Kodachrome color film in 1935, Edwin Eugene Mayer, a pharmacist and photofinisher in Portland, Ore., introduced a new stereoscopic device, the “View-Master.” While not different in concept from the stereoscope, View-Masters offered high-resolution, color 3-D images.22

In the mid-1950s, Morton Heilig, a California filmmaker, pushed the stereoscope technology further with his “Sensorama,” a theater cabinet featuring stereo speakers, a stereoscopic display, fans to simulate wind, smell “generators” and a vibrating chair. Patented in 1962 under the name “Sensorama Simulator,” the device was designed to give users an immersive experience employing four of the five senses. Heilig also invented a 3-D movie camera that featured side-by-side 35mm cameras that was small enough to be used as a handheld device.23

Military Virtual Reality

The U.S. military didn't build the first flight simulator — the Link Trainer, created in 1929 and patented in 1931 — but it was the simulator's first major customer. Built by American Edwin Link, a former piano maker, the device simulated an airplane's motion by employing motors and pneumatic bellows to rotate the cockpit in three dimensions. Additional motors mimicked turbulence. More than 500,000 allied military pilots used more than 10,000 Link Trainers during World War II.24

The original Link Trainer did not include any visual elements. In fact, it wasn't until 1941, when the British government commissioned a version of the trainer known as the Celestial Navigation Trainer, that the system included projected films. The film, however, could not respond to the pilot's actions.25

Pvt. James E. Taylor (Getty Images/Afro American Newspapers/Gado)  
Pvt. James E. Taylor demonstrates the Link Trainer, an early flight simulator, at the Tuskegee Flight School in Alabama on June 6, 1942. (Getty Images/Afro American Newspapers/Gado)

In the mid-1960s, the military moved from arcade-style simulators to head-mounted displays that tracked and responded to the user's orientation.

“One of my jobs was to determine how to best have pilots interact with their very complex machines,” says Furness, the Air Force's lead engineer working on head-mounted displays from the 1960s through the '80s. Traditional methods — such as filling the cockpit with gauges and switches — weren't working well, says Furness. “It wasn't a very suitable way to get bandwidth to and from the brain.”

In the late 1970s, Furness began developing virtual interfaces — displays the pilots could interact with — for actual flight control. In 1982, he demonstrated the Visually Coupled Airborne Systems Simulator (VCASS), a head-mounted system that offered a 120-degree field of vision. “We didn't call it virtual reality then,” he says. “We called it ‘visually coupled systems.’”

In the mid-1980s, Furness began work on his most ambitious project — the Super Cockpit. “It was a cockpit that you wear,” says Furness. “You put on a magic helmet, a magic flight suit and magic gloves, and you are immersed in a 3-D virtual world in the fighter airplane.”

The Super Cockpit was not a simulator. The pilot used it to control his very real aircraft. The system projected information — computer-generated 3-D maps, forward-looking infrared and radar imagery and avionics data — to the pilot. The device's sensors and tracking system, as well as voice-actuated controls, allowed the pilot to control the aircraft with gestures, eye movements and voice commands, Furness says.

In the 1980s, the military began to employ virtual reality on the ground as well as in the air. In a series of progressively complex demonstrations, the SIMNET program — funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Army — connected ground troops, tanks, helicopters and airplanes in a virtual battlefield. When the development program was completed in 1987, a network of 250 simulators at nine training sites and two developmental sites were turned over to the Army.

“The emphasis of SIMNET from the outset was on enhancing tactical team performance by providing commanders and troops an opportunity to practice their skills in a dynamic, free-play environment, in which battle outcomes depend on team coordination and individual initiative, rather than on scripted scenarios controlled by an instructor,” wrote Duncan C. Miller and Jack A. Thorpe, two of the principal architects of SIMNET.

Specifically, the program created a virtual world that included thousands of linked devices simulating infantry vehicles, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. “In this world, the causal connections among these tactical events, from the individual crew station to the battalion command post, are clear and easily inspectable,” they wrote.26

Civilian Research

Even as Furness was beginning his work with the Air Force on head-mounted displays, a new surge of research, driven by rapid growth in computing power and DARPA funding, was occurring in academic research labs.

The first head-mounted display connected to a computer instead of a camera was created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) computer scientist Ivan Sutherland in 1968. While path-breaking, the device had obvious limitations: It was monoscopic, rather than stereoscopic, and it could display only monochrome, wireframe objects. What's more, “Sutherland's helmet was so heavy and intimidating that it had to be tethered to the ceiling to alleviate its weight on the user's head and neck,” write and Blascovich and Bailenson, virtual-reality researchers at Stanford University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, respectively.27 As a result, the system was dubbed the “Sword of Damocles.”

While not head-mounted or 3-D, the Aspen Movie Map, created by a group of MIT researchers, demonstrated a new level of interactivity with computerized video. Long before Google was founded, the MIT team sent cars with rooftop cameras through the streets of Aspen, Colo. The resulting footage was correlated with a map of the city, and navigation buttons were provided to allow users to move around in the virtual city.

DARPA funded the Aspen Movie Map because, according to one researcher, “DARPA's hope was that military personnel could virtually travel to a city before being deployed to familiarize themselves with landmarks, the location of targets and potential threats.”28

Another important step in the development of virtual-reality infrastructure was the invention of “data gloves,” gloves equipped with sensors that feed information about finger and other hand movements to a computer. The first data glove — known as the Sayre Glove — was created in 1976 by a team at the University of Illinois.29

Data gloves rapidly improved in the 1980s. In 1987, MIT researchers developed a lightweight Lycra DataGlove, equipped with optical fibers. Like the Sayre Glove, the DataGlove measured the light transmitted through the fibers as the fingers and hand moved.

The DataGlove was better than other manipulators “because it was lightweight, comfortable to wear, unobtrusive to the user, and general purpose,” wrote MIT researchers David J. Sturman and David Zeltzer.30 The DataGlove was commercialized and used widely in research labs as it and similar gloves helped train people for tasks involving hand-eye coordination, such as surgery.31

College students look through stereoscopes (Getty Images/Fairfax Media/Peter Morris)  
College students from Great Britain look through stereoscopes at the Australian Museum in Sydney. Invented in 1838 by British physician Charles Wheatstone, the stereoscope was the first device able to provide a 3-D experience. Wheatstone discovered that the brain processes two-dimensional images, viewed separately by each eye, into a single image, creating depth perception. (Getty Images/Fairfax Media/Peter Morris)

Beginning in the 1990s, gaming companies moved aggressively into virtual reality, although with few results. In 1991, the Virtuality Group, a company based in England, introduced an array of arcade games that, once players donned virtual-reality goggles and data gloves, offered stereoscopic 3-D graphics. Some of the devices were networked, allowing multiplayer experiences.32

The Japanese companies Sega and Nintendo quickly followed with their own virtual-reality equipment. In 1993, Sega introduced its virtual-reality headset for the Sega Genesis game console. The company's virtual-reality wraparound glasses featured head-movement tracking, stereo sound and high-resolution screens. In 1995, Nintendo released Virtual Boy, a portable console with 3-D graphics.33 Both products were commercial failures because of poor graphics and performance and were soon discontinued.34

In 1992, researchers at the University of Illinois, Chicago, tried a different approach, creating the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE). Instead of employing headsets and data gloves, CAVE was a virtual-reality room with graphics displayed on the walls. Users' head and eye movements were tracked to adjust the imagery, and a wand-like device allowed users to interact with virtual objects.35

Shrinking Tech

After nearly two decades of slow progress, virtual-reality research picked up steam beginning in 2010, when a number of major manufacturers — including Sony, Google, Microsoft and HTC — began developing lightweight and powerful head-mounted displays.

While the entertainment industry and the military had driven virtual-reality research for decades, some analysts say in the current, new millennium research was reinvigorated by advances in an unrelated product sector: smartphones. According to Pixvana's Key, the components that have been optimized for cellphones — ultra-high-resolution screens, long battery life, lightweight and miniaturized sensors and other components — are just the features needed to make usable headsets.

