We are, fundamentally, seekers of new experiences searching for what’s new and different. If we saw one thing from the recent Game Developer Conference and SXSW, Virtual Reality (VR) is poised to transform personal entertainment and numerous other fields, potentially delivering a long-term impact that may exceed today’s most “disruptive” new technologies. If nothing else, VR is the next frontier for visual computing. Strapping on a VR headset will catapult the user into a new realm of lifelike experiences that cut through conscious thought and connect directly with your brain to be accepted as totally believable — and very real, within seconds of putting them on.
VR is not new. Its roots go back more than two decades. Early efforts were severely hampered by clunky headgear, poor graphics, and very noticeable lag times – the time from when you move your head or hands and the display catches up. The effect was often unpleasant; even recently it’s been a challenge – if the VR hardware and software can’t keep up, you throw up. Fortunately, the industry has learned from those experiences and the technology has dramatically advanced.
While a number of gaming companies have been talking excitedly about VR over the last several years and showing interesting demos, almost none have brought a product to market. They’re waiting to fully solve the technology challenges in order to get it right, and we should expect to see companies like Oculus, Valve and others soon introduce VR headsets that could take the market by storm. It’s the tremendous advancements in computer processing power, graphics, display technologies, and software development tools – the kind of stuff that will be invisible to most of us and where AMD makes its contribution – that can make VR easy for everyone and enable it to soon become a seamless part of our lives. To be clear, no one company can create everything needed; it’s an ecosystem play and every company in the chain needs to do their part to create a positive VR experience.
To achieve this, the technology has to become invisible, unnoticeable and undetectable. The moment that technology reveals itself by way of a difficult interface or unrealistic experience, the magic spell is broken and the unconscious world of VR “presence” dissolves. Everything we do at AMD in regards to VR boils down to one simple but greatly important rule that we call: “Don’t break the presence,” which requires absolute user immersion in the digital environment.
In this video you will learn what components are needed to enable a virtual experience.
Gaming is perhaps the primary application for VR today, certainly the area garnering most of the headlines. The initial gaming market for virtual reality are likely early adopters who will purchase a VR headset or the millions of people who have bought Xbox and PlayStation game consoles. However, VR also has the potential to make dramatic contributions in a number of fields. Consider the possibilities in education, for example, like a chemistry lab where you could do all manner of virtual experiments without worrying about blowing up the lab. Or imagine the ability to recreate key historical moments and feel immersed in the experience. Already there are many start-ups creating non-gaming applications. Many fields will see large advances from VR including medicine – think remote surgery – or big data visualization, training and simulation, virtual social worlds, and remote presence, in addition to the big surge in development for entertainment and gaming.
VR will ultimately lead to full immersion experiences where the user feels and believes they are part of an alternative world. Ten years ago, this capability was purely in the realm of futurists and seemed like a dream. Now, it feels like a very real possibility that will enable us to experience nature, architecture, history and culture in new and meaningful ways, and possibly lead to a new renaissance of art and discovery.