The Future of Virtual Reality

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Virtual Reality, in technical terms, is used to describe a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person with standard input and through output devices.

Virtual reality (VR) as per Wikipedia “typically refers to computer technologies that use virtual reality headsets to generate the realistic images, sounds and other sensations that replicate a real environment or create an imaginary setting.” VR has been defined as “a realistic and immersive simulation of a three-dimensional 360-degree environment, created using interactive software and hardware, and experienced or controlled by movement of the body.” VR creates a simulated environment which with hardware can help to interact with features or items within the simulated environments. Haptic systems which help to capture tactile information are also used to capture real-time movements of users playing games and are also used for military training applications. VR helps in the case of remote communication environments.

VR is an immensely growing field, which initially was restricted only to the gaming industry. However, today it is spreading across areas - from children’s classroom with students learning in a simulated and interactive way, to its use by medical professionals in diagnosing ailments, to engineers working with VR to simulate their research.

The Challenge

From the software perspective, virtual reality was founded long before various VR hardware came to the market, with Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML) introduced in 1994, which was intended for the development of virtual environments without any dependency on VR hardware. It led to the formation of Web3D consortium founded in 1997 to develop industry standards for web-based 3D graphics. It also led to the development of X3D from the VRML framework with open-source standard for web-based distribution of virtual reality content.

With gyroscopes and motion sensors present today for tracking head-to-body positions, screens for stereoscopic displays and with processors that are lightweight and efficient, VR is moving one step ahead in its development. Various VR hardware brands such as Facebook/Oculus VR, Google, WorldViz, Bricks & Goggles, Marxent Labs, Unity Technologies, Microsoft HoloLens, Magic Leap, Vuzix and CastAR are making VR hardware, especially what one calls headsets in all shape and sizes. Production of VR images and videos has increased due to the development of omnidirectional cameras, which are also known as 360-degree cameras or VR cameras and have the ability to record in all directions, amongst other features. Photogrammetry is increasingly used to combine several high-resolution photographs for the creation of detailed 3D objects and environments in VR applications. But with all these recent developments, less than 1% of the 1.43 billion computers in the world have the graphical capabilities needed for VR and as it stands, virtual reality faces the same problem that all new and cool technologies experience, that is high prices. The main problem that also might be lurking around is networking capabilities where virtual reality needs high speed and high performance data connections, as distributed Virtual Environment (VE) requires enormous bandwidth to support multiple users, video, audio, and possibly the exchange of three-dimensional graphic primitives and models in real time.

The Solution

At the software level, there has been extensive research which includes major corporations that are pouring in their resources to develop better quality virtual reality software and hardware. Virtual environment applications today are built on various versions of UNIX, which were initial systems that were not designed for such real-time performance. With VR coming into the mainstream, the need of the hour will be on the introduction of new transport protocols, questions surrounding the adequacy of current transport protocols such as Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) that provide an interface between the operating system, and the network. There are new-generation interface protocols such as Versatile Message Transaction Protocol (VMTP) which is a transport protocol specifically designed to support the transaction model of communication, as exemplified by remote procedure call. The full function of VMTP, including support for security, real-time, asynchronous message exchanges, streaming, multicast and idempotency, and provides a rich selection to the VMTP.

Xpress Transfer Protocol (XTP) is a transport layer protocol for high-speed networks, provides protocol options for error control, flow control and rate control. XTP controls packet exchange patterns to produce different architectures like reliable datagrams, transactions, unreliable streams and reliable multicast connections. ST-II developed by Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN) which is a part of the Internet Stream Protocol family, has similar to later asynchronous transfer mode protocols like Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS). Virtual environments also demand a host of integrated network services, such as multicast support and resource information for dynamic bandwidth allocation. BBN has techniques to reduce the communication loads on the network, and also takes cares to examine the balance of network bandwidth requirements with better efforts at processing the data. This capability with virtual environments makes distributed simulation possible.

Distributed Virtual Environments also needs to set standards in the field which extends to file formats for three-dimensional models, from graphic and video images, to audio, to application interfaces. With diverse requirements of virtual environments, it shows a wide understanding of the relationship between VR and networking technology. Moreover, new protocols and techniques are required to appropriately handle the mix of data over a network link.

Aricent with its latest cluster of networking technologies, can provide the various network protocol algorithms, including the above, to provide fast and reliable access to these growing generation of technologies like virtual reality, to provide comprehensive and effective end-user experience. Aricent with its experience in designing and providing engineering solution can help in building large-scale, VR-intensive networking applications to provide such services along with the help of Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in addition to application to build efficient networking solutions for high-speed data access, which will help companies get more enhanced services and real-time analytics, details of which can be found by clicking the following link.

The Conclusion

There are a wide variety of applications for VR which can be in areas such as architecture, sports, medicine, arts and entertainment. Virtual environment simulations are used in movie productions as well. It will continue to grow with the coming years, along with Augmented Reality, which will help users to understand the problems that may arise because of unforeseen mistakes and correct them before they go out of control. VR technology with all its developments also faces some challenges which raises safety and technical concerns. Virtual reality usage in the long term may affect vision and neurological development, something that is still unknown. Computer latency may affect the simulation, providing a less-than-satisfactory, end-user experience which can be addressed by high speed networks and calls for better algorithms to develop applications and software along with its hardware.

In conclusion, virtual reality is a profoundly-growing field which in the near future will help to automate certain manual tasks, improve efficiency and performance and also help to reduce error as one can simulate a real-time environment and evaluate before the actual construction of the entity. It will use a host of technologies to achieve this goal and is a technically-complex feat that has to account for the user’s perception and cognition.

 

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