“That's essentially what a head-mounted display is,” says Key. “It's a bunch of the cellphone components attached to a PC.”

What's more, he says, the huge market for smartphones has driven down the price of the components. “When you're producing millions of smartphones a year, the component supply chain has just gotten incredibly optimized,” Key says. “We're seeing a 10-fold improvement per year in cost, weight, performance and energy use in all these components.”

Go to top

Current Situation

Researching Impacts

As consumers await the imminent release of the next generation of virtual-reality systems, academic research is expanding on the impact of the products. The three largest academic labs are located in the three major hubs for the development of commercial virtual-reality products: Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and Seattle.

Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab focuses on understanding how humans interact with virtual-reality simulations and how those systems may affect people using them. Specifically, the lab is studying three questions:

  • What new social issues will arise from the use of immersive virtual-reality communication systems?

  • How can researchers use virtual reality as a basic tool to study the nuances of face-to-face interaction?

  • How can virtual reality improve everyday life, such as enhancing conservation, empathy and communications?36

Lab director Bailenson says that while his team is technologically savvy, the lab's emphasis is on social science research, not on creating virtual-reality hardware. “Think about how the computer has changed social science,” he says. “You can do online surveys and you can measure reaction time. It has completely changed the way we think about research.”

Virtual reality may bring even bigger changes, Bailenson says: “With virtual reality, we get all the benefits of the computer, but instead of having you read a paragraph, we can actually put you in a compelling scene and … measure what you do, what you say, how you move. It's the most spectacular tool.”

A woman tries out a virtual-reality headset (Getty Images/Tribeca Film Festival/Slaven Vlasic)  
A woman tries out a virtual-reality headset during an event sponsored by Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab in New York City on April 23, 2015. Among other things, the lab is working on virtual-reality software for diversity training and enhancing conservation and communications. (Getty Images/Tribeca Film Festival/Slaven Vlasic)

Currently, the lab is studying virtual-reality scenarios that teach empathy, integrate virtual reality into educational environments and help individuals understand how human behaviors contribute to climate change and how to change those behaviors.

The University of Washington's Human Interface Technology Lab, which Furness founded and directs, also is working on applying virtual reality to educational environments. It is seeking to apply virtual reality to medical and therapeutic goals, such as helping burn victims through games that cancel out pain, overcoming phobias and treating PTSD.

The lab also is developing virtual-reality hardware, especially display technology. Several projects focus on virtual retinal display technologies, which project images from an external source directly onto subjects' retinas rather than onto a screen.37

The third major academic virtual-reality research lab, the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), is at the University of Southern California, in the heart of the entertainment industry. ICT's virtual-reality research tends to focus on emotional and communications issues in virtual-reality environments. The Virtual Humans group at ICT is working on how to create virtual-reality characters that use language and gestures in natural ways and that can show emotions in reaction to verbal as well as nonverbal stimuli.

The ICT Virtual Worlds Group is studying the potential of using virtual worlds to address real-world issues, such as training, education, health and social support.38

In addition to the three West Coast virtual-reality research labs, many smaller labs at universities across the country are focusing more narrowly on applying virtual reality to specific areas. For example, the Virtual Reality Clinical Research Laboratory at the University of Houston is developing applications for treating addictions and mental health disorders.39

And the Virtual Reality Design Lab at the University of Minnesota is working on using the technology to create and evaluate product designs. The lab's current focus is on the building industry in general and architectural design in particular.40

“Excitement Bubble”

Industry experts say virtual reality finally will be ready for consumers when the new head-mounted displays become available this year. But, they say, the software to go with that hardware is not as far along.

“In three years, no one will be debating whether the hardware is ready,” Pixvana's Key says. “It's going to entirely become a question about software, about content.”

That need for content and tools has inspired a boom in virtual-reality start-up companies. More than $4 billion has been invested in these startups since 2010, and in 2015 alone 119 deals totaled roughly $602 million.41

“We're in a virtual-reality excitement bubble,” Adam Draper, CEO of BoostVC, a tech investment firm, told attendees at the Augmented World Expo in Silicon Valley last June. And that bubble is not just the result of hype, he added. “Everything is getting so much better, so much faster,” he said.42

The startups cover a lot of ground. For example, Florida-based Magic Leap is developing software that “opens up” virtual-reality headsets, allowing content to be overlaid on top of real vision. In October 2014, the company announced it had raised $542 million in “series B” funding — the second round of funding that takes place after a company has met certain milestones — with Google being the lead investor.43 In February 2016, the company raised $793.5 million in a third round of funding.44

Envelop VR, the Bellevue, Wash., startup, is developing a virtual-reality “shell” for the Windows operating system that essentially translates the two-dimensional operating system into 3-D. The company also is developing tools that allow developers to convert 2-D objects — say, objects made in Autodesk's AutoCAD design program — into 3-D objects in the virtual environment. The company raised $2 million in initial funding in June 2015 and then another $4 million in late October.45

Seattle-based Pixvana is developing a cloud-based video-processing and delivery platform for virtual-reality applications. The company began operations in December 2015 with $6 million in funding from the Madrona Venture Group.46

Emerging Issues

Although enthusiasm is high in academia and among companies and investors for the next generation of virtual reality, some experts worry about possible legal issues and the potential for virtual-reality systems to collect data about those who use the equipment.

Some of those experts say virtual reality raises special liability concerns. “It is immersive, and you will forget your physical surroundings,” says Ohio State's Fox. In addition to the physical environment, she says, “you're setting yourself up to hurt yourself if you are not mindful of the space that you're actually in.”

And it's not just tripping over cords and banging into furniture that are worrisome. “We are getting pretty closely dialed into people's brains,” says Envelop VR's Berry. “We are putting a display an inch away from their eyes and fully consuming their view with a bright light coming from the panel, so you can imagine there are serious health and safety issues around that.”

Berry adds that the content for virtual-reality systems also may cause problems. The activities “can make you ill, [either by using a] bad frame rate, or by putting you on a roller coaster when you didn't expect it and you're going up and down and you feel nauseous immediately,” he says. “There are some serious issues that we're going to need to address pretty soon, I think.”

Daniel Ridlon, a Seattle product liability attorney, agrees that the emerging technology presents potential liability challenges. “We always encourage clients who are manufacturers to analyze the potential hazards of their products and, if they can, to design the products to remove the hazard or, as a final instance, to warn the user against any hazards that might be presented,” he says. “But when you have new technologies, analyzing the risks is, of course, more difficult, because there is less user experience.”

Some experts also are concerned about potential privacy issues arising from the data that virtual-reality systems collect.

“In virtual reality, tracking is accomplished not by a satellite but by video cameras, magnetic sensors and other instruments that capture signals from devices worn by users,” wrote Blascovich and Bailenson. “The tracking equipment scans users dozens of times per second to determine, for example, if the participant has changed his point of view, if a toe is moved forward, if he or she is leaning sideways and so on.”47

That tracking data can reveal a lot more about a person than just body position. Digital footprints can reveal much about an individual's physical and psychological identity. “Actions that seem trivial in a virtual world — whether one chooses to walk or run, how quickly one types, or how close one stands to other people — provide clues about the self,” wrote Blascovich and Bailenson.48

The bottom line, they warn, “is that people's behaviors in virtual reality are tracked, and therefore can be stored, analyzed and used — for good, bad or whatever the person collecting information wants.”49

Go to top

Outlook

Benefitting Society?

Marketers expect a major boom in sales of virtual-reality hardware and software in 2016, with gaming systems leading the way.

Global sales will probably be unevenly distributed, however. In fact, according to Stephanie Llamas, SuperData's director of research, European sales ($1.9 billion) will outpace those in North America ($1.6 billion), while Asia will account for $1.1 billion, mostly through sales of low-cost devices such as Google Cardboard.

Llamas sees Google Cardboard as something of a gateway device for virtual reality. Because Google has made Google Cardboard's design freely available to manufacturers, she says it is easy and cheap to manufacture. “For people who are unsure whether they want to spend a significant amount of money entering VR, it's a good starter,” she says.

