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GU VR B

ID U
THE BIG BOOK SERIES
E I YE
NS R
FROM THE MAKERS OF BBC FOCUS MAGAZINE ID S
E

VIRTUAL
REALITY
THE COMPLETE GUIDE
2016 the year when virtual becomes reality

THE BEST
VR GADGETS
HEADSETS, CAMERAS,
APPS & MORE!

D I S C OV E R

Apples plans to
challenge the
Oculus Rift
Why augmented
DOES VR MAKE reality is going
YOU SICK? to change life as
we know it
CAN YOU WEAR
GLASSES WITH VR? How VR is
WILL VR transforming
WORK WITH cars, medicine
RASPBERRY PI? and education
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EDITORIAL
Editor Daniel Bennett
Managing Editor James Witts
Production Editor Alice Lipscombe-Southwell

WE LCOM E
Commissioning Editor Jason Goodyer
Editorial Assistant James Lloyd

ART & PICTURES


Art Editor Alex Duce
Focus Art Editor Joe Eden
Picture Editor James Cutmore I dont know about you but my youthful days
were filled first with Lego, then an Acorn
CONTRIBUTORS
Robert Banino, David Boddington, Matthew
Electron before progressing to the
Baird, Alex Dale, Russell Deeks, Luke Edwards, Commodore Amiga and, ultimately, the pub.
Ian Evenden, Tim Hardwick, Dom Reseigh- Californian Palmer Luckey, on the other
Lincoln, Kate Russell, Nige Tassell
hand, still only 23, grew up watching sci-fi
PRESS AND PUBLIC RELATIONS films, reading sci-fi novels and tinkering
Press Officer Carolyn Wray with computers in his parents garage. What
carolyn.wray@immediate.co.uk did we have in common? We both grew up
PRODUCTION wanting to escape. But while myself and
Production Director Sarah Powell many others sought a getaway in our imaginations or the bottom of a
Production Co-ordinator pint glass, Luckey wanted to immerse himself and others in a
Emily Mounter
Reprographics Tony Hunt, Chris Sutch virtual world. The result of his tinkering cost Facebook founder
Mark Zuckerberg $2-billion in 2014. Now the Oculus Rift is ready to
CIRCULATION / ADVERTISING
hit the mass market, signalling the new dawn of virtual reality.
Circulation Manager Rob Brock
We check out Palmers handiwork in our buyers guide, starting on
PUBLISHING page 34, but dont worry if your bank accounts not quite as Luckey.
Publisher Jemima Ransome Our writer covers the full price range and respective feature lists,
Publishing Director Andy Healy
Managing Director Andy Marshall
starting from the smartphone Google Cardboard up to HTCs 700
Chairman Stephen Alexander Vive, which allows for augmented-reality integration.
Deputy Chairman Peter Phippen With CG and real-life apps flooding the market (more on pages 52-
CEO Tom Bureau
55), this is a gamechanger for gaming. But VR is so much more than
BBC WORLDWIDE, UK PUBLISHING that, as youll discover in our VR: The Present section (page 32
Director of Editorial onwards). A taster of current uses includes training elite sportsmen
Governance Nicholas Brett
Director of Consumer Products
and improving education, while the future could see augmented
and Publishing Andre Moultrie reality eclipse VR in sales with the joint VR/AR market expected to
Head of UK Publishing Chris Kerwin hit $150-billion by 2020. But thats for the future. Take pride in the
Publisher Mandy Thwaites
Publishing Coordinator Eva Abramik
fact that you were the first invitees to the virtual party
James Witts, Editor
Contact UK.Publishing@bbc.com

www.bbcworldwide.com/uk--anz/
ukpublishing.aspx

I N YO U R V R G U I D E

Immediate Media Co Bristol Ltd 2016. All rights reserved. No


part of Virtual Reality: The Complete Guide may be reproduced in
any form or by any means either wholly or in part, without prior
written permission of the publisher. Not to be resold, lent, hired
out or otherwise disposed of by way of trade at more than the
recommended retail price or in mutilated condition. Printed in
the UK by William Gibbons Ltd. The publisher, editor and authors
accept no responsibility in respect of any products, goods or
services which may be advertised or referred to in this issue or
for any errors, omissions, mis-statements or mistakes in any such
advertisements or references.
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Like what youve read? Then take out


a subscription to BBC Focus magazine, VR: THE PAST VR: THE PRESENT VR: THE FUTURE
the UKs best-selling science and Would you believe that the seeds VR isnt the sole preserve of the Find out why augmented reality
tech monthly. See the special offer
for virtual reality were sown rich or science geeks its a might be bigger than VR; how
on page 30 for more...
back in 1838? Or that Palmer brave new world thats open to the newsroom and citizen
While every attempt has been made to ensure that the content of Luckey constructed the all. Inform your purchase with journalism will change forever;
Virtual Reality: The Complete Guide was as accurate as possible at
time of press, we acknowledge that some information contained prototypes for his billion-dollar our buyers guide covering units Apples plans to dominate the
herein may have since become out of date. Also, the content of Oculus Rift in his parents garage? from 0 to 700. Also discover virtual world; plus the social
certain sections is occasionally subject to interpretation; in these
cases, we have favoured the most respected source. Read on to find out more p8 VRs practical uses. p32 side of virtual reality. p90

3
CO N T E N T S

FEATURES
The history of VR

8
We chart the evolution of virtual
reality, from featuring in early
20th-century fiction to the Aspen
Movie Map, which pre-dated Google Street
view by nearly 30 years

Immersed in film

20
VR dominated the recent SXSW
Film Festival but producers have
attempted unique ways to add a
multi-sensory element for over 50 years.
Cue Scent of Mystery, House of Wax

The gamechanger

24
Meet the 23-year-old Californian
who utilised his parents garage to
create the unit that had Mark
Zuckerberg forking out a cool $2-billion. 58
Welcome to the world of Palmer Luckey

Londons most 24
cutting-edge company?

58
Shoreditch-based Inition are at
the forefront of VR and AR
technology. We visited their
studio and discovered a technological Narnia

Future success
70
64
Sport provides the perfect
platform to maximise VR,
whether its in a training setting
or as a spectator. Check out how athletes will
soon race higher, faster and stronger

76
34
Buyers guide
O 15 VR units from 0 to 689
O 29 of the best apps on the market
O 360 cameras 287 to 4,600
O Accessories including Leap Motion
O How to make Google Cardboard

106
4
50 8

83
PHOTOS: FRANKIE PIKE, NASA, PRESS ASSOCIATION, MAGIC LEAP, FORD AUTOMOTIVE, GETTY, ANDY POTTS

92

VR theme parks Kate Russells Q&A Journalisms next frontier

70 83 102
Discover how illusionist Derren Reporter, regular on BBC Newsrooms and citizen
Brown has been applying his technology show Click and journalism will be transformed
mystical talents to Thorpe Parks virtual-reality authority Kate by VR and AR. It begs the
new virtual-reality ride, plus a VR Russell answers common VR-related question: are we about to enter a brave
rollercoaster comes to Alton Towers questions. Youll be an expert in no time new world of empathy?

Beating trauma Tomorrows world Recognising the risks


98
72 92 106
Virtual reality is more than just VR is going to be big but will With any new technology
entertainment. Find out how its augmented reality be even bigger? there are certain unknowns.
increasingly being used to treat Discover what happens when We chart the potential
soldiers suffering from PTSD hologram technology meets haptics dangers and how to overcome them

Revolutionising industry Apples VR dream team Virtually social

76 98 110
From teaching students about the The technological giants have VR doesnt have to be a solitary
pyramids to viewing mansions been quiet when it comes to VR. experience. We introduce
worth over 15-million, discover But as our reporter reveals, the online platforms, technical
how virtual reality is already making an theyve been sweeping up the sectors most cafes and multi-player games that will
impact on the professional sphere dynamic companies and greatest brains make virtual reality more social
VR: THE
PAST Things have come a long way since
the humble View-Master. Its time to

PHOTO: GETTY
chart the evolution of virtual reality

D I S C OV E R

PAGE 8
THE HISTORY OF VR
RISE, FALL AND RISE OF A BRAVE NEW WORLD
PAGE 20
IMMERSED IN FILM
HOLLYWOODS EFFORTS TO CAPTIVATE THE VIEWER
PAGE 24
THE GAMECHANGER
PROFILE OF OCULUS FOUNDER PALMER LUCKEY

The View-Master launched in 1939.


It was originally intended as an
alternative to the scenic postcard

6
7
PAST / VR HISTORY

PHOTO: GETTY
THE HISTORY OF

VIRTUAL
REALITY
The Oculus Rift didnt
appear from nowhere. Step
back in time to see how art
fused with technology to
create entire worlds
Words: Ian Evenden

s is often the case when


recounting the story of

A
technology thats sprung
from Silicon Valley, the
history of virtual reality
throws up a lot of the same
names and places. And
when youre dealing with
such high-tech ideas, sometimes the truth can be
blurred as much by military interest as it can be
by late nights and too much caffeine.
What we do know is that virtual reality, or
something very close to it, was first mentioned in
a 1936 short story by Stanley G Weinbaum.
Pygmalions Spectacles, published in the June
1936 edition of Wonder Stories magazine, features
a device vaguely reminiscent of a gas mask that
has goggles and a rubber mouthpiece and which
plays back holographic recordings held in a
strange liquid, bringing sights, sounds, smells and
even a sense of touch to its wearer.
Cinematographer Morton Heilig then took up
the baton, writing in the 1950s of cinema
technology that could speak to all our senses. He
would make his vision a reality in 1962 thanks to
the Sensorama, a mechanical cabinet that the
viewer sat in which was capable of displaying
stereoscopic 3D movies with stereo sound. It
could also tilt its occupant and blow air into his
or her face to simulate wind or convey smells.
PAST / VR HISTORY

ABOVE: Morton L Heilig,


inventor of the
Sensorama circa 1968

RIGHT: Viewers sat in the


Sensorama booth and
experienced sights,
sounds and smells

Only five short films were made for it, as Heilig


was unable to secure financial backing, but he
would also patent a head-mounted display device.

FLIGHT SIMULATORS
The struggle for funding is another thread that runs
through this story. If your idea needs equipment that
may cost many tens of thousands of dollars, where
can you find that sort of money? Thomas A Furness
III, now a professor at the University of Washington
and often called the grandfather of virtual reality,
solved this problem in 1966 when he was
commissioned by the US Air Force to build the first
flight simulator.

PHOTOS: ROGER FERRAGALLO X4, SCIENCE AND SOCIETY, GETTY X2, REX X2, MIT, L H CAREY/WIKIPEDIA, FLICKR/MOTO/TORLEY
The militarys interest in VR as a technology for
training continues to this day, as Matthieu Poyade, a
Research Fellow in 3D Programming at the Digital ABOVE: Heilig even human factor assessments, like the accessibility of
Design Studio of The Glasgow School of Art, created his own 3D specific pieces of equipment, taking into
motion-picture camera
explains: In VR you can train people for tasks that for capturing short films consideration the physical characteristics of users.
would be too complex to train in the real world.
Flight simulators are usually very expensive, but if THE SWORD OF DAMACLES
youve got a much more affordable device like a Away from the military contracts, progress was
haptic device for example that can allow you to being made in other labs, too, and in 1968 Dr Ivan
train particular abilities or Sutherland of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of
specific skills. Technology) created the Sword of Damocles, a
In the US theres been ceiling-mounted mechanical arm that held a head-
quite a long relationship
[between military
In 1968 Dr Ivan mounted display using two CRT (Cathode Ray Tube)
screens that communicated simple wireframe
equipment manufacturers
and VR companies], Poyade Sutherland of graphics to the wearer. The arm tracked their head
movements as they looked around, but was difficult
continues. In the UK and in
Europe the relationship is MIT created to use as the viewers head was clamped into its
helmet. Its unique appearance is behind its name,
slightly less than 10 years but its recognisable as the forerunner of the VR
old, but its being built. Its
comfortable for the military
the Sword of systems we see today.
Another ancestor of todays technology was
companies because they can
save a huge amount of
Damacles the developed in 1978, again at MIT, with funding from
military technology agency DARPA (Defense
money by using VR rather
than mocking up a specific
forerunner of Advanced Research Projects Agency). The Aspen
Movie Map was a little like Google Street View, with
tank or boat or aircraft
carrier. With VR they can
todays VR footage of the streets of Aspen, Colorado, recorded
on Laserdiscs, linked to a database of the citys
assess several situations. For
instance, they can carry out systems layout, and played back using a touchscreen
interface that could bring up information about

10
EVOLUTION OF VIRTUAL REALIT Y
The rise, fall and rise of a new world

1838 1929
Charles Wheatstone shows that the brain can The Link Trainer is
construct a 3D image from two 2D ones with invented to train pilots. It
his Stereoscope photo viewer. uses pumps, valves and
bellows to simulate
instrument flying in
bad weather or at night.
1936
Pygmalions Spectacles published, a
short story that predicts the form
and function of VR helmets. 1938
French dramatist Antonin Artaud
describes theatre as la ralit
virtuelle the first published
use of the term.

1960 1939
Morton Heilig patents the The View-Master stereoscopic photo
Telesphere Mask, a viewer is released, bringing 3D photos
head-mounted 3D display of famous monuments to the public.
for showing films but
without head-tracking.

