Virtual Reality: the Past, the Present, and the Future

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Virtual Reality: The Past, The Present, and The Future
Clinton M. Lawrence
INF103: Computer Literacy (ACF1132D)
Instructor: Troy O’Neal
September 5, 2011
Virtual reality (VR) is a term that applies to computer-simulated environments that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world, as well as in imaginary worlds. Over the next few minutes I will give you a well designed overlook of how over the years we have advanced in the field of virtual reality or as more commonly know as V.R... We will take a look into the past and see how it was first thought up and how it has helped in other fields of study. Then we will look at how we as a society use it today not only for research but also for entertainment as well. Then we will dive into the future and see what different ideas the world has for it in the future. So sit back and pay attention because you’re not going to want to miss a second of this presentation.

First off we are going to look at the past and how we came in touch with the idea of V.R… The idea of Virtual Reality began well before the advent of the computer, but in dealing only with the VR in the sense in which we know it, all its history has occurred over the past 40 years. Virtual Reality pioneers such as Ivan Sutherland, Michael Noll, and Myron Krueger all had their parts to play in the creation of 'modern-day' VR. Popular culture and the science fiction genre both have also had profound effects on research as to the social implications of VR. We have had numerous advances in this field from the start in the year 1965 with the beginnings of VR by Ivan Sutherland, to the introduction of the holodecks on Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987 by the writer of the Television series Michael Piller. To Silicone Graphics in 1995 with the Virtual Reality Modeling Language and the list just keeps on going. As pinball machines gave way to video games, the field of scientific visualization underwent its own metamorphosis from bar charts and line drawings to dynamic images.

Scientific visualization uses computer graphics to transform columns of data into images. This imagery enables scientists to assimilate the enormous amount of data required in some scientific investigations. Imagine trying to understand DNA sequences, molecular models, brain maps, fluid flows, or cosmic explosions from columns of numbers. A goal of scientific visualization is to capture the dynamic qualities of systems or processes in its images. In the 1980s, borrowing and as well as creating many of the special effects techniques of Hollywood, scientific visualization moved into animation. In 1990, NCSA's award-winning animation of smog descending upon Los Angeles influenced air pollution legislation in the state. This animation was a compelling testament of the value of this kind of imagery. But animation had severe limitations. First, it was costly.

After months of elaborate computer simulations, the smog animation itself took 6 months to produce from the resulting data; individual frames took from several minutes to an hour. Second, it did not allow for interactivity -- that is, for changes in the data or conditions governing an experiment that produce immediate responses in the imagery. Once completed, the animation could not be altered. Scientists wanted interactivity. So did the military, industry, business, and entertainment. The demand for interactivity pushed computer visualization to the limits, towards virtual reality.

Now we will take a look at how it is affecting us in today’s society as a whole. Presently there are numerous different types of VR systems, but most can be classified into one of the following three categories; Desktop VR, Video Mapping VR, and Immersive VR. Desktop VR is when a computer user views a virtual environment through one or more computer screens. A user can then interact with that environment, but is not immersed in it. All of the mastheads on this website are from Desktop VR...
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