North America and Europe, in contrast to Asia, have more users with the equipment needed for higher-end virtual-reality experiences. “We see the European market as being a little bit bigger,” says Llamas. “You have a lot of PC users there, even in emerging markets like Russia and Eastern Europe, that can facilitate the type of hardware that meets the required specs.”

At the same time, some experts want to encourage developers to forgo games and work instead on applications that benefit society. “What I'm betting on is that, in the end, we can have an equal or greater share of these vertical markets that eclipse what happens with games,” says Furness of the University of Washington's Human Interface Technology Lab. But, she concedes virtual reality ultimately “is going to be about the money, there's no doubt about that.”

Specifically, Furness wants to see virtual reality applied to education about social issues. “What I want to do is turn young developers around to working on some things that are really exciting, like developing content that relates to pervasive problems like AIDS in Africa, global warming and renewable energy,” he says. “I would like to turn living rooms into classrooms.” To that end, Furness recently founded the Virtual World Society, an organization aimed at employing virtual reality to solve pervasive world problems.50

Fox, of Ohio State, also would like to see virtual reality's focus shift away from games. “We've been using VR for a long time in the fields of health and education,” she says. “I'd like to step that up and not be worrying about playing video games and shooting hyper-sexualized women.”

Of course, as with any major new technology, some of virtual reality's biggest effects will take time to become apparent. Indeed, marketers and the media have so far overlooked some of the greatest potential benefits of virtual reality, according to some experts.

For example, Stanford's Bailenson predicts that virtual reality will eliminate the need for unnecessary travel. “Travel should be something that when you want to you should do it, but you shouldn't have to,” he says.

“As VR gets better and better, the mediated interaction feels more like face-to-face interaction. It's my hope that we look back 20 years from now, maybe 15 years from now, and say, ‘Can you believe that everybody used to pile into their cars and drive down the same highways an hour each way every day?’ Anything that can replace fossil fuel use is great in my book.”

Go to top

Pro/Con

Should virtual reality be more regulated than video games?

Pro

Doug Bierend
Technology Journalist. Written for CQ Researcher, February 2016

Virtual reality appears poised to become at least as widespread, sophisticated, powerful and subversive as any other form of transformative media — television, video games or the Internet. What's in store for virtual reality may be unusually dramatic. Consider that Facebook spent $2 billion on a small headset startup called Oculus and that Magic Leap, a Google-backed outfit engaged in “augmented reality” — a species of virtual reality — describes its upcoming product as “a user interface for reality.”

In the probably-sooner-than-we-think future, virtual reality will become a profound bridge between digital and physical realms, connecting people in powerful new ways while making possible unprecedented experiences of significant psychological and even physiological heft. This is what makes virtual reality such a wonderful technology, one that must be respected and, to the extent that it can do harm, regulated.

Effective virtual reality doesn't just create the impression of 3-D images and places. Its goal, as stated by those leading the charge in the field, is to achieve “immersion,” the tipping point past which our senses forget they're being “shown” something and instead interpret the stimulus just as they would any other experience. The bar for immersion is surprisingly low and already within reach. This is why virtual-reality technology already has been applied effectively to therapies for such problems as phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder, and why even crudely rendered experiences are enough to create intense and deep psychosomatic effects.

Of course, most people aren't going to use virtual reality to get over a fear of heights, but rather to be entertained, to connect with one another, to have experiences that wouldn't otherwise be possible. As the technology advances, assuming its developers meet their aims, experiences with virtual-reality goggles will become as powerful as those without. The purpose of Entertainment Software Rating Board ratings, to which the video game industry voluntarily submits, is to allow parents to determine if a game's contents are inappropriate. But those ratings simply don't approach the import of virtual reality.

It's easy to imagine regulatory overreach, and any system for virtual reality must be crafted carefully. It's possible that over-regulating this technology could prevent the best it has to offer from reaching people. An acknowledgement of virtual reality's incredible power must be baked into any regulation without standing in the way of its development toward positive ends.

Con

Kate Edwards
Executive Director, International Game Developers Association. Written for CQ Researcher, February 2016

Every new media technology has experienced a certain level of caution and critical examination upon its introduction. This has been the case for the printed book, film, radio, television and video games, and now it's the case for virtual reality.

After the initial interest and scrutiny of a new technological medium, society eventually acclimates, and some people opt to consume the medium while some don't. As a society, we now understand that the impact of a medium depends on the artistry of those making it, not on the technology itself. After all, we all will eventually become familiar with this new technology.

Just as we are no longer shocked at the spectacle of television, moving pictures or video games, the same will happen with virtual reality. Once we are as familiar and comfortable with it as we are with film, the real impact of a virtual-reality experience will depend solely on the artistry of those creating it.

A quantitative scale for the “impact” of games and virtual reality is just as useless a concept as measuring the impact of a short story versus a novel, film or television program. A theatrical film can have a very strong impact due to the size of the image (e.g., IMAX) and the proximity of strangers in the audience sharing the experience. But smaller images can be equally impactful when viewed alone at home on TV. Both forms of media can leave a strong impression, but the impacts often are felt quite differently.

The newer artistic mediums of games and virtual reality are no different; they are both impactful, but in different ways.

Every new idea brings risk — not merely of increased liability but of opportunists seeking to capitalize on public perceptions of liabilities that do not exist. We actively encourage research into all aspects of virtual reality, but any research needs to be objective, with all preconceived biases disclosed and with thorough peer review.

It's important to remind ourselves that virtual-reality experiences are products of artistry that the U.S. Supreme Court considers speech protected by the First Amendment — just as clearly as video games, movies and books are protected speech. Thus, any discussion of the regulation of virtual reality as a technology is at best grossly premature and at worst dangerously presumptuous.

Go to top


Chronology

 
1838–1935Key virtual-reality technologies are developed.
1838British physician Charles Wheatstone invents the stereopticon, the first 3-D image viewer.
1929American inventor Edwin Link, a piano-maker training to be a pilot, invents a flight simulator that uses pneumatic bellows to move the cockpit in three directions; it trains 500,000 pilots during World War II.
1935American science fiction writer Stanley G. Weinbaum publishes “Pygmalion's Spectacles,” a short story offering the first detailed model for a full virtual-reality experience. The main character meets a professor who has invented goggles delivering virtual sight, sound, taste, smell and touch.
1960s–1970sVirtual-reality devices appear and connect to computers.
1962California filmmaker Morton Heilig patents “Sensorama,” a device intended to enhance the movie-viewing experience in theaters; it features stereo speakers, fans to simulate wind, smell generators and vibrating chairs.
1968American computer scientist Ivan Sutherland invents the first head-mounted display connected to a computer.
1976University of Illinois researchers create the first glove using sensors to capture physical data such as the bending of fingers.
1978Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers develop the Aspen Movie Map, a user-navigable video of the streets of Aspen, Colo., that presages Google's Streetview mapping project.
1980s–1990sMilitary development boosts sophistication of virtual-reality systems.
1982Thomas Furness, an American engineer working for the Air Force, demonstrates the Visually Coupled Airborne Systems Simulator (VCASS), a head-mounted system for pilot training.
1986Furness begins developing the Super Cockpit, a headset system allowing pilots to control aircraft with gestures, eye movements and voice commands.
1987American computer scientist Jaron Lanier coins the term “virtual reality.” … The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and U.S. Army complete SIMNET, a network of simulators connecting ground troops, tanks, helicopters and airplanes in a virtual battlefield…. MIT researchers develop a lightweight glove that can communicate gestures to a computer.
1991The Virtuality Group, a British company, introduces an array of arcade games that offer depth-enhancing 3-D graphics to players wearing goggles and gloves.
1992University of Illinois, Chicago, researchers create the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE), a virtual-reality room in which graphics on walls respond to users' movements.
1993Japanese company Sega introduces the Sega VR headset for its Sega Genesis game console.
1995Another Japanese game-maker, Nintendo, releases the Virtual Boy, a portable console with 3-D graphics.
2000sSmartphone improvements spur virtual-reality headset advances.
2002Smartphones begin to appear in U.S. markets.
2010Microsoft introduces the Kinect motion-sensing game controller for Xbox. Programmers quickly adapt it to control robots and give commands in virtual environments.
2012Google introduces Google Glass, an augmented-reality device worn like a pair of eyeglasses.
2015Four companies — Microsoft, Sony, HTC and Oculus — announce plans to ship next-generation virtual-reality headsets in 2016…. Google says it will discontinue producing Google Glass but will keep working on a new version.
  