1961
Philco Corporations
Headsight uses a
screen for each eye and
a head-tracking system
linked to cameras for
remote viewing of
dangerous military 1965 1966 1968
situations. Ivan Sutherland Thomas A Furness III Ivan Sutherland and Bob
describes an Ultimate builds the first flight Sproull create the Sword
Display in a paper. It can simulator for the of Damocles head-
simulate reality to the US Air Force. tracking system at
point the wearer cant tell Harvard University.
the difference.
1969
Artist Myron Krueger
develops Glowflow, a
computer-controlled
environment that responds
to the people in it.

1983
The Atari Shock wipes billions off the 1978
value of American videogame companies. The Aspen Movie Map
VR research is one of its victims. is filmed and produced
at MIT, paving the way
for services such as
Googles Street View.
1991
Virtualitys 1000 Series arcade machines
are released. Powered by an Amiga 3000
computer, they offer only nine games.
1987
Star Trek: The Next
Generation introduces the
Holodeck, which uses
1992 1995 2012 transporter, forcefield
Feature film The Lawnmower Man, based in Nintendos Virtual Boy is Palmer Luckey and food replicator
part on the work of Jaron Lanier, brings the launched to worldwide founds Oculus VR, technology to create
concepts of VR to a wider audience. apathy thanks to its selling it to Facebook solid virtual worlds.
primitive graphics, high in 2014 and
cost and uncomfortable launching its first
user position. product, the Rift VR
helmet, in 2016.

11
PAST / VR HISTORY

12
The Aspen
Movie Map buildings that were touched, such as restaurant
menus or historical details. It even used a vehicle
linked to a with cameras on top that, unlike Googles version,
drove slowly in the middle of the road and towed a
database of the bicycle wheel behind it to help measure distance
and trigger the cameras.
citys layout It was the first time we used the term virtual
environment, says Professor Scott Fisher, now an

and played Associate Dean of Research at the University of


Southern California, who worked on the map project
at MIT. We built a special camera rig to go on top of
back using a a truck that we had, then drove it up and down
every street and around every corner in Aspen. Our
touchscreen rig had four cameras pointing left, right, front and
back and we tried lots of different lens systems to

PHOTOS: MIT ARCHITECTURE MACHINE GROUP, GETTY


achieve a wide angle. Wed stitch the footage
together on the discs, and Street View is very much a
derivative of that early work.
We didnt have it running in a head-mount, but
we did do it stereoscopically, Fisher continues. We
had a room, one whole wall of which was a back-
projected video display, and you could point at the
screen. So we projected the Aspen footage onto that
while sitting in an instrumented Eames chair, and
you could actually drive around Aspen while you
were sitting in that room. We also filmed on the ski
slopes with helmet-mounted cameras by renting
cranes to shoot from high above. We did handheld
LEFT: The Aspen Movie stuff, too, where wed go into all the restaurants and
Map acted as a precursor
to Googles Street View. some commercial buildings on the main street in
It was created all the Aspen. Basically, we tried to build as comprehensive
way back in 1978
a visual database as possible.
BELOW: A US soldier The Department of Defense saw the map as a
being trained using a way for its soldiers to quickly familiarise
virtual-reality 3D
shootout army facility themselves with new areas they may be operating
over 20 years ago in. Although driving slowly through a warzone

13
PAST / VR HISTORY

THE VIRTUAL BOY


Nintendos ill-fated attempt at gaining a
foothold in the immersive 3D gaming market

The Virtual Boy, released in 1995 production model as it was not only heavy and produced a constant
across Japan and the US but never in cheaper, but provided a greater sense mechanical whirring sound. At $180 it
Europe, was a 3D games console that of 3D depth. Although marketed as a was expensive for the time and
originated in stereoscopic screen form of VR, the Virtual Boys received only 14 games in the US,
technology from Massachusetts- head-tracking capabilities were with a further five available in Japan,
based Reflection Technology Inc. removed during development due to during its short life.
Turned down by Sega, the single- fears over inducing motion sickness Discontinued in 1996, the Virtual
colour display found its way into the in players, and it was designed to be Boy became Nintendos second
hands of Gunpei Yokoi, head of an used sitting at a table though a greatest commercial failure after the
R&A team at Nintendo and the father promised harness for use while 64DD console. With only 1.26-million
of the Game & Watch and Game Boy standing up never materialised, and units shipped worldwide, today it has
handheld games consoles. nor did a link cable to allow some value as a collectors item, but
Having experimented with colour multiplayer 3D gaming. its wireframe graphics look primitive
screens, the original red and black After four years in development, and some users have complained of
display was chosen for the the unit that made it to market was headaches and dizziness.

The player pressed her forehead


against a rubber shield, and peered
into a pair of 384 x 224 screens.

The CPU
controlling the
Virtual Boy is a
32bit RISC chip
running at up to
28mHz with 64KB
of system RAM.

Games came in
cartridges, which
could be up to 32MB,
with 16MB of ROM
and 16 of RAM. The controllers
symmetry means its
functions could be
reversed for
left-handed players.

The controller, which has


similarities to the one
produced for the N64, also
holds the six AA batteries
used to power the system.

14
ABOVE: Dr Jaron Lanier is while dragging a bicycle wheel might still put become the Nintendo Power Glove, sold alongside a
a virtual-reality pioneer
who now works for
some lives at risk, it would be quicker and cheaper small number two of NES games in 1987.
Microsoft Research than building replicas of operational areas, a Virtual reality originally meant an extended
technique pioneered by Israeli commandos for version of virtual worlds, says Lanier, who these
hostage rescue operations. days is to be found working for Microsoft Research
as well as writing books and music. Ivan
PHOTOS: ALAMY X2, REX

THE SAYRE GLOVES [Sutherland] had talked about the virtual world that
At around the same time, scientists from the you would see through a headset like that. He didnt
Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the make up that term; it actually comes from an art
University of Illinois in Chicago were creating the historian called Susanne Langer, who was using it
first wired glove. Known as the Sayre glove, it was as a way to think about modernist painting. To me,
created by Daniel J Sandin and what virtual reality originally meant was moving
Thomas Defanti from an idea beyond the headset experience to include some
by Richard Sayre, and used other elements, which would include your own
1983s light emitters and photocells
in the fingers. As the fingers
body being present, so to have an avatar where you
could pick up things, and also where there could be

videogame flexed, the amount of light


hitting the photocell varied,
multiple people, where it could be social.

allowing finger movement to THE CYBERGLOVE


crash saw 97% be translated into electrical
signals.
Datagloves continue to be a part of the VR world
today, and in 1990 Virtual Technologies Inc released
wiped off In 1982, Thomas G
Zimmerman would file a patent
the CyberGlove. Its a product that exists to this day
in the form of the CyberGlove III, which is mounted
gaming for such an optical flex sensor,
and would go on to work with
with up to 22 sensors and can detect movements of
less than one degree.
revenues and Dr Jaron Lanier the man
credited with coining the term
1982 also saw the videogame world become
interested in VR. Atari opened a VR research lab

Ataris VR virtual reality to add


ultrasonic and magnetic hand-
that year, and the company would employ
Zimmerman, Fisher, Lanier and many other VR

lab closed position tracking technology to


a glove. This led to what would
pioneers. But the videogame crash of 1983, known
as the Atari Shock, saw 97% wiped off revenues

15
COVER
PAST / VR
STORY
HISTORY

Q&A
The innovator
Paris-based artist Nicole Stenger is credited
with creating the first totally immersive
movie, Angels, between 1989 and 1992

How did you first experience not very practical. But it was Technologies was worth BELOW: Renowned artist Nicole Stenger
virtual reality? very advanced. They [VPL over $50,000. using virtual-reality equipment
developed by Jaron Lanier
In 1989 I went to Boston, Research] had a haptic glove
where there was a that they called a Dataglove. What are you doing now?
SIGGRAPH [Special Interest They also had a bodysuit I just ordered the Oculus Rift,
Group on Graphics and with sensors, which you also specifically because Angels is
Interactive Techniques] see today. At the time the suit being re-done completely
exhibition. I had a cost between $45,000 and inside the new equipment
recommendation from MIT $90,000, and the whole VR that should be available this
for an animation which I was gear cost close to $250,000. year. After that, my last
working on at the time. While Nothing was mainstream at movie, The Wish, which was
I was at SIGGRAPH I met the time. The VR software I launched in 2015, will also
Jaron Lanier, who was quite a use every day now, Unity, is be ported into Oculus.
colourful character. We were free; at the time, the That should be available
both waiting in line and he software from Wavefront by the end of this year, too.
was very nice to me, letting
me go first to buy my ticket. I
attended his talk and realised
that this was real, that [VR]
was really happening and
that you could use it. I
decided to turn my 3D
animation into a VR movie,
which became Angels.

Describe the equipment


that you used.
It had a similar helmet to
what youd use today,
except it was heavier and

The VR software I
use every day now is
free; at the time the
software was worth
over $50,000
16
BELOW: A Polhemus
tracking system also
played a key role in the
VPL VR experience. Its
seen here displayed in a
Tokyo showroom

from gaming in North America. Atari was sold ABOVE: Lanier worked at inspection or a space-station inspection, says
and split up, its VR lab closed, but many of its VPL Research, where Fisher. And its obviously dangerous to do that. So
they produced
researchers were able to continue their work, datagloves and a one of the big applications of what we were doing
leading to an explosion of new companies. head-mounted display was to be able to control robots in teleprescence
For Lanier this was VPL Research, which had its BELOW: An employee at
mode from inside the space station.
first HQ in a corner of his San Francisco home. NASA using the Virtual The head-mounted display had super-wide-angle
Zimmerman joined him, and the company Interactive Environment optics about a 180 field of view so we built a
Workstation (VIEW)
produced datagloves and a head-mounted display, back in the 1990s camera system that had matching optics. The servos
becoming one of the first in the world to sell such on it were matched to specs that we found for fighter
items. LSD enthusiast and early transhuman pilots in combat who are moving their heads pretty
thinker Timothy Leary, searching for legal means fast to figure out where a threat is coming from.
to explore consciousness after his release from jail, We really over-specced the robots we built, but
became associated with the company through his that was the configuration we passed on to
friend Brenda Laurel, a VPL employee who had also Lockheed and Grumman who were designing, and
worked for Atari. eventually building, the systems for use outside the
We sold the first general-purpose simulator, space station.
explains Lanier. I made the first surgical simulator We did a lot of work with instrumented gloves to
collaborating with a doctor at Stanford actually control the remote robot arms, trying to
Medical; the first vehicle figure out how we map human hand gestures
prototyping simulator; the first onto the dexterous end effector that some
architecture simulators. We made of the contractors were building,
the first versions of all those Fisher continues. At one point we
things, and we sold the kits that even instrumented the gloves with
allowed a lot of other people to make a tactile feedback so the astronauts
lot of their prototypes. would have a sense of what they were
touching. We started looking at
NASA PROJECT temperature feedback, too, although
Fisher, meanwhile, was aiming for the thats super complicated because the
stars. In 1985, he founded the Virtual nerves that respond to temperature respond at
Environment Workstation Project a different rate than for haptic feedback.
at NASAs Ames Research Center At Ames, Fisher would meet Mark Bolas,
in Mountain View, California. now Associate Professor
The labs purpose was to of Interactive Media at
produce a virtual reality the University of
PHOTOS: PRESS ASSOCIATION, NASA

system for astronauts, so they Southern California.


could control robots outside a Bolas would go on to
space station instead of found VR hardware
taking part in risky EVAs. It outfit Fakespace in 1988.
usually took almost four
hours to do all the pre- GAMING DEVELOPMENTS
breathing and the prep to Then, in 1990 Dr Jonathan
do an EVA for a satellite Waldern, whod been

17
PAST / VR HISTORY

THE OMNIDIRECTIONAL TREADMILL


Whod have thought that running on the spot
could be so much fun?
LEFT: Virtuix has revived
the omnidirectional
The omnidirectional treadmill ties into the idea the Truth About Virtual Reality. Delaney treadmill with gamers
its primary audience
of immersion the perception of being recalls that the omni treadmill in the image
physically present in a non-physical world. As below never received a retail name because BELOW: Virtuix users
you move your feet, the virtual world moves it didnt reach the stage of mass production. will require a sizeable
around you, as displayed through your But I do know that the protagonist on the abode to accommodate
its treadmill
head-mounted display. The treadmill is treadmill is David Carmein in his laboratory
designed to keep you in its centre, either back in 1997, says Delaney. There were also
through a mechanical solution that moves the shots taken in various military facilities,
surface beneath you no matter which way including the Naval Postgraduate School in
youre facing or an array of spheres your feet Monterey, California.
can slide across. Users are often tethered in The original omni might not have taken off
place or surrounded by a safety barrier so they but the idea didnt die. The US Army currently
dont launch themselves onto the floor. uses omnidirectional treadmills in association
A Kickstarter campaign by Virtuix was with CAVE Graphics essentially a room with
successful, raising money for the development screens making up every wall. As a trainee
of the Omni, a device to help you move marches on the spot, the world moves around
naturally and freely in virtual worlds, but the them and training scenarios can be played out.
concept of the omnidirectional treadmill goes Further applications include gaming, an
back much further than that avenue Virtuix is tapping into, and in the movie
Back in the 1990s, American tech author industry, recording actors moving on the spot
Ben Delaney charted the brief rise of virtual in front of a green screen so that moving
reality in his book Sex, Drugs and Tessellation: footage can be spliced in behind them.