Go to top

Short Features

“It helps you combine the experiences of real life and digital life.”

As you leave your hotel for a walk through Paris, you grab your sunglasses from the dresser. “Take me to the Louvre,” you say as you tap the microphone button on the side of the glasses frame. A subtle line appears in your line of sight, directing you to the museum.

As you proceed, you pass a jazz club. You tap the information button on the other side of the frame. As the glasses detect what building you are looking at, information about the club — and tonight's performers — pops into view.

You can't buy those glasses yet. But some analysts predict that such technology — called “augmented reality” because it overlays information, or virtual images, over one's view of the real world — will eclipse virtual-reality products in the marketplace within a few years.

Advocates of augmented-reality technology foresee it doing everything from telling emergency responders the location of the nearest fire extinguisher in a building to helping tourists navigate unfamiliar localities.

Digi-Capital, a market analytics company, predicts that by 2020 augmented-reality products will generate $120 billion in annual revenue worldwide, four times that of virtual reality.1

As with virtual reality, however, a lack of affordable, effective hardware so far has kept augmented reality from going mainstream. But that problem will soon be remedied, according to Digi-Capital, which compares augmented reality's market potential to that of smartphones and tablets. Augmented reality “could have hundreds of millions of users,” with hardware prices similar to smartphones and tablets, the Digi-Capital report said.

The first augmented reality device to hit the market — Google Glass — was pulled shortly after its release in May 2014. Google Glass, which looked more like a pair of glasses than a headset, tracked the user's location and eye movements, responded to natural-language voice commands and displayed data on the periphery of the wearer's vision.2

Analysts say a variety of factors worked against consumer acceptance of Google Glass, including privacy concerns over the device's onboard cameras. And the device's distinctive look made it easy to spot.

In December 2015, however, Google filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a new version of Google Glass.3

The only other dedicated augmented-reality device in the offing is Microsoft's HoloLens, expected to be released this year.

Stephanie Shine (Getty Images/The Boston Globe/Wendy Maeda)  
Stephanie Shine, a nurse at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, is testing whether using Google Glass video streaming could help mothers connect with their newborn babies. (Getty Images/The Boston Globe/Wendy Maeda)

From media accounts, HoloLens appears more likely than Google Glass to be a commercial success, in part because Microsoft is aiming it at professional markets such as industrial designers and architects rather than consumers. Also, instead of delivering data via a small prism display in the corner of one's field of view, as Google Glass did, HoloLens projects images directly into the user's full field of view. In addition to relying on vocal commands and eye movements, HoloLens — unlike Google Glass — responds to hand gestures.

Augmented reality differs from virtual reality in that it is not completely dependent on new hardware. In fact, some augmented-reality applications run on smartphones.

For example, CivicConnect uses location data from a smartphone and the phone's camera to detect points of interest. Transit schedules, traffic reports and information about local events, emergency facilities or available parking spots can automatically appear on a user's smartphone. The service, a product of Los Angeles-based Civic Resource Group, is available by subscription to municipalities and initially is being deployed by transportation departments and tourism agencies.

Hardware designers are working on a number of technologies that experts predict one day will push augmented reality off smartphones while also eliminating the need for clunky headsets. HoloLens, while less bulky than older VR headsets, is still too big for comfortable, all-day wear.

One potential solution: Contact lenses with embedded circuitry that receives signals from, say, a cellphone and projects data, which can be either text or images, to the lens underneath the contact.

“Eventually our plan is to have full-fledged display with reasonable resolution and color that can receive images from an external device and superimpose those images over what you would normally see,” Babak Parviz, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington, told a reporter in 2011. “We are very far from that, but are taking small steps in that direction.”4

Since that interview, Parviz joined the Google Glass team before leaving for Amazon. Amazon did not indicate why Parviz was hired, but industry insiders speculate that the move was part of a long-term Amazon plan to develop wearable technologies.5

Meanwhile, the Human Interface Technology Laboratory at the University of Washington is developing virtual retinal displays, which project images directly onto a user's retina. Ultimately, such technology likely would be deployed through a headset or glasses.6

Before such technologies can be deployed, however, scientists must figure out how to miniaturize eye-tracking and geolocation systems so data related to objects in a user's field of vision can be correlated accurately.

While augmented-reality technologies are being refined, market analysts are excited about the sector's potential.

“It helps you combine the experiences of real life and digital life,” says Stephanie Llamas, research director at SuperData Research, a technology-focused market analysis firm in New York City.

Matt McIlwain, managing director of Madrona Venture Group, a technology-oriented investment firm in Seattle, believes the division between virtual reality and augmented reality is temporary. “We think that those worlds will converge over the next five years,” he says, as researchers overcome technological limitations.

— Patrick Marshall

[1] Digi-Capital, “Augmented/Virtual Reality to hit $150 billion disrupting mobile by 2020,” Digi-Capital, April 2015, http://tinyurl.com/h398v4d.

Footnote:
1. Digi-Capital, “Augmented/Virtual Reality to hit $150 billion disrupting mobile by 2020,” Digi-Capital, April 2015, http://tinyurl.com/h398v4d.

[2] Aaron Mamiit, “Google Glass is Dead … For Now,” Tech Times, Jan. 21, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/jmcer2l.

Footnote:
2. Aaron Mamiit, “Google Glass is Dead … For Now,” Tech Times, Jan. 21, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/jmcer2l.

[3] Lisa Eadicicco, “See the New Version of Google's Wildest Product,” Time, Dec. 29, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/juzn9ek.

Footnote:
3. Lisa Eadicicco, “See the New Version of Google's Wildest Product,” Time, Dec. 29, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/juzn9ek.

[4] Larry Greenemeier, “Computerized Contact Lenses Could Enable In-Eye Augmented Reality,” Scientific American, Nov. 23, 2001, http://tinyurl.com/hszyvmw.

Footnote:
4. Larry Greenemeier, “Computerized Contact Lenses Could Enable In-Eye Augmented Reality,” Scientific American, Nov. 23, 2001, http://tinyurl.com/hszyvmw.

[5] Dianne Depra, “Google X director, Glass champion Babak Parviz heads to Amazon,” Tech Times, July 17, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/hubsvs4.

Footnote:
5. Dianne Depra, “Google X director, Glass champion Babak Parviz heads to Amazon,” Tech Times, July 17, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/hubsvs4.

[6] “How the VRD Works,” HITLab, University of Washington, http://tinyurl.com/jancnvv.

Footnote:
6. “How the VRD Works,” HITLab, University of Washington, http://tinyurl.com/jancnvv.

Go to top

New systems will simulate experiences of space, surgery and fighting.

As consumers await the release of the next generation of virtual-reality headsets, and companies prepare games to run on them, hardware designers are crafting new devices and accessories they hope will enhance the experience.

Among the devices, either available or in the wings, drawing attention:

Google Cardboard

The images of Google Cardboard (Getty Images/Adam Berry)  
(Getty Images/Adam Berry)

Various manufacturers already are producing this cardboard headset, which is available online for $20. The headset, which holds a smartphone, splits the phone's displayed images between each of the viewer's eyes. Its design is “open source” — in the public domain and available to anyone to sell without needing to pay Google.7 The headset runs on phones using Google's Android operating system. It also can work with Apple's iPhones, and thanks to a new software developer's kit, iPhones are fully supported by Cardboard apps.8

The Google Cardboard virtual-reality experience is significantly less immersive than that of costlier technologies. The Cardboard doesn't fit snugly against the user's face, and the devices often lack straps to secure the display to the head. What's more, the resolution of smartphone displays can be disappointing. Even though users can turn 360 degrees through displayed content, the devices do not simulate a user's movements through the virtual world, nor can users manipulate objects in the virtual world. Still, Google Cardboard and applications written for it are likely to whet the appetites of virtual-reality enthusiasts.

Tactical Haptics Reactive Grip

The images of Tactical Haptics (Courtesy Tactical Haptics)  
(Courtesy Tactical Haptics)

Tactical Haptics was founded in 2013 by University of Utah mechanical engineering professor William Provancher to commercialize the Reactive Grip, a device developed at the university's Haptics and Embedded Mechatronics Laboratory. The Reactive Grip, still a prototype, seeks to make any object in a virtual environment, such as a knife or driver's wheel, feel more real. It is compatible with existing motion-based controllers such as Nintendo Wii, Sony Move and Microsoft Kinect. It employs sliding plates in the handle to simulate the feel of holding real objects.9

Cyberith Virtualizer

The images of Cyberith Virtualizer (Courtesy Cyberith)  
(Courtesy Cyberith)

The Austrian company Cyberith is developing the Virtualizer, an omnidirectional treadmill that began as a Kickstarter campaign in July 2014 and is nearing public release. The Virtualizer — which the company said it will sell starting at $599 — allows users to move around inside virtual worlds as characters in games while they get exercise, without tripping over real-world cords or crashing into furniture.10

The device features motion sensors and a moveable vertical stabilization ring that holds users in place. The treadmill enables users to walk, run, crouch, jump and kick, and those motions can be moved to a virtual reality game as they actually occur. The Virtualizer also provides a seat for stationary activities, such as operating a virtual vehicle. It features vibration plates under the base that can simulate a floor shake if a virtual “crash” occurs.11

YEI PrioVR

The images of YEI PrioVR (Courtesy YEI Technology)  
(Courtesy YEI Technology)

Another Kickstarter-funded project, this lightweight sensor suit delivers motion data to a virtual-reality system. YEI Technology says it hopes to ship the product to Kickstarter backers in April.12 Users strap PrioVR's sensors to key points on the body, and data from the sensors are used to control the movements of an on-screen character in games or other environments.

According to the Portsmouth, Ohio, company's website, PrioVR's sensors track the virtual-reality user's movements as they actually happen without the need for separate cameras or other potentially bulky equipment. Because PrioVR is wireless, it can be used outdoors, and more than one player can participate.13

EchoPixel True 3D

The images of EchoPixel True 3D (Courtesy EchoPixel)  
(Courtesy EchoPixel)

Virtual reality also is moving into medicine to help students and surgeons sharpen their skills. In March 2015, the Silicon Valley company EchoPixel received Food and Drug Administration approval for its True 3D Viewer, which allows users to visualize and manipulate images of tissues and organs in 3-D space. The system's software converts two-dimensional images — such as CT scans and MRIs — into stereoscopic 3-D images that can be rotated, sliced and otherwise manipulated as in actual surgery. The company says a True 3D Viewer costs $70,000 but can be leased for $20,000 per year.14

SpaceVR Overview One

The images of SpaceVR Overview One (Courtesy SpaceVR)  
(Courtesy SpaceVR)

SpaceVR, another Kickstarter project, wants to send its Overview One virtual-reality camera to the International Space Station to deliver the experience of being an astronaut to consumers who view the resulting films. Overview One consists of 12 modified digital cameras, which the San Francisco company seeks to use in shooting a video stream that would be stitched together into a virtual video sphere and transmitted to Earth.15

The project has not yet received NASA approval. The company says it has secured former astronauts and scientists on its board of directors to advise it on space-related matters.16

— Patrick Marshall

[7] “Get Your Cardboard,” Google.com, http://tinyurl.com/k9a7kgs.

Footnote:
7. “Get Your Cardboard,” Google.com, http://tinyurl.com/k9a7kgs.

[8] Nathan Ingraham, “I just tried Google's new Cardboard with my iPhone,” The Verge, May 28, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/q2owabl.

Footnote:
8. Nathan Ingraham, “I just tried Google's new Cardboard with my iPhone,” The Verge, May 28, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/q2owabl.

[9] Tactical Haptics LLC website, http://tinyurl.com/nlff64g.

Footnote:
9. Tactical Haptics LLC website, http://tinyurl.com/nlff64g.

[10] Jamie Feltham, “First Cyberith Virtualizers to Cost $599,” VRFocus, July 22, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/n68bjqd.

Footnote:
10. Jamie Feltham, “First Cyberith Virtualizers to Cost $599,” VRFocus, July 22, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/n68bjqd.

[11] Cyberith website, http://tinyurl.com/owp283s; “Cyberith Virtualizer — Immersive Virtual Reality Gaming,” Kickstarter.com, http://tinyurl.com/gn779l2.

Footnote:
11. Cyberith website, http://tinyurl.com/owp283s; “Cyberith Virtualizer — Immersive Virtual Reality Gaming,” Kickstarter.com, http://tinyurl.com/gn779l2.

[12] “PrioVR Update for Jan. 27, 2016,” Kickstarter.com, http://tinyurl.com/j8db3m9

Footnote:
12. “PrioVR Update for Jan. 27, 2016,” Kickstarter.com, http://tinyurl.com/j8db3m9

[13] YEI Technology website, http://tinyurl.com/lmxlr4d.

Footnote:
13. YEI Technology website, http://tinyurl.com/lmxlr4d.

[14] Stacy Lawrence, “Startup raising Series A to launch interactive, holographic surgical imaging software,” Fierce Medical Devices, March 24, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/zeup2hb.

Footnote:
14. Stacy Lawrence, “Startup raising Series A to launch interactive, holographic surgical imaging software,” Fierce Medical Devices, March 24, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/zeup2hb.

[15] SpaceVR website, http://tinyurl.com/j6524po.

Footnote:
15. SpaceVR website, http://tinyurl.com/j6524po.

[16] “SpaceVR Launches Virtual Reality Space Exploration Project on Kickstarter,” SpaceVR press release, Aug. 11, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/zdx3865.

Footnote:
16. “SpaceVR Launches Virtual Reality Space Exploration Project on Kickstarter,” SpaceVR press release, Aug. 11, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/zdx3865.

Go to top

Bibliography

Books

Blascovich, Jim, and Jeremy Bailenson , Infinite Reality: The Hidden Blueprint of Our Virtual Lives , William Morrow, 2012. Two psychologists examine what they say are virtual reality's subtle but powerful effects on behavior and potential for improving lives.

Hohstadt, Thomas , The Age of Virtual Reality , Dahma Media, 2013. A futurist recounts the pre-digital history of virtual reality and explores benefits and potential challenges of emerging VR technologies.

Nite, Sky , Virtual Reality Insider, 2nd ed. , New Dimension Entertainment, 2015. The CEO of a game company writes about his experiences launching a virtual-reality content company, offering insights about how the industry is structured.

Articles

Bierend, Doug , “The Dark Age of Virtual Reality-Based Torture is Approaching Fast,” Motherboard, Jan. 31, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hfomgnx. A technology journalist warns that virtual-reality experiences can be so realistic and impactful that they could be used in torture.

Hof, Robert , “VC Investments Pour Into Virtual Reality Startups, But Payoff Looks Distant,” Forbes, June 11, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/jx3vfhw. A journalist explores the large investments in virtual reality and why the payoff may not come immediately.

Metz, Rachel , “Augmented Reality Study Projects Life-Sized People into Other Rooms,” MIT Technology Review, Jan. 19, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/ju9z333. A technology writer describes a Microsoft Research study that uses augmented reality to project the image of a life-sized person into a room.