RIGHT: Researcher
David Carmein testing
the original omni-
directional treadmill
back in the 1990s

PHOTOS: VIRTUIX, OMNI

18
BELOW: A woman
absorbed in the Atari
Jaguar VR booth at the
1995 Electronic
Entertainment Expo

going until 1997, but a lack of demand for the


expensive machines led to the companys breakup.

VR SLUMP
I left the scene in around 1992, explains Lanier,
and for most of that time it wasnt well known.
There was a burst of publicity toward the end of the
80s and the start of the 90s I was in the same as
Palmer Luckey, where I was on the cover of a lot of
mags and then it kind of went away again. ABOVE: Nintendos Power
The years after 1997 represent a slump for VR. Glove was only available
Google would launch Street View in 2007, and for a year (1989-1990) but
its legacy lives on in
Palmer Luckey would design the first prototype of popular culture thanks to
the Oculus Rift in 2010, rekindling public interest speed-metal band
Powerglove
and bringing us to where we are in 2016 and the
promise of a defining year in the evolution of VR. BELOW: The past 25 years
When I started to work in VR around the year has seen many VR false
dawns, but that looks set
2000 we had head-mounted displays that werent to change in 2016 with
too different to what you see today, says Poyade. units like the Oculus Rift
They were a bit bulkier because of the cables, but
the difference was the price. They were several
thousand pounds for one device.
Today its lighter and cheaper
and more accessible for
researching VR since 1985 at Loughborough customers. During the last 10
University with the support of IBMs labs in Hursley, years, the software we use to
Hampshire, demonstrated his Virtuality gaming develop VR content has
system as part of the Computer Graphics 90 improved. When I started, it
exhibition at Londons Alexandra Palace. Thats was hardcore coding, and
when the world of videogaming started to take now its more like a
another look at VR. graphical language with a
Virtuality comprised a stereoscopic visor, very tiny amount of coding
handheld joysticks and network capability to enable required. Users with less
multiplayer gaming. Datagloves and 3D tracking expertise in programming
systems were also available, and British Telecom and coding are more able, nowadays,
bought two units for its research labs, to explore the to develop VR content.
possibilities of telepresence communication Its only now that technology has
systems. There were talks about bringing Virtuality become cheap and accessible enough
to Ataris Jaguar games console, launched in 1993, that virtual reality has another chance
but they fell through. to shine. Built on the cutting-edge
Japanese gaming company Sega announced its VR thinking and ingenuity of over
system for coin-op arcade games and its Mega Drive 60 years, this blend of
console in 1991, although the home version would technology and art is about to
eventually be cancelled. Sega was rumoured to be hit the mainstream, and
working on something similar for its 1994 Saturn peering into virtual worlds
console but, if the headset existed, it was never could become as normal as
announced. Fierce competitors Nintendo would get watching TV.
PHOTOS: GETTY X2

in on the act with its Virtual Boy (see The Virtual


Boy box on page 16) in 1995, but the commercial Ian Evenden is a freelance writer
failures of such systems led to a retreat from virtual and editor, mainly covering science,
reality by gaming companies. Virtuality would keep gaming, technology and photography.

19
PAST / VR ON FILM

Professor Henry Jarrod


(Vincent Price) proclaims
Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk) as
his new model for
Marie Antoinette

IMMERSED
IN FILM
From Scent of Mystery to The Matrix, Hollywood has
long been fascinated with the concepts of viewer
KOOGTUKQPCPF84KPKVUOQXKGU*GTGYGTGGEVQPXG
MG[KEMUVJCVCKOVQNKHVXKGYGTUKPVQCPQVJGTYQTNFe
WORDS: MATTHEW BAIRD

20
SCENT OF
MYSTERY
A wax figure of sculptor Main actors Denholm Elliott, Peter Lorre,
Igor (Charles Bronson)
Beverly Bentley
Date of release 1960
Audience rating on Rotten Tomato N/A
Smell-O-Vision machine
Worldwide box office N/A used in Scent of Mystery

PLOT The first film to be choreographed


with immersive smells in the production
process is a sub-Hitchcockian murder
conspiracy that finds an elusive young
American tourist (played by Beverly Bentley)
The Chamber of Horrors
being targeted by a vengeful conspiracy.
is not what it seems
Denholm Elliott (Marcus in Indiana Jones),
German film legend Peter Lorre and Paul
Lukas are amongst the goodies and villains
HOUSE OF WAX running around Spain in pursuit.

Main actors Vincent Price, Carolyn Jones, VR INFLUENCE The AromaRama of


Frank Lovejoy documentary Behind the Great Wall may, just,
Date of release 1953 have been the first film to deliver smells to
the audience, but the Smell-O-Vision of
Audience rating on Rotten Tomato 72%
Scent of Mystery was the first film to be made
Worldwide box office 17,072,551 with odour projection in mind during Denholm Elliot (centre)
production. The process saw smells piped was the films main star
PLOT Vincent Price plays Professor Henry Jarrod, through plastic tubing into audiences at
a wax sculptor who runs a museum in New York. specially equipped cinemas, with fresh audience reaction was mixed, the pun-filled
When a financial partner suggests that they burn bread, booze and tobacco just a trio of odours critical consensus worse and the film stank,
the museum down to receive insurance money, to reach the nostrils of the punters. The sorry, sank without trace at the box office.
Jarrod tries to stop him, only to be badly beaten Smell-O-Vision was once included in Times
in the burning museum. Escaping horribly Elliots character Top 100 Worst Ideas of All Time list, but it
disfigured, Jarrod builds a new museum that had a number of has infrequently been returned to, with John
showcases crimes, including the murder of his ingenuous uses for Waters parodying the idea in Polyester with
his trusty umbrella
former business partner Odorama scratch-and-sniff cards in 1982,
and Rugrats Go Wild repeating the trick this
VR INFLUENCE Back in the 1950s, with television century. Thankfully the makers of Blazing
halving cinema attendance, Tinseltown launched its Saddles didnt use the technology for that
inaugural three-dimensional ventures, with Warner campfire scene
Bros House of Wax the first 3D flick in colour. Unlike
Scent of Mystery (see right), the House of Wax is a
superior film in its own right, with the 3D elements
being used sparingly but effectively. Employing two
separate 35mm film prints for the left-eye and
right-eye images on separate but interlocked
projectors, the 3D elements included a wax museum
fire, can-can girls and, most famously, a paddle-
ball-wielding pitchman. Ironically the director,
Andr de Toth, was blind in one eye and unable to
experience the 3D effects.

Back in the 1950s, with


PHOTOS: REX X4, GETTY, TOPFOTO

television halving cinema Cinemas


were infused
attendance, Tinseltown with the smell
launched its inaugural 3D of bread, booze
ventures with Warner and tobacco
Bros House of Wax
21
PAST / VR ON FILM

Tron Tron, played by Bruce


was one of
TRON the first films
Boxleitner, is created
by programmer
Alan Bradley
Main actors Jeff Bridges, Bruce whose plot
Boxleitner, David Warner
was driven
Date of release 1982
by VR
Audience rating on
Rotten Tomato 69%
Worldwide box office 19,309,685

PLOT Computer game developer


Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is digitally
broken down into a 3D graphical
world of computers called the Grid.
Flynn is forced to participate in
gladiatorial games where his only
chance of escaping is by joining forces
with a security programme named
Tron. Together they duel with the
artificial intelligence Master Control
Program that holds them captive.

VR INFLUENCE Director Steven Kevin Flynn (Jeff


a famous Simpsons episode and imaginations), Trons narrative is one
Lisbergers groundbreaking Tron Bridges) ends French group Daft Punk, who went of the first plots driven by the concept
experienced a lukewarm commercial up in the Grid on to produce the score for the of virtual reality, with the human
reaction on release, but its since sequel, 2010s Tron: Legacy. A rare film sucked into a computer theme that
entered the annals of cult classic, about, not based on, computer games continued in War Games and Spy
influencing the likes of Toy Story, (a medium thats long fired our VR Kids 3D: Game Over.

THE LAWNMOWER MAN After the watershed:


whats believed to be
Main actors Jeff Fahey, Pierce the first CG love scene
abandoning his body to become in cinematic history
Brosnan, Jenny Wright a wholly virtual being.
Date of release 1992
VR INFLUENCE VR magazines started
Audience rating on
to be published around this time,
Rotten Tomato 31%
Sega released its VR headset for
Worldwide box office 23,031,816 arcade games in 1991 and Hollywood
was using digital effects with
PLOT Scientist Dr Lawrence Angelo stunning degree in the Terminator 2.
(future Bond Pierce Brosnan) The Lawnmower Man mirrors the
performs experiments involving public fascination with this
intelligence-enhancing drugs emerging tech by featuring computer-
and virtual reality on Jobe, augmented headsets, Jobes VR
Jobe, the protagonist who
a simple-minded gardener played mind experiments and warnings has telekinetic powers
by Jeff Fahey. After an accident about a VR future. It also contains
shuts the programme down, whats believed to be the first
Jobe develops telekinetic powers computer-generated love scene
and enters the mainframe computer, in film history.

The film mirrors the


PHOTOS: ALAMY X4, REX X2

public fascination with


this emerging tech by
featuring computer-
augmented headsets
22
THE MATRIX The Matrix where
are the boundaries
of your world?
Main actors Keanu Reeves,
Laurence Fishburne,
The Matrix catapulted the then
Carrie-Anne Moss
Wachowski brothers, Andy and
Date of release 1999 Larry (who have since become
Lilly and Lana), into the
Audience rating on Hollywood directorial A-league.
Rotten Tomato 85% The films bullet time action has
Worldwide box office influenced the likes of Swordfish
332,427,225 and, erm, Shrek, but its the
virtual-reality narrative that
PLOT Computer hacker Neo lingers on in the likes of
(Keanu Reeves) learns about the Inception, Source Code and The
true nature of his reality and his Island. Whats real? How do you
role in the battle against its define real? Where are the
controllers. His consciousness is boundaries of our own world?
embedded in the Matrix a Are we awake? Theyre just
virtual-reality simulation some of the questions posed
created by a series of self-aware (mostly by Larry Fishburnes
machines. Neo is given a choice: Morpheus). The Matrix concept
take the blue pill and return to was actually used in a Doctor
his virtual existence, or take the Who episode from 1976, and
red pill to find out how deep the the blockbuster, whether
rabbit hole goes. intentionally or not, (re)visits the
narrative of a huge computer
VR INFLUENCE A critical and system that humans can plug in/
commercial smash on release, out of via a port in their heads.

Whats real? How do you define


real? Where are the boundaries of
our world? Are we awake? Theyre
some of the questions posed by
Larry Fishburnes Morpheus

The Matrix was a huge


box-office hit, raking in
over 300-million
PAST / PALMER LUCKEY

24
PRO F I LE

THE
GAMECHANGER
WHY IS 2016 BEING SEEN AS THE YEAR
OF VIRTUAL REALITY? ITS ALL DOWN TO THE
OCULUS RIFT AND ITS TINKERING FOUNDER
WORDS: NIGE TASSELL

PHOTO: GETTY

25
I
PAST / PALMER LUCKEY

ts a story that makes even the biggest-ever investment inspiration when it came to reigniting the VR world.
on Dragons Den look like loose change chucked into a It wasnt that I was the best at what I was doing, he
charity bucket. In March 2014, Facebook founder confessed to the Telegraph. I was just one of the only
Mark Zuckerberg coughed up a cool $2-billion to buy ones that persevered. Nobody had managed to pull this
Oculus VR, a fledgling company operating in the off. Then Bam!
vanguard of virtual-reality technology. It looked like
the deal of the century for Oculus founder, a young SILICONS HOTTEST PROPERTY
twenty-something called Palmer Luckey. After all, The perseverance shown by Luckey during his teenage
as potentially revolutionary as his VR system the years has certainly bore fruit. At the age of 23, he is the
Oculus Rift was, it hadnt been produced yet, let alone hottest property in Silicon Valley, estimated by Forbes
sold a single unit. magazine to be worth at least $500m, a value even
Two years on, the Rift a headset that resembles a greater than that of Zuckerberg when he was the same
cross between a black plastic brick and a chunky pair of age. But Luckeys path to this point didnt follow in the
ski goggles is now available to the masses. Connecting Facebook founders footsteps; their trajectories traced
to your PC via a lightweight 10-foot cable and with very different arcs. While Zuckerbergs initial
assistance from a separate positional sensor, it offers a achievements were made as he breathed in the rarefied
VR experience more immersive, more realistic, than Ivy League air, Luckeys formative years were spent
any previously presented. One of its chief assets is its learning his craft and honing his ideas in somewhat
smoothness. Where past systems often resulted in more prosaic surroundings: his parents garage.
feelings of nausea and Born and raised in Long Beach, California, Luckey
dizziness, the Rifts software is was the eldest of four children all home-schooled by
At 23, he is able to render video at a
stomach-settling 75 frames per
their mother. The flexibility offered by such an
arrangement (not to mention the weekly hours saved by
the hottest second. Small wonder then that
the reaction from fan-boy
not travelling to school) meant that the young Palmer
had a fair amount of time on his hands. And, when he

property in geeks at trade shows to the


single most powerful geek of
wasnt watching sci-fi films or reading sci-fi novels, he
would be out in the garage tinkering, tinkering,