Neiger, Chris , “The Harsh Reality of Virtual Reality: Only 1% of Computers Are Ready for It,” The Motley Fool, Jan. 5, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/hfcaxcj. A technology journalist explains what types of computers will be needed to power the next generation of consumer virtual-reality devices, and how much those computers will cost.

Turi, Jon , “The sights and scents of the Sensorama Simulator,” Engadget, Feb. 16, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/oupwxfe. A journalist tells the story of filmmaker Morton Heilig's “Sensorama,” a cabinet invented in 1962 for viewing films that provided wind, smells and vibrations.

Westervelt, Amy , “Virtual Reality is Coming to Medical Imaging,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 15, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/jffjxop. A reporter explores how hospitals and medical schools are starting to use technologies enabling doctors not only to view three-dimensional pictures produced by imaging equipment but to interact with what is pictured — such as a heart or liver — as if those organs were real.

Wingfield, Nick , “To Bring Virtual Reality to Market, Furious Efforts to Solve Nausea,” The New York Times, March 4, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/zxk7yof. A reporter looks at how companies developing virtual reality devices are working to overcome “simulator sickness” caused by sensory disorientation.

Reports and studies

“Virtual Reality Gaming Market Brief,” SuperData Research, January 2016, http://tinyurl.com/h9wlttc. A market analysis firm focusing on gaming technologies examines expectations for future sales of virtual-reality games.

“Virtual Reality Market by Technology (Semi & Fully Immersive), Device (HMD, gesture Tracking), Component (Sensor, Display, Software), Application (Gaming, Entertainment, and Industrial), Geography — Trends & Forecasts to 2014–2020,” MarketsAndMarkets.com, June 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hwx5bvl. A market research company assesses the global market for virtual reality for the rest of the decade on the basis of technology, component, device type, application and geography.

Gerardi, Maryrose, et al., “Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Other Anxiety Disorders,” Current Psychiatry Reports, 2010, http://tinyurl.com/z4bwwtn. A team of physicians and computer scientists reviews the evidence on using virtual reality to treat certain phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Wilson, Clay , “Avatars, Virtual Reality Technology, and the U.S. Military: Emerging Policy Issues,” Congressional Research Service, April 9, 2008, http://tinyurl.com/j5cu946. A specialist in analyzing technology and national security for Congress examines the potential impacts of virtual reality, including cost-benefit implications, future communications infrastructure needs and national-security considerations.

Go to top

The Next Step

Entertainment

Cieply, Michael , “With ‘The Martian,’ Virtual Reality Has Liftoff From Fox Innovation Lab,” The New York Times, Oct. 25, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/j6bxwf2. Beginning in 2016, film studio 20th Century Fox and its in-house Innovation Lab will release so-called “VR experiences” that will immerse viewers in characters' lives from movies such as the “The Martian” and “Life of Pi.”

Roettgers, Janko , “Oculus Has No Plans to Block Virtual Reality Porn,” Variety, May 18, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/mstg7lj. Virtual-reality technology company Oculus VR will not block producers of X-rated content, including adult-entertainment software, from operating on its upcoming Rift virtual-reality headset.

Statt, Nick , “Virtual reality is taking over the video game industry,” CNET, Feb. 28, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/mv29d8y. Several of the world's largest tech companies presented new virtual-reality devices at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco in 2015.

Medical Applications

Cohen, Elizabeth , “Google Cardboard saves baby's life,” CNN, Jan. 7, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/jfj8l5e. Doctors at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami used Google Cardboard goggles to examine images of an infant's rare heart defect in 3-D and designed a surgical operation that successful corrected the defect.

della Cava, Marco , “Virtual reality's promise, risk loom large for health researchers,” USA Today, Feb. 6, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/gr7nqe4. Researchers are studying how to use virtual reality to teach addicts to better resist cravings and help veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Tsai, Diane , “This Virtual Reality Game Could Help Treat Lazy Eye,” Time, Jan. 5, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/ju25fty. The virtual-reality video game company Vivid Vision has designed games for the Oculus Rift headset that help to treat patients with amblyopia, or lazy eye.

Military

Charis-Carlson, Jeff , “UI's virtual soldier program to help prevent injuries,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, Feb. 16, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/j7hras9. The U.S. Office of Naval Research granted the University of Iowa's so-called virtual soldier program $2.6 million to develop a simulator that will calculate the health impacts on Marines of operating heavy equipment.

Judson, Jen , “Augmented Virtual Reality Emerging as Game Changer For Marine Corps Training,” Defense News, Dec. 10, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hn365q5. The U.S. Marine Corps has used augmented virtual reality to train ground troops in real-life settings, but the branch needs more lightweight, lower-cost devices to make such training more effective, Marine Corps training officers say.

Tomkins, Richard , “Honeywell developing virtual reality technologies for military,” United Press International, Feb. 12, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/zuft8hx. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency commissioned Honeywell Aerospace to develop technology that would replace windows on military ground vehicles with panels containing digital tools and infrared technology to improve drivers' views of terrain and allies or adversaries.

Safety Risks

Johnson, Eric , “Legal Danger: What We Don't Know About Virtual Reality Today Might Hurt Companies Tomorrow,” Recode, Aug. 11, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/jo6drry. Virtual-reality companies must address consumer safety concerns about their technology's cognitive effects to protect themselves from liability lawsuits, according to attorneys from an international law firm.

Volpe, Joseph , “HTC's making virtual reality safe for the home with Chaperone,” Engadget, Jan. 5, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/gmy66b7. Taiwanese technology manufacturer HTC developed a safety mechanism for its upcoming Vive virtual-reality headset that can generate a digital outline of users' surroundings when they step near physical objects.

Go to top

Contacts

Entertainment Consumers Association
64 Danbury Road, Suite 700, Wilton, CT 06897
203-761-6180
www.theeca.com
Membership organization representing consumers of digital entertainment in the United States and Canada.

Entertainment Software Association
575 Seventh St., N.W., Suite 300, Washington, DC 20004
202-223-2400
www.theesa.com
Industry association representing manufacturers of computer and video games for video game consoles, handheld devices, personal computers and the Internet.

Human Interface Technology Laboratory
University of Washington, Box 352142, Seattle, WA 98195
206-543-6377
www.hitl.washington.edu
A multidisciplinary research and development laboratory focused on technologies assisting human interaction with the world.

Institute for Creative Technologies
University of Southern California, 12015 Waterfront Drive, Playa Vista, CA 90094
310-574-5700
ict.usc.edu
Research center focusing on the use of artificial intelligence, graphics and virtual reality.

International Game Developers Association
19 Mantua Road, Mt. Royal, NJ 08061
www.igda.org
Industry organization representing game creators, including programmers, producers, writers and artists.

Research Center for Virtual Environments
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106
805-893-5798
www.recveb.ucsb.edu
Multidisciplinary research organization focused on understanding the interplay of computer-generated virtual environments and human behavior.

Virtual Human Interaction Laboratory
McClatchy Hall, Room 411, Department of Communication, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 94305
650-736-8848
vhil.stanford.edu
Research center exploring interactions among people in immersive virtual-reality simulations and other forms of human digital representation in media, communications systems and games.

Virtual Reality Clinical Research Laboratory
University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work, 3511 Cullen Blvd., Room 230, Houston, TX 77204-4013
713-743-2086
www.uh.edu/socialwork/New_research/VRCRL
Researches ways to use virtual-reality technologies to address social behavior, addictions and mental health.

Virtual Reality Design Lab
College of Design, University of Minnesota, 101 Rapson Hall, 89 Church St., S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455
612-626-9068
vr.design.umn.edu
Explores ways to use virtual reality in design processes, especially in architecture.

Go to top

Footnotes

[1] For background, see Alicia Ault, “Video Games and Learning,” CQ Researcher, Feb. 12, 2016, pp. 145–168.

Footnote:
1. For background, see Alicia Ault, “Video Games and Learning,” CQ Researcher, Feb. 12, 2016, pp. 145–168.