Silicon them all has been consistent


and unwavering. Three letters,
tinkering. While his siblings were soaking up the
California sun, Palmer stayed inside, surrounded by
one syllable. Wow! wires, cables, consoles, screens and computers.
Valley, Palmer Luckey is succeeding
where hundreds of engineers,
At first, he spent his time taking apart video-game
consoles, modifying them, improving them. At the
estimated not to mention billions of
dollars, have singularly failed.
same time, he developed a sideline in buying broken
iPhones, reconditioning them and re-selling for a
by Forbes Many have tried but crashed
and burned. For them, the
handsome profit. These proceeds believed to be
around $30,000, no small amount for a teenager from a
magazine notion of bringing ultra-
realistic virtual reality to the
family of modest means were re-invested in hardware.
Not just any old hardware, though. For Palmer Luckeys

to be worth masses remains an impossible


dream. But the way the Rifts
obsession with video games didnt lie with becoming
the best player around. He wanted to create the best
inventor modestly calls it, his possible gaming experience, an environment that was
$500m was a tale of perspiration over thoroughly immersive, one that provided the 2

26
Palmer Luckey introduces
touch controllers for the
Rift during an Oculus
media event in San
Francisco, June 2015

GET LUCKEY
The beginners guide to the saviour
of virtual reality
Name Palmer Freeman Luckey couple of semesters studying journalism
Age 23 at CalTech, he was home-schooled
Appearance Over-enthusiastic but by his mum in Long Beach, California.
sartorially relaxed video-store assistant. His dad was a car salesman.
Famous for Inventing the most realistic I suppose youre going to tell me he
virtual-reality system yet seen the invented the Rift in his bedroom or
Oculus Rift. And for his enduring love of something? Not quite. He spent years
flip-flops. working on it as a teenager in his parents
Virtual reality? Never going to happen, is garage, before moving his operations
it? Try telling that to Facebooks Mark to a room in a local motel.
Zuckerberg. In 2014, he paid $2bn for Amazing story. Whod play him in the
Luckeys company Oculus VR. film of his life? Anything could be possible
Blimey, so hes worth a few bob, then? in the world of virtual reality, so perhaps
Forbes magazine reckons Luckeys stake a Brat-Pack-era Charlie Sheen if he
in the company would have given him took a little less care of his hair.
a personal fortune somewhere in Most likely to say, Weve revitalised
the region of $500m. Not bad for one an entire segment of dreams. Thats
so young. super-cool.
PHOTO: ALAMY

One of Zuckerbergs well-connected Least likely to say, Do you have these


Harvard pals, is he? Not at all. Aside from a brogues in a size 10?

27
PAST / PALMER LUCKEY

complete escapism offered by his favourite movies and


favourite books.
Although proud of the multi-screen gaming system he
developed (a beautiful six-monitor set-up), Luckey
knew that a headset would be the only way to get that
complete immersion. He trawled online auctions for VR
OCULUS RIFT:
hardware that had long since passed its sell-by date,
whether developed by the government, military or
THE NAME GAME
gaming companies whod long since abandoned their Just where did that unique moniker
VR dreams. Luckey scored some bargains, too; perhaps
his car-salesman father had passed on something in the come from?
genes. In one auction, Luckey Jr managed to bag a
$97,000 headset for less than $100. Conventional business wisdom dictates that any entrepreneur
For the next couple of years he refined his own launching his or her new product on a possibly sceptical marketplace
headset but it would be the sixth prototype that began first needs to come up with a name for their creation thats short,
to make waves. Luckey had been aided in its sharp and, most crucially, highly memorable. Picking a name thats
development by the goodwill of the online community, not only drawn from Latin but that sounds like an enemy spacecraft
those similarly curious about the potential of VR. John from Star Wars or a James Bond villain doesnt necessarily fit the bill.
Carmack was one of those forum members but he was But Palmer Luckey isnt fussed about fitting the bill. He doesnt really
no ordinary forum member. He was gaming royalty, the do conventional.
lead programmer on such celebrated games as Doom Why the name Oculus? he mused in an online posting in the early
and Quake. Luckey sent Carmack one of his prototypes. days of the companys evolution. Because its the Latin word for eye.
Two months later, Carmack demoed it at the Electronic Someone used the word in a meeting several months ago. I thought it
Entertainment Expo (aka E3) in Los Angeles, where he was a nifty word and was better than the alternative
declared it to be probably the best VR demo the world StepN2theGAME. As for Rift, Luckey later revealed that the word
has ever seen. Luckey was still only 19. referenced a rift between the real world and the virtual world that
the headset created, before adding a 21st-century caveat: I have to
KICKSTARTED INTO ACTION admit that it is pretty silly.
The word was out. Luckey had initially intended to
offer the Rift as a not-for-profit DIY kit on Kickstarter,
but now interested parties were taking notice. One
gaming entrepreneur, Brendan Iribe, offered to finance months later by technology investors Andreessen
a Kickstarter campaign. A no-strings-attached cheque Horowitz. Again, the mix of Luckeys charm and tech
for $5,000 allowed Luckey to move his operations from savvyness were a strong attraction. When we first met
his parents garage to a nearby motel where he and a Palmer, explained Chris Dixon, a partner at the new
friend turned a room into both living quarters and investors, we saw that he not only believed in the VR
laboratory, plugs jammed into every socket. dream, but also understood how to put together all the
Initially, Luckey and Iribe had set a $500,000 key underlying technologies to make it a reality.
Kickstarter target, but the teenager developed cold feet But then, in early 2014, along came Mark Elliot
and sliced the target in half. He neednt have worried. Zuckerberg. Initially, Zuckerberg was concerned that
The campaign streaked past the quarter-of-a-million Oculus saw their creations primary, if not sole, use
mark within a couple of hours. That particular day, being to improve the leisure
Luckey was demo-ing his creation at the QuakeCon experience of gamers.
gaming expo in Dallas. What he saw on the ground
confirmed his wildest dreams. We had a line that was
The Nonetheless and fired by
the belief that immersive
over two hours long the whole weekend, he later told
Forbes magazine. Thats when I realised, Oh man, this Kickstarter 3D headsets could revolutionise
business, education, medicine
is gonna be huge. Ordinary people are interested in
virtual reality, not just us crazy sci-fi nerds.
And venture capitalists were proving to be interested,
campaign and beyond he got his hands
on a Rift headset to try it
for himself.
too, with the phenomenal success of the Kickstarter
campaign it raised $2.4 million in a month difficult
reached its That Zuckerberg was
sufficiently impressed with
to ignore. As an experienced gaming entrepreneur (he
was all of 32 years of age, after all), Iribe became Oculus
$250,000 what he experienced was borne
out by the $2-billion deal he
VRs CEO, while Luckey took the less formal title of
founder. It was a role that suited him well. For a man
target thrashed out with Iribe.
Although Facebook had
once described as engagingly goofy, he would be the
figurehead, the charming spokesman in the Atari within a recently stumped up
$19-billion for WhatsApp, the
T-shirt and flip-flops. Hed provide the enthusiasm, the
inspiration and the indefatigable optimism of youth. couple of amount being paid for Oculus
VR a company still without a
Two further rounds of investment followed: a $16m product on the market was
deal in June 2013, followed by a $75m injection six hours extraordinary. But Zuckerbergs

28
Oculus Rifts charismatic founder
Palmer Luckey has become the
darling of the worlds press

enthusiasm was the fuel for the deal. With the ink of a $120,000 model is a rare example of him splashing
barely dry on the paperwork, he announced the his post-Facebook cash.)
takeover. That a planet-wide race to lead the field of VR is in
progress is down to the resolve and resilience of this
GRADUAL ATTRACTION young man from Long Beach. Palmer Luckey might
With the commitment and the cash of the most now be dropping the odd corporate phrase like
technologically influential individual on the planet, the sustain the growth, and he might have an inordinate
fundamental question surrounding VRs application to amount of money in the bank, but he essentially
everyday life has changed. Its not longer a case of if but remains the mop-haired geek in the garage.
when. VR is now high on the agendas of Sony, Microsoft With his on-going adherence to slacker attire, the
and Google. In fact, when, a few months after the cash registers of Gucci and Armani remain unopened
Facebook deal was signed, Google rushed out its budget- by his dollars. Similarly, he eschews fancy restaurants
end VR project Google Cardboard where a smartphone to indulge his lifelong love of fast food. For a
is inserted into a cardboard headset its critics offered considerable time after those various multi-million
up an alternative name: Oculus Thrift. dollar deals, he chose to share a house with half-a-
To what extent the Rift will set the gaming world dozen pals called The Commune.
alight on its launch remains to be seen. Itll ramp up With his time split between the Oculus and
slowly, Zuckerberg cautioned Vanity Fair. The first Facebook offices these days, Luckey has less time to
smartphones I dont know if they sold a million units tinker with the hardware, to iron out the technical
in the first year. But it kind of doubles and triples each niggles. Not that he believes his baby has been taken
year, and you end up with something that tens of out of his hands; its more that someone else is now
millions of people have. doing the dirty work of changing the diapers.
Zuckerberg is playing the long game. Similarly, in At only 23 years of age, Luckey remains grounded.
terms of the technological possibilities, Luckey feels His boyish face might have graced the covers of some
that he and the Rift are still in the foothills of VR. of the worlds leading magazines, but his humility is
This is the Model T, he explained to Smithsonian tangible and hes reluctant to be forever seen as Mr
magazine. We eventually want to be where the Tesla Oculus. Im telling you, he insisted to the Telegraph,
PHOTO: GETTY X2

is. What we have now is something thats affordable, in a few years I wont be the face of the company like
thats good enough for people, and that will be able to Steve Jobs was with Apple. Ill go back to obscurity.
sustain the growth thats needed to get to the Tesla. This isnt about me. Its about something much, much
(Hes a particular fan of Tesla cars. His purchase bigger. Bigger perhaps than any of us.

29
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31
VR: THE
PRESENT
Its time for you to choose the VR unit
that best suits your needs and budget,
plus how VRs used in the wider world

D I S C OV E R

PAGE 34
VIRTUAL-REALITY BUYERS GUIDE
VR UNITS, CAMERAS, APPS AND ACCESSORIES
PAGE 58
LONDONS MOST CUTTING EDGE COMPANY?
BEHIND THE SCENES WITH TECH COMPANY INITION
PAGE 64
VIRTUAL SUCCESS
HOW SPORT IS EMBRACING VIRTUAL REALITY
PAGE 70
VR THEME PARKS
NEW RIDES FOR THORPE PARK AND ALTON TOWERS
PAGE 72
CONFRONTING AND BEATING TRAUMA
VIRTUAL THERAPY AND ITS TREATMENT OF PTSD
PAGE 76
REVOLUTIONISING INDUSTRY
PROFESSIONAL APPLICATIONS OF VR
PAGE 83
KATE RUSSELL Q&A
CLICK REPORTER ANSWERS COMMON VR QUESTIONS

32
VR HEADSETS AT A GLANCE
PRICE WEB ADDRESS IOS ANDROID PC FIELD OF VIEW PAGE

GOOGLE CARDBOARD FROM O O 


WWW.GOOGLE.COM/CARDBOARD 90 35
00.00

FREEFLYVR 55.00 WWW.FREEFLYVR.COM O O  120 35

MERGE VR 71.00 WWW.MERGEVR.COM O O  85 36

SAMSUNG GEAR VR 71.00 WWW.OCULUS.COM/GEAR-VR  O  96 36-37

HOMIDO 48.00 WWW.HOMIDO.COM O O  100 37

VISUS 107.00 WWW.VISUSVR.COM   O 110 41

IMPRESSION PI TBA WWW.IMPRESSIONPI.COM O O  90 41

CMOAR 93.00- O O O
WWW.CMOAR.COM 105 42
104.00

SULON CORTEX TBA WWW.SULON.COM   O 100 42-43

RAZER OSVR 215.00 WWW.OSVR.ORG   O 100 43

OCULUS RIFT 432.00 WWW.OCULUS.COM   O 100 45

PLAYSTATION VR 350.00 WWW.PLAYSTATION.COM    100 45

STAR VR TBA WWW.STARVR.COM   O 210 46

HTC VIVE 689.00 WWW.HTCVIVE.COM   O 110 46-47

AVEGANT GLYPH 504.00 WWW.AVEGANT.COM O O O 45 47



33
PRESENT / BUYERS GUIDE: AFFORDABLE VR UNITS

0-89.99

AFFORDABLE
VR UNITS
You can sample the delights of virtual
reality for under 90.00
WORDS: DAVID BODDINGTON

Virtual reality is no longer headset. At this price point,


the preserve of developers you can also expect a
and the super rich. Now comfortable, adjustable
anyone can give VR a go, headset thats appreciated
just by downloading a free if youre planning on
app onto your smartphone spending significant
and getting your hands on a chunks of time in VR.
cheap (or even free) VR unit. For all VR units its vital
These entry-level headsets to consider the field of view
broadly consist of a case they offer. The eye can
that houses your phone and perceive around 200
a couple of lenses, which horizontally, and in order
bend the light emanating for VR to truly work a
from the phone screen, headset needs to support at
giving the illusion of a least 60. Generally, though,
wrap-around virtual world. the greater the field of
Most modern smartphones view possible, the deeper
also contain their own the immersion.
accelerometers and motion- Make sure you also use
tracking sensors, which headphones instead of
allow basic VR apps to your phones speaker,
roughly track the position as this will also make
of your head relative to the a huge difference to
virtual landscape, so make how real the world
sure yours is up to the task feels. Right, onto the
before investing in a entry-level units

JA R G O N B U ST E R

Interpupillary distance (IPD)


The distance between the centre of the pupils of your
eyes, or the centre of lenses in a headset.

Field of view
The breadth of the world thats visible at any given time.

360 video
Real world video shot using special cameras, allowing you
to change your playback viewpoint in real time.

34
It doesnt possess VR longevity
but Google Cardboard is a
great starting point

FROM 0.00

GOOGLE
CARDBOARD
WWW.GOOGLE.COM/CARDBOARD

Google Cardboard is available online.


the gateway drug to These units allow
the hedonistic world you to slot in your
of virtual reality. smartphone, hold it
Made, quite literally, up to your face, and
of cardboard, the experience basic VR
digital giants entry- and 360 video via a
level VR unit design multitude of free and can control your
is open source, so you paid-for apps. Two phone as a switch.
can either download fixed lenses bend the Its great fun for 10
PHOTO: OTHREE /WIKIPEDIA

the blueprints and light from the two minutes and making
LENSES BEND THE LIGHT
make your own (see halves of the phone your grandma a little FROM THE TWO HALVES OF
page 38 for more screen to create the bit seasick, but
details), or you can 90 field of view definitely not a THE PHONE TO CREATE THE
buy one of the many effect, and a magnet lasting virtual-reality
unofficial viewers on the side of the unit solution. 90 FIELD OF VIEW

55.00 The Freefly VR has an


impressive field of view,
coming in at 120

FREEFLY VR
WWW.FREEFLYVR.COM

Freefly VR is a step phone slipping out


up from Cardboard. and will house
First and foremost, phones between
the addition of 135mm and 165mm
adjustable head- in length. The Freefly
straps means you can is compatible with
enjoy a hands-free Cardboard apps and,
experience and, as such, simply
combined with faux- looking around can
leather face padding control most games.
(though some users The unit is also
say this becomes bundled with the
uncomfortably hot), wireless Glide digital worlds to
itll allow you to controller, which your mates, and the
enjoy longer gaming allows you to control lenses provide an
sessions in comfort. It deeper gaming impressive 120 field
THE ADDITION OF
also has a safe, experiences. It comes of vision, which ADJUSTABLE HEAD-STRAPS
enclosed smartphone with a hard carry compares favourably
compartment so case, so you can with the more- MEANS YOU CAN ENJOY A
you dont need to easily show off your expensive Samsung
worry about your newly discovered Gear VR at 96. HANDS-FREE EXPERIENCE

35
PRESENT / BUYERS GUIDE: AFFORDABLE VR UNITS

71.00

SAMSUNG
GEAR VR
WWW.OCULUS.COM/GEAR-VR

The Gear VR is only compatible with recent


Samsung Galaxy devices but, as such, it has a
more engineered feel than other models here.
It has on-board hardware in the shape of
accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity-
based sensors, which automatically link with
your Galaxy smartphone via the micro USB
Ventilation holes and dock built into the housing. This takes the
extra space between performance strain off your phone, allowing
the nose bridge and
lenses make the Gear VR to run games and apps with lower
Merge suitable for latency and higher performance, resulting in
glasses wearers
a more immersive experience. It also has a
touch pad and back button on the side of the
unit for simple navigation, along with volume
controls and a focus adjuster, and it displays
a 96 field of view.

KEY TECHNOLOGY AT UNDER 90


71.00

How to maximise the


MERGE VR minimal features
WWW.MERGEVR.COM
Sound Audio experience is as important as the visual
when enjoying smartphone-powered VR. VR is about
The Merge VR is all about fun, certain apps and games. The IPD is tricking your brain into thinking you are really there.
comfort and durability. Constructed adjustable, as are the head straps, That means aligning as many of the five senses as
from soft, flexible foam, the main and it has ventilation holes to possible with the artificial world. Good-quality stereo
body of the unit is designed to prevent the distraction of screen headphones that block out other sounds and submerge
withstand a life on the road in your fogging. The design even has a little you in a 360 auditory space are a must.
backpack, stuffed in alongside all extra space between the nose bridge
manner of other gadgets and guff. and the lenses, so you should be Light Make sure you spend time adjusting the straps
Unlike its competitors in this price able to wear glasses underneath if and set-up of your unit so it fits snuggly to your face,
bracket, it boasts two input buttons required. It displays an adequate and that no light is leaking in around the nose. As with
housed on top of the device, which field of view of 85, and should Google Cardboard this may not be possible, so instead
interface with your smartphone to work with most iOS and Android try using the unit only in the evening at home where
provide additional control input on devices of less than two years old. light levels will be lower.

Head movement At the lower end of the headset


market, you wont have much processing power to
work with, so make sure you keep your head
THE MERGE DISPLAYS AN ADEQUATE FIELD movements slow and smooth. Not only will this take
OF VIEW OF 85, AND SHOULD WORK WITH the strain off your phone processor and make for less
jarring visuals, but itll also help reduce the risk of
MOST IOS AND ANDROID DEVICES OF LESS cybersickness. Avoid leaning from side to side, too, as
most units will not be able to accurately reproduce this
THAN TWO YEARS OLD motion, leading to that queasy feeling in your stomach.

36
Padded foam face
surround ensures
Right temple touch Focus dial to adjust the high degree of
panel to aid virtual image for short-sighted comfort for longer
menu navigation users, as some might gaming sessions.
without having to not be able to wear
remove the headset. glasses in the Gear VR.

The micro USB dock is housed here, allowing the Samsung


Galaxy smartphone to connect with the on-board hardware.

48.00 The Homido comes with lens


cones, so it should appeal to
short- and long-sighted users

HOMIDO
WWW.HOMIDO.COM

The Homido is help to produce a


another great entry- more immersive
level virtual-reality experience. Phones
headset. The basic are securely clipped
model comes with to the front of the
the essential device, and it can
adjustable head- accommodate screen
straps, but this time sizes between 89 x
with a dial, which 49mm and 126 x
ensures you can 71mm. Theres
achieve the perfect potentially good
fit. You can alter the news if you wear
distance between the glasses, too, because
lenses and your eyes, it comes bundled
and change the with lens cones
interpupillary adapted for short- and
YOU CAN ALTER THE DISTANCE BETWEEN THE
distance (IPD), both long-sighted users. LENSES AND YOUR EYES, AND CHANGE THE
of which can help The field of view
reduce the risk of afforded by the set-up INTERPUPILLARY DISTANCE, BOTH OF WHICH
experiencing also comes in at a
cybersickness and solid 100. REDUCE THE RISK OF CYBERSICKNESS

37
PRESENT / GOOGLE CARDBOARD

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HOW TO MAKE...

GOOGLE
PHOTOS: STEVE SAYERS/THESECRETSTUDIO.NET

38
CARDBOARD
5

Units
come ready-
made for 10 or
you can buy
DIY kits for
about 3

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#PFTQKFRJQPGQTK2JQPGKPVQC
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WPKVUJCRGHTQOECTFDQCTFVJQWIJ
[QWoNNUVKNNJCXGVQRWTEJCUGNGPUGU

1 Like any good DIY project, make sure you have the
contents to complete the job. Google Cardboard
essentials include the cardboard template, two
lenses and a magnet. However, many units also
come with Velcro pads, a head-strap and
push-button input.
2 Place the two supplied lenses in the large circular
3 holes it doesnt matter which way round they go
and then fold around the front and back to keep
them in place. Use a bit of tape or glue if needed.
3 Fold the main piece into shape with the circle
facing inwards. If your Cardboard features a magnet
4 as a push button, it keeps the button in place.
THANKS TO BRIZTECH.CO.UK

4 Now fold the compartment around the section


containing lenses. This acts to block out light when
using the Google Cardboard.
5 Finally, place your phone into the unit so that the
camera can be seen through the cutout. It might look
like it wont fit because of the divider but you should
have just enough room. Now all thats left is to enter
your virtual world.

39
PRESENT / BUYERS GUIDE: MID-PRICE VR UNITS

93.00-299.00

MID-PRICE
VR UNITS
6KRRKPIQXGTKPVQVJTGGIWTGUETCPMUWRYJCV
[QWGZRGEVHTQO84sCPFYJCVoUFGNKXGTGFe
WORDS: DAVID BODDINGTON

If youre willing to spend a little more, processing on board, whereas others


JA R G O N B U ST E R
then the world of VR opens up a whole rely on PCs or hardware to do the
new world of possibilities. In this price heavy lifting.
bracket youll find cutting-edge If youre looking to invest, however, Screen Door Effect When zoomed in on a
features, with augmented as well as units like these are more of a gamble, screen image, the lines between
virtual reality making real headway. as software platforms are varied and individual pixels become visible.
This is where consumers and future support is by no means
homebrew enthusiasts alike are able to guaranteed. Its especially important Latency The time between an action
take advantage of unexplored corners to beware of high latency and low taking place and it being observed, or
of the virtual future. field of view, as these can ruin an data being output by a computer and
You wont necessarily need a high- otherwise promising VR experience. seen in the headset.
spec smartphone for these units, as But choose wisely and you could get
some are already equipped with their your hands on a top-tier VR for a OLED screen A thin-film transistor
own screens, or can have screens fraction of the price, and enjoy being backplane, which switches individual
bolted on for an additional fee. part of the leading group of early pixels on or off, and allows for higher
Likewise, some units will do all their adopters of this new technology. resolutions and deeper blacks.

40
1 07. 0 0

VISUS
WWW.VISUSVR.COM

The Visus brings PC It has its own built-in


gaming into the hardware, which
virtual-reality space sends the motion data
at an amazingly low back to the host PC
price point. Instead for head tracking, but
of having its own you can still use
Visus VR unit features a
costly display, it other controllers for latency of around 27m/s and
takes advantage of aiming and direction a field of view measuring 110
your smartphone as input. Youll also
a high resolution need to take the fiscal
screen, and uses hit on the Tridef 3D the headset, giving
Nvidias GameStream conversion software, the perception of 3D.
technology to send which effectively This is far from a
games wirelessly sets up two cameras
THE VISUS BRINGS PC simple plug-and-play
from your base PC. It in whichever game GAMING INTO THE VIRTUAL- virtual-reality
also features a you want to play, experience but,
latency of around and automatically REALITY SPACE AT AN nonetheless, very
27m/s and a field of creates left and right interesting for such a
view of around 110. eye viewpoints for AMAZINGLY LOW PRICE small outlay.

TBA

IMPRESSION PI
WWW.IMPRESSIONPI.COM

The Impression Pi real world and


has two front-facing deliver a hologram-
cameras, which allow augmented version
for real-world hand back to the user on
gesture tracking. the display screen.
This means you can These cameras are
control software also able to track your
simply by moving position within a Two front-facing
your hands around room, and adapt cameras offer the
dual benefits of
in front of you. A virtual environments augmented reality
representation of to fit your real-world and hand tracking
your hands is then space. It promises to
projected into the be available either final retail pricing is
virtual environment with or without a yet to be confirmed,
that youre viewing. built-in screen, so if though it should be
The Impression Pi you want to keep under the 300 mark.
ONCE THE PRODUCTION
has also been costs down you can Once the production MODEL HITS THE MARKET, ITS
developed with still use your model hits the market
augmented reality in smartphone. later this year, its EXPECTED TO HAVE A FIELD
mind, again using the Kickstarter bundles expected to have a
cameras to view the began at $250 but field of view of 90. OF VIEW OF 90

41
PRESENT / BUYERS GUIDE: TOP-END VR UNITS

On-board hardware assists with


head tracking, which has the positive
effect of reducing latency TBA

SULON
CORTEX
WWW.SULON.COM

Merging virtual and augmented reality into


one product is an attractive proposition,
and although other headsets are attempting
this to varying degrees, the Sulon Cortex is
going after it in a big way. The Cortex is a
fully untethered AVR unit that promises to
transform any physical space into a Star
Trek holodeck-like environment. It uses
spatial scanning technology and two front-
facing cameras to create a 360 map of the
space around you, which it constantly
updates. This will lead to interesting AR
gaming opportunities, though it has an
HDMI input, too, which will allow you to
hook up to a PC for a more traditional sit-
down VR experience.

KEY TECHNOLOGY AT 90-299


93.00-188.00

Essentials of low-latency
CMOAR augmented reality
WWW.CMOAR.COM
High-quality, accurate, low-latency augmented reality,
like featured in the Sulon Cortex, is no mean feat. Being
The Cmoar features on-board remove the headset. The top-tier tethered by wires or restricted to a space containing
hardware to assist with head $269 Cmoar package also comes motion trackers doesnt limit the VR experience, but
tracking and, in turn, reduce with double hand-motion integrating true high-end AR means you need to be
latency and increase the controllers for gaming and completely wireless, offering greater freedom.
performance potential of your navigation, and a home theatre The headset also needs to have a high processing
smartphone. It can connect to your module, which you can swap in to capacity in order to quickly map and track your
phone via micro USB or Bluetooth, give a narrower field of view, as environment, and then render holograms over
and the 48mm lenses offer a field of well as reducing the screen door real-world object contours. Of course, its vital that this
view up to 105. The smartphone effect for watching movies. For happens with extremely low latency otherwise the
housing has a gap for your phones another $99 you can add a 1920 x illusion will swiftly shatter.
camera, and theres a button on the 1080 HD screen, which you can Along with robust head rotation and motion-
side of the headset that can activate connect to your PC via HDMI, tracking hardware, at least two cameras need to be
it, switching you from VR into a bringing with it the potential for mounted on the front of the headset to ensure
real-world view without needing to low-latency, high-quality gaming. accurate spatial perception and to aid with gesture
control. And its worth it as the ability to transform
your real-world hands into the virtual environment
dispenses the need for handheld controllers.
For this kind of technology to make a lasting impact
THE TOP-TIER CMOAR PACKAGE COMES in the entertainment space, however, headsets will
WITH DOUBLE HAND-MOTION CONTROLLERS need to be lighter not an easy task when all the
processing, screens, cameras, batteries and assorted
FOR GAMING AND NAVIGATION other tech needs to be housed on board.