[2] Christina Crouch, “Healing Minds With Virtual Reality,” PBS NovaNext, April 2, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hlawhyj; Karla Zabludovsky, “Virtual Therapy Helps Residents of a Shell-Shocked City,” The New York Times, May 28, 2012, http://tinyurl.com/c7lmajr.

Footnote:
2. Christina Crouch, “Healing Minds With Virtual Reality,” PBS NovaNext, April 2, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hlawhyj; Karla Zabludovsky, “Virtual Therapy Helps Residents of a Shell-Shocked City,” The New York Times, May 28, 2012, http://tinyurl.com/c7lmajr.

[3] “Virtual Reality Gaming Market Brief,” Super Data Research, January 2016, http://tinyurl.com/h9wlttc.

Footnote:
3. “Virtual Reality Gaming Market Brief,” Super Data Research, January 2016, http://tinyurl.com/h9wlttc.

[4] “Virtual Reality Market by Technology (Semi & Fully Immersive), Device (HMD, gesture Tracking), Component (Sensor, Display, Software), Application (Gaming, Entertainment, and Industrial), Geography — Trends & Forecasts to 2014–2020,” MarketsandMarkets, June 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hwx5bvl.

Footnote:
4. “Virtual Reality Market by Technology (Semi & Fully Immersive), Device (HMD, gesture Tracking), Component (Sensor, Display, Software), Application (Gaming, Entertainment, and Industrial), Geography — Trends & Forecasts to 2014–2020,” MarketsandMarkets, June 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hwx5bvl.

[5] Tim Moynihan, “Hands On With Microsoft's Hololens, One Year Later,” Wired, Dec. 17, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/nkltcws.

Footnote:
5. Tim Moynihan, “Hands On With Microsoft's Hololens, One Year Later,” Wired, Dec. 17, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/nkltcws.

[6] Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson, Infinite Reality: The Hidden Blueprint of Our Virtual Lives (2012), p. 193.

Footnote:
6. Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson, Infinite Reality: The Hidden Blueprint of Our Virtual Lives (2012), p. 193.

[7] “NYT VR: How to Experience a New Form of Storytelling From The Times,” The New York Times, Nov. 5, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/o8ykj89.

Footnote:
7. “NYT VR: How to Experience a New Form of Storytelling From The Times,” The New York Times, Nov. 5, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/o8ykj89.

[8] Blascovich and Bailenson, op. cit., p. 1.

Footnote:
8. Blascovich and Bailenson, op. cit., p. 1.

[9] Mark Koltko-Rivera, “The Potential Societal Impact of Virtual Reality,” 2005, http://tinyurl.com/h2zuvtm.

Footnote:
9. Mark Koltko-Rivera, “The Potential Societal Impact of Virtual Reality,” 2005, http://tinyurl.com/h2zuvtm.

[10] Doug Bierend, “The Dark Age of Virtual Reality-Based Torture is Approaching Fast,” Motherboard, Jan. 31, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hfomgnx.

Footnote:
10. Doug Bierend, “The Dark Age of Virtual Reality-Based Torture is Approaching Fast,” Motherboard, Jan. 31, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hfomgnx.

[11] Nick Wingfield, “To Bring Virtual Reality to Market, Furious Efforts to Solve Nausea,” The New York Times, March 4, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/zxk7yof.

Footnote:
11. Nick Wingfield, “To Bring Virtual Reality to Market, Furious Efforts to Solve Nausea,” The New York Times, March 4, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/zxk7yof.

[12] Ibid.

Footnote:
12. Ibid.

[13] Chris Barncard, “Virtual Reality Makes its Best Users the Most Queasy,” University of Wisconsin, Madison, Jan. 29, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/jc5bdts.

Footnote:
13. Chris Barncard, “Virtual Reality Makes its Best Users the Most Queasy,” University of Wisconsin, Madison, Jan. 29, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/jc5bdts.

[14] Chris Neiger, “The Harsh Reality of Virtual Reality: Only 1% of Computers Are Ready for It,” The Motley Fool, Jan. 5, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/hfcaxcj.

Footnote:
14. Chris Neiger, “The Harsh Reality of Virtual Reality: Only 1% of Computers Are Ready for It,” The Motley Fool, Jan. 5, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/hfcaxcj.

[15] Barbara O. Rothbaum et al., “Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Vietnam Veterans With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder,” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, August 2001, http://tinyurl.com/z8byxon. Also see Barbara O. Rothbaum and Larry F. Hodges, “A Controlled Study of Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for the Fear of Flying,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, December 2000, http://tinyurl.com/zfdfywn; and E. Klinger et al., “Virtual Reality Therapy Versus Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Social Phobia: A Preliminary Controlled Study,” CyberPsychology & Behavior, February 2005, http://tinyurl.com/z39qhcx.

Footnote:
15. Barbara O. Rothbaum et al., “Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Vietnam Veterans With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder,” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, August 2001, http://tinyurl.com/z8byxon. Also see Barbara O. Rothbaum and Larry F. Hodges, “A Controlled Study of Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for the Fear of Flying,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, December 2000, http://tinyurl.com/zfdfywn; and E. Klinger et al., “Virtual Reality Therapy Versus Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Social Phobia: A Preliminary Controlled Study,” CyberPsychology & Behavior, February 2005, http://tinyurl.com/z39qhcx.

[16] Couch, op. cit.

Footnote:
16. Couch, op. cit.

[17] Bierend, op. cit.

Footnote:
17. Bierend, op. cit.

[18] The decision is Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, U.S. 564 — (2011), http://tinyurl.com/3jh99w8.

Footnote:
18. The decision is Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, U.S. 564 — (2011), http://tinyurl.com/3jh99w8.

[19] Ibid.

Footnote:
19. Ibid.

[20] Ray Zone, Stereoscopic Cinema and the Origins of 3-D Film, 1838–1952 (2007).

Footnote:
20. Ray Zone, Stereoscopic Cinema and the Origins of 3-D Film, 1838–1952 (2007).

[21] Stanley G. Weinbaum, “Pygmalion's Spectacles” (1935), http://tinyurl.com/j6tjuyd.

Footnote:
21. Stanley G. Weinbaum, “Pygmalion's Spectacles” (1935), http://tinyurl.com/j6tjuyd.

[22] “The View-Master,” OpticalSpy.com, Aug. 2, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/jlyewhd.

Footnote:
22. “The View-Master,” OpticalSpy.com, Aug. 2, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/jlyewhd.

[23] Jon Turi, “The sights and scents of the Sensorama Simulator,” Engadget, Feb. 16, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/oupwxfe.

Footnote:
23. Jon Turi, “The sights and scents of the Sensorama Simulator,” Engadget, Feb. 16, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/oupwxfe.

[24] “The Link Flight Trainer: A Historical Mechanical Engineering Landmark,” American Society of Mechanical Engineers, June 10, 2000, http://tinyurl.com/h9zcndp.

Footnote:
24. “The Link Flight Trainer: A Historical Mechanical Engineering Landmark,” American Society of Mechanical Engineers, June 10, 2000, http://tinyurl.com/h9zcndp.

[25] Henry E. Lowood, “Virtual Reality,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, May 14, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hzzfzwv.

Footnote:
25. Henry E. Lowood, “Virtual Reality,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, May 14, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hzzfzwv.

[26] Duncan C. Miller and Jack A. Thorpe, “SIMNET: The Advent of Simulator Networking,” Proceedings of the IEEE, August 1995, http://tinyurl.com/gukudv9.

Footnote:
26. Duncan C. Miller and Jack A. Thorpe, “SIMNET: The Advent of Simulator Networking,” Proceedings of the IEEE, August 1995, http://tinyurl.com/gukudv9.

[27] Blascovich and Bailenson, op. cit., p. 55.

Footnote:
27. Blascovich and Bailenson, op. cit., p. 55.

[28] Aubrey Anable, “The Architecture Machine Group's Aspen Movie Map: Mediating the Urban Crisis in the 1970s,” Television and New Media, October 2012, http://tinyurl.com/joeok88.

Footnote:
28. Aubrey Anable, “The Architecture Machine Group's Aspen Movie Map: Mediating the Urban Crisis in the 1970s,” Television and New Media, October 2012, http://tinyurl.com/joeok88.