42
A bamboo, microfibre foam-layer
face surround and adjustable
head-straps provide stability
and comfort.

Infrared LEDs in the


faceplate, together with
the bundled IR camera,
tracks positional
information at 100hz
through 360.

High-performance lenses deliver


Main enclosure contains a gyroscope, a 100 field of view, but 150 wide
accelerometer and compass to ensure accurate angle lenses are planned as the
head tracking, along with USB connectors. unit evolves.

215.00

RAZER OSVR
WWW.OSVR.ORG

OSVR stands for Open you dont need a


Source Virtual smartphone. It also
Reality, highlighting has infrared sensors
that this range is all built into the
about homebrew faceplate, which
development. The provides positional
idea behind the information with 360
initiative is to open tracking, along with
the doors of VR to an integrated
everyone, and allow accelerometer,
the wider industry to gyroscope and
share successes and compass, and three
failures. OSVR offers USB connectors that OSVR stands for Open Source
its own software allow other modules Virtual Reality, highlighting
that this range is all about
platform and different to be connected. You
hardware hacker can even download
homebrew development IT HAS INFRARED SENSORS
kits. The 215 Hacker all the product BUILT INTO THE FACEPLATE,
Dev kit 1.3 comes with schematics, allowing further developments
a 5.5-inch OLED the brave and of their own. The WHICH PROVIDES 360
screen with a pixel technically minded OSVR has a 100 field
density of 401ppi, so to tinker and make of view. POSITIONAL INFORMATION

43
PRESENT / BUYERS GUIDE: TOP-END VR UNITS

350.00-689.00

TOP-END
VR UNITS
Spend over 350 and youll never want to return to
planet Earth. Welcome to Oculus Rift, Sony
JA R G O N B U ST E R
WORDS: DAVID BODDINGTON

To enjoy the best that the world of VR fidelity, resolution and frame rates, not Fiducial marker An object placed in an
has to offer, youre going to have to to mention extremely low latency, to imaging systems field of view to act as
part with some serious cash, but for ensure the most immersive experience a point of reference or scale.
that outlay youll enjoy some serious possible, so its important to bear in
technology. All of the biggest players mind existing kit you own. 6 of freedom The motion that can apply
in the market are found in this price Watch out for headset bundles, too, to a body in 3D space: forward/back, up/
bracket, including the brand thats as only some will contain the extra down, left/right, pitch, yaw and roll.
received huge media focus, the Oculus peripherals you need to get the most
Rift. (For more on Oculus founder, out of the tech, such as external Refresh rate The number of individual
Palmer Luckey, turn to page 26.) position trackers and dual hand images or frames displayed each second,
Almost all the top-tier units hitting controllers. Before f lexing your measured in hertz (Hz).
the shelves this year will require a PayPal account, its also important to
high-end PC or a current generation check on the latest game compatibility Fresnal lenses Flat lenses made up of
console to work, and thats with good to make sure that your headset of multiple concentric rings, which help to
reason. They need significant choice will seamlessly work with reduce image imperfections from
processing power to deliver the high- your favourite titles. spherical aberration.

44
The Oculus Rift allows for a
field of view over 100 and
a refresh rate of 90Hz

432.00

OCULUS RIFT
WWW.OCULUS.COM

When you think of headset itself is


virtual reality, one beautifully designed
name virtually and comfortable to
pirouettes before wear. It contains two
your eyes like a 1080 x 1200 OLED
tornado. Oculus panels that, together
Rifts founder, Palmer with the lenses, allow cybersickness and
Luckey, built the first for a field of view increases immersion.
prototype in his over 100 and a The headset also has
parents garage in refresh rate of 90Hz. built-in headphones,
2011, and since then The Constellation and it ships with an
it has come a very tracking system uses Xbox One controller
long way. Facebook infrared LEDs and an Oculus
bought Oculus in mounted on the remote. In order to
THE CONSTELLATION
2014 for $2 billion, headset to track run the Rift, youll TRACKING SYSTEM DELIVERS
and now the first position, delivering need a beast of a PC,
retail units are the full 6 of freedom, with at least i5-4590 6 OF FREEDOM, WHICH
finally hitting the which reduces the CPU and GTX 970
high street. The potential for GPU, or equivalent. INCREASES IMMERSION

350.00 The PlayStation VR links


with the PlayStation 4
and will convey a 100

PLAYSTATION VR
field of view

WWW.PLAYSTATION.COM

Originally beautifully smooth


codenamed Project refresh rate of 120Hz.
Morpheus, the Positional light
PlayStation VR unit emitting diodes on
works in conjunction the headset and Dual
with the PlayStation Shock 4 controller
4 console. The will provide the
headset will contain PlayStation Camera
a full-HD LCD 1920 x with spatial tracking
1080 display. data, so your exact
Together with the movements can be
lenses, the reflected in-game.
Playstation VR will The PlayStation PS4 expected at launch in
convey a 100 field will also output a 2D October include a
of view, and it houses image of gameplay new version of
a stereo headphone onto your television Battlezone (the
GAMES EXPECTED AT
jack that will deliver screen, so that you original regarded as LAUNCH INCLUDE A NEW
a specially designed can still have a the first virtual-
360 audio shared gaming reality arcade game) VERSION OF BATTLEZONE
experience. It can experience with and gangster title
also produce a friends. Games The London Heist. AND THE LONDON HEIST

45
PRESENT / BUYERS GUIDE: TOP-END VR UNITS

689.00

HTC VIVE
WWW.HTCVIVE.COM

Powered by the almighty Valves Steam VR,


the HTC Vive is perhaps the most exciting
headset currently available. At 689, though,
its a hefty outlay (not to mention the Goliath
of a PC youll need to make the most of it), but
out of the box you get the headset, two
wireless controllers with haptic feedback
and room-scale motion tracking. The headset
itself is comfortable and highly adjustable,
contains 32 sensors for 360 motion tracking
and has a front-facing camera to allow for
AR integration. It displays at 2160 x 1200,
Starbreezers StarVR has a refresh rate of 90Hz and achieves a
boasts an impressive field of view of 110. Steam VR also promises
210 field of view
to deliver the best in class gaming content,
and HTC has partnerships in place with
HBO, Lionsgate and Google with the
potential to bring yet more amazing
content to the platform.

KEY TECHNOLOGY AT 350-PLUS


TBA

Higher resolution means


STARVR greater immersion
WWW.STARVR.COM
The screen resolution and supported refresh rate of
headsets available at this price point can make a huge
Boasting the largest field of view experience. Although final release difference to your virtual experience. Aside from
currently available is the StarVR. specs are yet to be announced, it simply making everything in the virtual world
The headset manages an currently uses a fiducial marker smoother and appear more substantial, higher refresh
impressive 210 by housing two system, with barcodes on the rates tend to put a lot less strain on the users eyes,
separate 5.5-inch quad HD panels, headset and peripherals for highly while also reducing the likelihood of suffering from
with one angled for each eye, accurate positional tracking. cybersickness. The PlayStation VRs potential display
giving a total panoramic definition Owned by game developer panel refresh rate of 120Hz blows the competition out
of 5120 x 1440 pixels and a 90Hz Starbreeze (of Payday fame), the of the water in this regard, although it remains to be
refresh rate. Together with high- StarVR will run games built not seen how many games will be able to take full
quality Fresnal lenses, this only on third-party platforms, but advantage of this.
minimises the screen door effect, also those developed with their The resolution afforded by the headsets screens
creating an incredibly immersive own Valhalla game engine. will also make a big difference to the experience. Once
the light emitted by the display panels has been bent
and magnified by the lenses, the screen door effect can
become both noticeable and genuinely distracting, so
a higher resolution will inevitably have a positive
IT CURRENTLY USES A FIDUCIAL MARKER impact on overall immersion. The StarVRs total 5120 x
SYSTEM WITH BARCODES ON THE 1440 pixels across both eyes promises to bring this
effect down to near zero, and combined with the 210
HEADSET AND PERIPHERALS FOR HIGHLY horizontal by 130 vertical field of view, it could well
emerge as a new standard that other manufacturers
ACCURATE POSITIONAL TRACKING will quickly have to match.

46
Lighthouse base stations track the headsets The headset has interchangeable foam inserts
32 sensors to deliver high-fidelity 360 and nose pads, allowing for customised
motion and spatial tracking. comfort, even if you wear glasses.

The controllers have precision trackpads and Front-facing camera allows for augmented-
dual-stage triggers with haptic feedback, along reality functionality to be introduced into
with 24 sensors for motion tracking. specific games and apps.

504.00

AVEGANT GLYPH
WWW.AVEGANT.COM

Considerably sharp and entirely


different to other free from pixellation.
headsets in this price It plugs into any
bracket, the Avegant HDMI-compatible
Glyph has eschewed device, will display
the technology of both 2D and 3D
mere OLED or LCD content, and has The Avegant Glyph is a
screens, in favour of built-in high-quality chameleon, seamlessly
projecting the image headphones with morphing from VR unit
to headphones
directly onto your active and passive
retinas. It contains noise cancelling.
around 2-million These can be used on
micromirrors, which their own to play films and TV than
deliver a resolution music, simply by hardcore VR gaming,
of 1280 x 720 per eye, rotating the headset its nonetheless a
a refresh rate of so the eye band sits fascinating piece of
THE GLYPH PROJECTS THE
120Hz, but a field of atop your head. Its technology and one IMAGE DIRECTLY ONTO YOUR
view of just 45. also the most that other headsets
While this sounds streamlined unit will doubtless try to RETINAS RATHER THAN VIA
very low, the image it here. Perhaps better emulate as the
creates is incredibly suited to watching marketplace matures. OLED OR LCD SCREENS

47
PRESENT / BUYERS GUIDE: ACCESSORIES

70-480.00

ACCESSORIES
The Virtuix Omni adds
the feeling of mobility
to the VR experience

These affordable extras will enhance


your virtual experience

70.00

LEAP MOTION
LEAPMOTION.COM

This portable hands-free motion controller can be fixed to


the front of a VR headset, leaving your hands free to
interact with the virtual world using grasping and pushing/
pulling gestures. The Leap Motion is designed to be
compatible with other VR accessories such as the Glove
One, but thats not all. It also plugs into the USB port on
Macs and PCs for use alongside a keyboard and mouse,
offering another world of virtual possibilities.

THE LEAP MOTION IS DESIGNED


TO BE COMPATIBLE WITH OTHER
VIRTUAL-REALITY ACCESSORIES
SUCH AS THE GLOVE ONE

480.00

VIRTUIX OMNI
VIRTUIX.COM

One of the most successful VR Kickstarter campaigns last


year, the Virtuix Omni allows virtual-reality gamers to
walk in any direction without hitting a physical wall. Its
supposed to be used with headsets like the Oculus Rift, and
gets round players reality blindness by allowing them to
control their direction and speed of movement by walking
on the spot. It works using a low-friction grooved base that
the feet slide over, and comes with a support harness to
secure players as they wander.

48
138.00 160.00

VIRZOOM GLOVE
VIRZOOM.COM

VirZoom uses frame sensors to


ONE
GLOVEONEVR.COM
turn stationary pedalling into
virtual movement. The
physical action happens Glove One is a haptic device that attempts The Glove One is able
in that red chassis where to bridge the gap between touch and virtual to track movement
and enable touch
a multitude of sensors not Frame sensors link reality. Slip the Glove One on your hand
only provide resistance, but up with VR units and, with the aid of a motion controller
like the Oculus Rift
steering, too. Elsewhere, optional and HTC Vive for a such as the Leap Motion, it can track hand
action buttons on the handlebars offer fully immersive movement and enable touch. The Glove
experience
advanced gaming controls. Will it make One allows you to feel differences in
exercise more exciting and feel less of a texture, the weight of objects and
chore? If its half as successful as the Wii resistance when interacting with objects,
Fit, then the answer is yes. such as pulling open a heavy door.

172.00 ( P R E - O R D E R ) 2 07. 0 0 ( P R E - O R D E R )

FEELREAL SIXENSE STEM


FEELREAL.COM SIXENSE.COM

FEELREAL is a multi-sensory Sixense Stem is a motion-tracking


The FEELREAL
virtual-reality mask thats designed to can change the
system that can monitor up to five
augment headsets such as the Sony climactic body parts using individual sensors.
Morpheus and Oculus Rift and increase conditions of your Two of these sensors are handheld
virtual world
VR immersion, and boy does it have some controllers, working in pairs to track
tricks. Dual micro heaters and coolers each arm independently, while the
respond to changes in the virtual others attach to your ankles and waist
environment and gently blow hot and cold for total motion capture. It works with
air, while a motor provides vibration a VR headset and replaces traditional
feedback. Amazingly, it also produces controllers to heighten the sense of
water mist to simulate spray, and even has escaping the real world.
an odour generator that takes seven The Stem monitors multiple areas of your body
unique cartridges for different scenarios. to capture every physical movement

N/A experience bird flight.


Paired with an Oculus
Rift, Birdly lets users
BIRDLY flap their wings to
travel faster in the
SOMNIACS.CO virtual world, while
the faster they go, the
At first glance this virtual-reality more wind they get
might seem like an installation designed blasted in their face by
April Fools joke, and by students at Zurich a big old fan.
you certainly wont University of the Arts
find it available on achieves what it sets Birdly has the ability to
transform you into a virtual
the high street any out to by offering VR Icarus. Just dont get too excited
time soon. But this fanatics the chance to and fly too close to the sun

49
PRESENT / BUYERS GUIDE: CAMERAS

287-4,600
T H E TA O N L I N E

360 CAMERAS
Making movies isnt the sole preserve of Hollywood:
Three examples
of what you can
expect of the
Ricoh Theta S
virtual-reality cameras are on the market from less
DRONE VIEW
VJCP*GTGCTGXGCETQUUVJGUECNDQCTFe If youve ever wondered what
360 spherical footage shot from
a flying drone looks like, check
300.00 out this stunning video at https://
youtu.be/O38NUuK8tWY.

RICOH THETA S
WWW.THETA360.COM

The Ricoh Theta stands out from the current


crop of consumer 360 cameras for being the
most affordable and easy-to-use personal VR-
capture device. Available for 300, the Theta S
can shoot immersive video in 1080p HD at 30
frames per second for up to 25 minutes at a BMX RACER
time. Variable shutter speed lets you get BMX stuntman and video
creative during active shoots, while its dual producer Jon Lynn takes the
14-megapixel, 1/2.3 CMOS lenses also take Ricoh Theta S 360 VR camera for
spherical shots with the click of a button. a spin around New York City at
Also thrown in is high-speed wi-fi support http://goo.gl/pCqTsX.
that enables you to broadcast your 360 movies
via the Ricoh livestream feature, or you can
share your immersive media on social
networks and supporting websites such
as Google Maps.
And if youre not happy with how your
movie came out, you can tweak the exposure
and white balance of your videos while
shooting thanks to the dedicated smartphone
app, from which you can also view your
recorded files. The additional free Theta+
app lets you edit your shot spherical images EVERYDAY LIFE
and its portable, too, meaning it wont end Although this concept movie is
up gathering dust at home. essentially a commercial (https://
youtu.be/lTZC3j_JbF8), it offers a
The Ricoh Theta S is highly portable and comes in an array of colours, good example of what can be
both of which will hold great appeal to the younger generation
achieved with the Ricoh Theta S.

HIGH-SPEED WI-FI
SUPPORT ENABLES YOU TO
BROADCAST 360 MOVIES VIA
THE LIVESTREAM FEATURE

50
320.00 4,600.00

V.360 GOPRO
WWW.VSNMOBIL.COM

If you want to shoot sport in


360 ARRAY
WWW.GOPRO.COM
the new 360 format then look
no further. It may look like it
belongs in your kitchen, but This 360 rig holds 16 Hero4 cameras Youll need deep
the V.360 is shock and dust and can shoot 8K footage, synchronised pockets to go total
GoPro but the videos
proof, and can even survive using the arrays high-speed connectivity. are impressive
being submerged under three The mounting system allows it to be
feet of water. Its built-in attached to a tripod or drone, but its only
sensors include a barometer, available to Google content creators
altimeter and accelerometer, at the moment. That said, a consumer
ensuring all your 1080p version is on the way although bear in
shoots keep right up with It might look like a blender but the mind that the 16 cameras will set you
the action. V.360 shoots well and is bulletproof back 4,600 alone.

2 8 7. 0 0 574.0 0

360FLY BUBLCAM
WWW.360FLY.COM WWW.BUBLCAM.COM

The 360fly is another Billed as the worlds


performer in the first spherical camera,
action-shot category. the Bublcam is capable
Its profile is about the size of shooting stills and
of a tennis ball, so it can video footage with
be attached to a helmet or absolutely no blindspots.
car. A single fisheye lens shoots The sphere can capture in
1440p video, the only limitation 1440p resolution at 30 frames per Bublcam captures
film and images in
being that it captures 240 of second, and with features for HDR and 1440p resolution at
spherical footage rather than the time-lapse photography (including tilt 30 frames per second
full 360. Still, with intelligent The 360fly is a rugged and and VR pan options), we can see a bright
portable beast, though
positioning, the orb can capture only captures 240 instead future for the innovative device among
an array of cool angles. of the full spherical 360 360 VR enthusiasts.

YOUTUBE 360 using YouTubes free


app. YouTube
currently supports
You can play around with Sir
David Attenborough and the
Giant Dinosaur on YouTube 360
The worlds largest video-sharing spherical footage shot
YGDUKVGJCUIQPGe at 24, 25, 30, 48, 50 and
60 frames per second
on Ricoh Theta, Kodak
YouTube 360 lets you videos with Google SP360 and IC Real
interact with videos by Cardboard. You can Tech Allie cameras.
looking around with upload your videos For best results,
your smartphone or through any desktop YouTube recommends
tablet as they play. For browser, as long as to upload 16:9 aspect
even more immersion, theyve been given the ratio stitched videos in
you can watch the necessary metadata 4K resolution.

51
PRESENT / BUYERS GUIDE: REAL-LIFE APPS

0-2.32
V I RT UA L H O R RO R

REAL-LIFE APPS
Project yourself from your armchair into a dramatic
11:57
Horror lends itself well to VR, and
this was one of the first apps to
make the spectator the main
character in a 360 nightmare.
The dark atmospherics are
world of heightened reality supported by bone-chilling
binaural audio.
Free; Universal
FREE

VRSE
WWW.VRSE.COM

Vrse is a
production
company THE BLACK MASS
specialising in VRSE specialise in telling
EXPERIENCE
telling stories through live- tales through VR filmmaking Jaunts eagerly anticipated
action VR filmmaking, and immersive horror short certainly
this app is the best way to likes of The New York VRSE also worked with U2 isnt for the faint of heart. Whats
experience their selection Times, the UN, Vice and on their Song for Someone, more, it comes complete with an
of high-quality 360 videos Saturday Night Live ensure so viewers could sit with interactive sound field mixed in
on your smartphone. a well-rounded exploration Bono in their living room. Dolby Atmos to really freak you out.
Collaborations with the of the mediums potential. iOS, Cardboard You have been warned.
Free; Universal, Cardboard, Oculus Rift

Jaunt offered fans the


option to sit in the front row
FREE of a Paul McCartney concert

JAUNT
VR INSIDIOUS VR
WWW.JAUNTVR.COM Elise Rainier (actress Lin Shaye)
guides you into the horrors of the
Jaunt is another production afterlife in order to navigate its
company that aims to send furthest, darkest reaches, in this
viewers into story-driven chilling VR experience based on
worlds, simply through use the hit film franchise.
of their mobile device. A virtual Free; Windows, iOS, Android,
Nepalese mountain adventure, a front Cardboard
row seat at a Paul McCartney concert
PHOTO: SELLFY.COM/FREEGOODIES

and a trip inside North Korea as the


country holds military celebrations
highlight the breadth of scenarios
JAUNT SEND YOU INTO
Jaunt is covering. They also send you FILM, LIKE THE 360 FASHION
into film, like the 360 fashion
photoshoot with Derek Zoolander (Ben PHOTOSHOOT WITH
Stiller) in Zoolander 2.
Android, iOS, Cardboard DEREK ZOOLANDER

52
FREE 2.32

STITCHERS VR GO SHOW
WWW.STITCHERS.COM WWW.GOSHOWAPP.BLOGSPOT.CO.UK

This app is based on the television drama Movies are made for the big screen, and this app
Stitchers. Youre able to investigate crimes by is a way to experience your video collection as
transporting yourself into the deceaseds the filmmakers originally intended. Simply, Go
memories. You can select the crime scene, Show allows you to view your own 2D and 3D
discover clues about the murdered protagonists last movies (including panoramic 360 videos) on a virtual
moments and, using observation and logic, catch the cinema screen. As long as the video is stored on your
criminal. You can also explore the crime scene without a device in MP4 format, the app can render it in split-screen
VR viewer if you so wish. Android, iOS for true theatrical viewing. Android, Cardboard

FREE FREE

GOOGLE CARDBOARD VOLVO REALITY


WWW.GOOGLE.COM/GET/CARDBOARD WWW.VOLVOCARS.COM/US/ABOUT/OUR-POINTS-OF-PRIDE/GOOGLE-CARDBOARD

If youve just got hold of a Google Cardboard VFX-studio Framestore partnered with R/GA
headset, then this is the app you should and the Swedish car company Volvo to create
download first. Its Explore section features this trio of experiential videos that allow you to
guided tours of cities around the world, while get behind the wheel of the XC90 SUV carrier.
the Exhibit section allows you to view museum Its the sights and sounds along the way that make the trip
collections as 3D objects. Theres even a fun stereoscopic really worthwhile, including some spectacular
take on a classic kaleidoscope. Android, iOS, Cardboard mountainous scenery. Android, Cardboard

53
PRESENT / BUYERS GUIDE: CG APPS

0-1.99

CG APPS
While transporting to a virtual real world appeals
to your pragmatic side, computer-generated apps
0.79

send you into the fantastical INCELL


WWW.INCELL.NIVALVR.COM

This multi-coloured action-cum-


racing game takes place in a
unique micro-world, which
recreates the anatomy of a human cell in
impressive detail, giving it an educational
angle, too. Players ride along capillaries
and connections as they take in inner
space. The depth and scaling of the scenes
really makes the experience worthwhile,
and it has a rousing soundtrack to boot.
iOS, Android, Cardboard, Oculus

1.49

DINOTREK
WWW.GEOMEDIA.COM/VIRTUAL-AUGMENTED-REALITY

If youve ever wondered what it


would be like to walk with
dinosaurs then heres your chance
PHOTOS: WWW.MOCKUPWORLD.CO

to find out. DinoTrek VR lets you get right


up close to the prehistoric action, in which
dinosaurs roam, fight it out amongst each
other and, every now and then, just kick
back and relax in the sun. Kids should love
this app, which doesnt even require a
headset to be enjoyed. T-Rex included.
iOS, Android, Cardboard

54
F U N PA R K R I D ES

ROLLERCOASTER
Hurtle past city skyscrapers or
zoom through a tropical island
setting in this enjoyable and
visually appealing simulator.
Free; Android, iOS, Cardboard

FREE 1.49

ORBULUS TANK TRAINING


WWW.VRCRAFTWORKS.COM/ORBULUS/ WWW.DIGITALWORLDSTUDIO.COM

Its not just video that can be VR Tank Training uses a graphical CMOAR ROLLERCOASTER
transformed with VR Orbulus mesh-blending technique Flaming lava pits, deserted
shows how still images can reminiscent of the popular mineshafts and devastated
take on a whole new dimension, too. Battlefield games to simulate the fantasy lands feature in this
The apps virtual environment allows experience of commanding a cannon on refreshing twist on classic
you to explore a variety of 360 wheels. The idea is to destroy as many rollercoaster games.
photospheres, in which you can stand on targets as you can while you manoeuvre 1.99; Android, Cardboard
Mars, ascend Glastonbury Tor, experience your tank to the next checkpoint.
New Year fireworks on Hong Kong harbour Theres also an in-game leaderboard for
and a whole lot much more besides. players to compete against each other for
iTunes, Cardboard the top spot. iOS, Cardboard

CRAZY SWING
This virtual ride is hundreds of
feet high and swings all the way
round, making it a darn sight
scarier than your average
playground swing.
Free; Android, Cardboard

0.76 FREE

WAA! HANG GLIDING


WWW.BICKHOFE.DE WWW.I-MMERSIVE.NET/EN SWIVEL GUN! LOG RIDE
The carriage on this rollercoaster
WAA! lets you adopt the role Strap on your immersive glasses is fitted with a cannon and its
of a cute little astronaut whose and explore a realistic and your job to shoot as many barrels
mission is to seek and destroy beautiful Alpine landscape from as you can as the ride progresses.
asteroids or face a certain death. The the vantage point of a hang glider. At Free; Android, Cardboard
game uses the focus control as a targeting least, thats the theory. Tilting your
device for launching homing missiles smartphone left and right steers the glider
that, in the main, works extremely well. and lets you explore the surroundings
You can also collect batteries, screws reasonably well, but the physics can be
and wrenches, which improve your aim, a little bit wonky. Still, its a free
adjust gravity and restore shields. download so we cant complain too much.
Android, iOS, Cardboard Android, i-mmersive glasses

55
NOW / BUYERS GUIDE: CG APPS

SPACE EXPLORATION

COSMIC ROLLERCOASTER
Tour the Solar System from the
comfort of your virtual carriage in
this interstellar twist on classic
rollercoaster games.
Free; Android, Cardboard