[29] David J. Sturman and David Zeltzer, “A Survey of Glove-Based Input,” IEEE Computer Graphics and Animation, January 1994, http://tinyurl.com/htfb3y9.

Footnote:
29. David J. Sturman and David Zeltzer, “A Survey of Glove-Based Input,” IEEE Computer Graphics and Animation, January 1994, http://tinyurl.com/htfb3y9.

[30] Ibid.

Footnote:
30. Ibid.

[31] Ali Alaraj et al., “Virtual reality training in neurosurgery: Review of current status and future applications,” Surgical Neurology International, April 28, 2011, http://tinyurl.com/h58yxpt.

Footnote:
31. Ali Alaraj et al., “Virtual reality training in neurosurgery: Review of current status and future applications,” Surgical Neurology International, April 28, 2011, http://tinyurl.com/h58yxpt.

[32] Steve Burke, “The History of Virtual Reality & The Future: Rift, Omni, STEM, castAR,” Gamers Nexus, Oct. 20, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/jgo9fdl.

Footnote:
32. Steve Burke, “The History of Virtual Reality & The Future: Rift, Omni, STEM, castAR,” Gamers Nexus, Oct. 20, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/jgo9fdl.

[33] Matt Hill, “The Sega VR Headset That Never Was,” Gizmodo, Nov. 21, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/jp4udl5.

Footnote:
33. Matt Hill, “The Sega VR Headset That Never Was,” Gizmodo, Nov. 21, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/jp4udl5.

[34] Tim Stevens, “Nintendo Virtual Boy review,” Engadget, March 21, 2011, http://tinyurl.com/hekgcmg.

Footnote:
34. Tim Stevens, “Nintendo Virtual Boy review,” Engadget, March 21, 2011, http://tinyurl.com/hekgcmg.

[35] Brad Grimes, “University of Illinois at Chicago: Virtual Reality's CAVE Pioneer,” EdTech, Jan. 30, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/zdfe5c8.

Footnote:
35. Brad Grimes, “University of Illinois at Chicago: Virtual Reality's CAVE Pioneer,” EdTech, Jan. 30, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/zdfe5c8.

[36] Stanford University Virtual Human Interaction Lab website, http://tinyurl.com/h7smfws.

Footnote:
36. Stanford University Virtual Human Interaction Lab website, http://tinyurl.com/h7smfws.

[37] University of Washington Human Interface Technology Laboratory website, http://tinyurl.com/5jf7ax.

Footnote:
37. University of Washington Human Interface Technology Laboratory website, http://tinyurl.com/5jf7ax.

[38] University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies website, http://tinyurl.com/7rub98m.

Footnote:
38. University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies website, http://tinyurl.com/7rub98m.

[39] University of Houston Virtual Reality Clinical Research Laboratory website, http://tinyurl.com/ofdye3k.

Footnote:
39. University of Houston Virtual Reality Clinical Research Laboratory website, http://tinyurl.com/ofdye3k.

[40] University of Minnesota Virtual Reality Design Lab website, http://tinyurl.com/hrgzq3a.

Footnote:
40. University of Minnesota Virtual Reality Design Lab website, http://tinyurl.com/hrgzq3a.

[41] Jonathan Vanian, “Investors Bet That Virtual Reality is No Illusion,” Fortune, Nov. 30, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hl9efx9.

Footnote:
41. Jonathan Vanian, “Investors Bet That Virtual Reality is No Illusion,” Fortune, Nov. 30, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hl9efx9.

[42] Robert Hof, “VC Investments Pour Into Virtual Reality Startups, But Payoff Looks Distant,” Forbes, June 11, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/jx3vfhw.

Footnote:
42. Robert Hof, “VC Investments Pour Into Virtual Reality Startups, But Payoff Looks Distant,” Forbes, June 11, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/jx3vfhw.

[43] Jacob Kastrenakes and Ben Popper, “Google leads $542 million funding of mysterious augmented reality firm Magic Leap,” TheVerge, Oct. 21, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/k54e2gt.

Footnote:
43. Jacob Kastrenakes and Ben Popper, “Google leads $542 million funding of mysterious augmented reality firm Magic Leap,” TheVerge, Oct. 21, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/k54e2gt.

[44] Jessi Hempel, “Magic Leap Just Landed an Astounding Amount of VC Money,” Wired, Feb. 2, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/jd5ug2w.

Footnote:
44. Jessi Hempel, “Magic Leap Just Landed an Astounding Amount of VC Money,” Wired, Feb. 2, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/jd5ug2w.

[45] “Virtual Reality Software Company Envelop VR Raises $4 Million in Series A Funding Led by Madrona Venture Group,” news release, BusinessWire, Oct. 28, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hm6ggua.

Footnote:
45. “Virtual Reality Software Company Envelop VR Raises $4 Million in Series A Funding Led by Madrona Venture Group,” news release, BusinessWire, Oct. 28, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/hm6ggua.

[46] John Gaudiosi, “How This Startup Hopes to Improve Virtual Reality Video Delivery,” Fortune, Dec. 14, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/jml9cjf.

Footnote:
46. John Gaudiosi, “How This Startup Hopes to Improve Virtual Reality Video Delivery,” Fortune, Dec. 14, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/jml9cjf.

[47] Blascovich and Bailenson, op. cit., p. 46.

Footnote:
47. Blascovich and Bailenson, op. cit., p. 46.

[48] Ibid., p. 159.

Footnote:
48. Ibid., p. 159.

[49] Ibid., p. 49.

Footnote:
49. Ibid., p. 49.

[50] Virtual World Society website, http://tinyurl.com/z64a3tf.

Footnote:
50. Virtual World Society website, http://tinyurl.com/z64a3tf.

Go to top

About the Author

Patrick Marshall, author of this week's edition of CQ Researcher  

Patrick Marshall, a freelance policy and technology writer in Seattle, is a technology columnist for The Seattle Times and Government Computer News. He has a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a master's degree in international studies from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Go to top



Document APA Citation — See Alternate Citation Style
Marshall, P. (2016, February 26). Virtual reality. CQ Researcher, 26, 193-216. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/
Document ID: cqresrre2016022600
Document URL: http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2016022600
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Computers
Feb. 26, 2016  Virtual Reality
Feb. 12, 2016  Video Games and Learning
Jan. 15, 2016  The Dark Web
Feb. 15, 2013  Improving Cybersecurity
Apr. 13, 2012  Internet Regulation
Sep. 16, 2011  Computer Hacking
Sep. 24, 2010  Impact of the Internet on Thinking
Feb. 26, 2010  Cybersecurity
Aug. 01, 2008  Internet Accuracy
May 02, 2008  Cyberbullying
Jul. 28, 2006  Cyber Socializing
May 12, 2006  Controlling the Internet
Jun. 10, 2005  Identity Theft
Sep. 17, 2004  Cyberpolitics
Sep. 26, 2003  Cybersecurity
Apr. 12, 2002  Cyber-Crime
Oct. 27, 2000  Computers and Medicine
May 26, 2000  Future of Computers
Jan. 28, 2000  The Digital Divide
Feb. 05, 1999  Digital Commerce
Jun. 30, 1995  Regulating the Internet
May 21, 1993  Software Piracy
Sep. 30, 1988  Management's High-Tech Challenge
Jan. 09, 1987  Power Surge in Personal Computers
Feb. 13, 1981  The Computer Age
Nov. 03, 1978  America's Information Boom
Jan. 06, 1978  Computer Crime
May 12, 1971  Reappraisal of Computers
Jul. 25, 1962  Approach to Thinking Machines
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Consumer Behavior
Engineering
Military Training
Popular Culture
Regulation and Deregulation
READER COMMENTS
(0)
No comments on this report yet.
Comment on this Report
FEEDBACKClose

Suggest a topic here.

Type the characters you see below into the box

Take our survey to help us improve CQ Researcher!

Feedback survey