FREE UP TO 1.86

SISTERS JURASSICLAND
WWW.OTHERWORLDINTERACTIVE.COM WWW.NEOSUN.CO.KR

REFUGIO 3D SPACE STATION This first-person ghost story sends This dino-themed VR experience
Explore the vast interior of a space you into a haunted mansion on the has more in common with Jurassic
station orbiting the planet evening of an approaching storm. Park than other titles thanks to its
Refugio, complete with glass Youre all alone in a Victorian-era room safari-style narrative. Youre given the
floors, viewing windows and a apart from an array of ominous-looking opportunity to drive off-road in a jeep and
wicked sci-fi soundtrack. dolls beside the fireplace and the sinister get up close with the most famous
Free; Android, Cardboard noises echoing around the hallway. With dinosaurs, including Giganotosaurus,
numerous events triggered by your Triceratops and T-Rex. This gives kids a
interaction with objects around the house, real sense of scale to the animals, which
Sisters offers creepy set pieces and a good makes up for some mediocre graphics.
dose of suspense. Android, iOS, Android, Cardboard

DEBRIS DEFRAG
Look around a beautifully
rendered 3D space environment,
and shoot asteroids from your
path using your Cardboard
headset and a controller.
Free; Android, Cardboard

FREE FREE

A CHAIR IN A ROOM ROCKET DROP


GALAXY WWW.ACHAIRINAROOM.COM WWW.SC0TTGAMES.COM
This space-flight simulator is a
demo of a game still being Horror experiences dont get This skydiving game is a virtual-
developed, but its arcade shooter any simpler than this. You begin reality take on the original Rocket
elements are well worth a blast. in said room, a dark and dingy Drop, a first-person outing in
Free; Android, Cardboard environment, with no explanation as to which you fly around courtesy of a jetpack
where you are or how you got there. Soon with the aim of avoiding missiles being
the lights begin to flicker and falter, and constantly fired at you. Collecting fuel
the terror of your situation gradually capsules keeps your jetpack operational,
becomes painfully clear. Interaction is so be sure to make the most of the
minimal at best, but its another fine gyroscope head tracking of your Google
example of VRs potential in the horror Cardboard and keep an eye out for them.
genre. Android, Cardboard Android, Cardboard

56
FREE

WAR OF
WORDS
WWW.BDH.NET

This BAFTA-
nominated
animated
reading of
Siegfried Sassoons poem
The Kiss is a brilliant
demonstration of virtual
realitys storytelling
possibilities. To recap, The developed in partnership
Kiss was written just before with BBC Arts, War of
the Battle of the Somme Words may be on the
where more writers and
SIEGFRIED SASSOONS KISS IS short side, but it is
poets fought than any A BRILLIANT DEMONSTRATION beautiful and poignant, and
conflict in history while perfectly captures the
Sassoon was on an army- OF VIRTUAL REALITYS STORYTELLING controversial and battling
training course. Narrated spirit of the original work.
by Michael Sheen and POSSIBILITIES Android, Cardboard

FREE

CARTOON
VILLAGE
WWW.VRCODEX.COM

Cartoon Village
drops you into
a colourful
medieval
cartoon settlement where
youre free to investigate
any nook and cranny you
fancy. The extreme level of
detail gives the rural wallpaper. Additionally it
enclave a real lived-in feel, can run in Daydream mode
and you can simply change on devices with Android
the season and time of day 4.2 or higher. Cartoon
CARTOON VILLAGE DROPS YOU INTO
to see how it affects the Village has already taken A COLOURFUL MEDIEVAL CARTOON
habits of its dwellers and the mantle as cutest CG-
the surrounding natural rendered app in the world SETTLEMENT WHERE YOURE FREE
world. Its also available on of virtual reality.
Android but only as iOS, Cardboard TO INVESTIGATE

57
PRESENT / INITION

LONDONS MOST
CUTTING-EDGE
COMPANY? 1

Shoreditch-based Inition are at the forefront of


VR and AR technology. Our reporter spent a
day immersed in another world
Words: Luke Edwards

hanks to augmented they became a form of art themselves. Working


reality, virtual reality with the London Philharmonic Orchestra,

T
and smart sensors, Inition also turned the foyer of the Royal
were moving virtual Festival Hall into a virtual-reality access point
objects with our hands to view and listen to the performance in
as if they were real. Its complete surround a first for the venue.
a brave new world of 2016 is projected as the year that VR will
technology-driven finally gain a foothold, with commentators
reality, and pioneering suggesting the VR and AR markets will be
that future is British tech specialist Inition. worth around $150-billion by 2020. From what
The London-based outfit was founded in we saw and as youll discover overleaf
2001 by three computer scientists Jim Gant, Inition look set to be at the vanguard of this
Andy Millns and Stuart Culpit and has been evolution but, despite the optimism, Initions
at the frontier of exploration into the worlds of
virtual and augmented reality ever since. By
finding, developing and adopting the latest
hardware technologies, Inition has a track
INITION HAS A
record of creating new and innovative ways to
use VR, 3D printing and more. And thats why
TRACK RECORD OF
we spent a day in their capable hands CREATING NEW
MERGING OF CULTURES
Combining art, science and tech is the
WAYS TO USE VR
lifeblood of Inition, whove researched and AND 3D PRINTING
PHOTOS: FRANKIE PIKE X2, GEOFF BROWN, ANDREW CORRIGAN

developed a plethora of mind-blowing projects.


In 2012, they built a wing suit for Nissan that
let its occupants feel like they were flying Jay Short warns that manufacturers mustnt
thanks to an old-style VR headset, fan, smart blindly slip into the Emperors New Clothes.
support and immersive audio. Inition also Virtual reality is still in its infancy, and we
attracted headlines in 2014 when working with must be careful or it may never reach the
the BBC to facilitate the worlds first 3D mainstream. Bad content is damaging. Thats
broadcast, capturing Brian ODriscoll and Jack why we must create great experiences now so
Nowell in all their glory at the Six Nations. people can see just how amazing the future of
More recently, Inition was in the press again virtual and augmented reality can be.
for creating a virtual catwalk show where five Thats been Initions mission for 15 years
competition winners could watch London from their Shoreditch base, which is a utopian
Fashion Weeks main event. They were placed showcase of that tech. Now prepare to have
in VR headsets and sat in Topshops window to your eyes opened to a different world, a
experience the fashion show; at the same time, virtual one thats right here, right now

58
2 3

1 Inition worked with the London 4


Philharmonic, filming the world-
renowned orchestra with 3D cameras
2 The London-based outfit teamed
up with Topshop to give five
competition winners front-row
seats at London Fashion Week
3 Visitors to the London Philharmonic
could recap the performance in the
Royal Albert Hall foyer
4 Inition used binaural microphones
to enhance the audio experience
5 The Royal Albert Hall foyer also
featured cinematic screens to get up
close and personal with the orchestra
6 By placing them in the Topshop
window, the winners became a
piece of art in themselves

59
PRESENT / INITION

INSIDE THE
STUDIO
1 VR WING SUIT
This is the 2012 creation that shot Inition
to fame and still leaves everyone that
tries it in awe. Nissan commissioned
Inition for the project, the Japanese car
company coming up with the unusual
brief of skydivers attempting to assemble
a virtual Nissan Juke while freefalling.
And the car giant wanted it finished in
just six weeks.
In that timeframe Inition managed to
create its own magnetically tracked,
head-mounted display, which they
rapidly prototyped and 3D printed.
Initions next task involved building
from scratch an ergonomic flight 1
platform to accommodate all shapes and
sizes of people, which also reacted to
movement, before then installing a DMX-
controlled fan. Finally, the team had to
calibrate everything to work in
conjunction with the bespoke software
and the users movements. It was an
impressive achievement.
Since 2012, the wing-suit experience
has been re-skinned and upgraded
several times, so when we tried it during
our days visit, the experience was even
more immersive than four years ago. Its
truly amazing how the suit really takes
your breath away, cleverly fooling the
body into experiencing motion.

2 PHYSICAL TOUCHSCREEN
Big data and the trends it can lead to are
fascinating and integral to defining the
shape and aims of societies. Take the
example of health trends, which are an
ever-growing resource for spotting and
treating illness, be they physical or
mental. The problem comes when

INITION OPTED
relaying that information to the public. Finnish company MultiTaction, which
Pie charts, graphs, table of numbers also features infrared sensors. By

FOR A TOUCH
these are common platforms used to shining this light up through the display,
communicate information, and all are its able to detect objects based on the

INTERFACE
pretty uninspired and dull. Thats shapes of markers. In this case, glass
where Inition entered the fray, who were pucks that represent a different sport.

THAT FEATURED
tasked with making data interesting Placing these markers on the tables
and more immersive. opened up a plethora of data readout
PHOTOS: LUKE EDWARDS

AN ARRAY
The result? A giant touchscreen-cum- options relating to the sport. For
table but not a touchscreen as we know instance, twisting and moving the

OF INFRARED
it because, as Short says, Normal physical puck allowed for stacking and
touchscreens are everywhere and simply organising. After having a go, we were

SENSORS
dont excite. So Inition opted for a impressed with how intuitive it is and
collaborative touch interface from how addictive, leaving you feeling like

60
Initions London-based
studios are the technological
equivalent of Narnia

Tony Stark. If this were in schools when


we were young wed have aced our
exams without the need to revise!

3 VR HIGH WIRE
One early Inition VR project took the
experience beyond just visual and audio. 2
The team added wind and a physical
plank to create a more immersive high
wire experience. Though it sounds a
parochial set-up, if you take a step the
wrong way your brain perceives that
youre actually nearing the edge, says
Short. Coupled with a fan for wind,

61
PRESENT / INITION

weve ended up with people clinging 5 ZSPACE 3D MANIPULATION 6 STEREOSCOPIC 3D DISPLAY


on for dear life. This is what were The ZSpace display and interactive The Inition screen employs layered
learning there are so many tricks to pen allow for virtual objects to be stereoscopic 3D, meaning sense of depth
create the best VR experience. manipulated as if they were really is created even without glasses. And that
there. Using optical trackers and 3D offers the potential of opening up the
4 TRANSPARENT SCREEN glasses, the screen displays three- insular nature of VR. It also overcomes
The transparent screen is something dimensional objects that can be looked the issues of glare and VR technology
thats starting to appear outside of labs at from different angles. A stylus acts as being hard on the eyes. Stereoscopic 3D
as a means of showcasing products. a hand, gripping the virtual object so it allows anyone to use the displays to
Inition has used it for just this reason can be manipulated. The unit is around draw people in, even on the street. The
in the past. But what makes it 2,000 and is often used by universities, downside? Stereoscopic 3D screens need
particularly cool is that there are even where Inition regularly showcase their to be looked at from just the right
options for touchscreen interactions units and knowledge. position or the screen layers are revealed
with the screen. One example Inition showed to and the illusion is shattered. You may
The idea is that you can see the onlooking students was of a human have already seen this technology used
product physically say a pair of skull. The team at Inition demonstrated by advertising companies at airports,
trainers but then graphics make it how doctors and those in training could and youre very likely see more of them
come to life by overlaying images using examine and work with the skull as a in the future.
the screen in front. The next step could way of taking a closer look at a particular
be to let users move the physical object injury. From there, they could more 7 3D PRINTED MODELS
using the touchscreen, presuming said accurately prescribe a remedy. As weve shown, Inition has used 3D
objects were on a linked-up turntable. Beyond that it can also be used by scanning and 3D printing to create a
PHOTOS: LUKE EDWARDS

The possibilities are endless, and its a graphic designers, 3D modellers and huge amount of objects, like human
step towards merging the real and the moviemakers to create and manipulate skulls for medical students. They were
virtual but without the need for bulky virtual objects as if they were in the real also involved with the team at Top Gear
headsets. Still, at nearly 8,000 each and world. This is a first step towards what Live, the project involving prototyping a
an easily breakable glass front, shops augmented reality could offer us in the physical object to show off the speed of
arent snapping these up too quickly. not too distant future. the technology used. Another job Inition

62
BELOW: The 3D pen is like a haptic wand, providing
force feedback so that it feels like youre really
touching a physical object in virtual space

ABOVE: An augmented reality iPad is just the start.


The future will see objects overlaid on the real
world but without the need for a tablet

carried out, this time for Crossrail in doesnt simply charge for making its virtual representation of a building
London, saw them create a version of own, the response was: Were not just project that could be moved around
the tunnels so that the engineers could about money its the passion for using the tablet, like it was really there.
actually see at scale what was going to technology and finding new ways of Thanks to extremely high resolution
be created. This helped to save money using that tech which drives us. and impressive detail, you can move the
by planning for problems ahead of tablet closer to effectively zoom in for a
time. When you consider how affordable 8 3D PEN CONTROL close-up of the build.
3D printing can be, these savings are This is essentially a more physical Virtual reality is great but it has its
even greater. version of the Zspace with the haptic limitations. For instance, it can be a very
Inition has even 3D printed moulds pen suspended by an arm that responds solitary experience, says Short. Thats
that allow museums to create multiple to movement. With your haptic wand, where augmented reality works well. It
miniature versions of exhibits to be sold youre given force feedback so it feels empowers the user so, rather than a
affordably. When asked why Inition as though youre really touching the PowerPoint presentation, individuals
object in the virtual space. can take the information in as they

INITION WERE
Inition has discovered that its please, which actually helps them
proved very popular for the medical absorb it far easier.

INVOLVED WITH
professional to manipulate virtual The future will see these types of
body parts. A combination of haptic virtual object overlaid on the real world

TOP GEAR LIVE


feedback and augmented reality could but without the need for a tablet. At tech
see the future welcome a blend of conferences around the world, much talk

TO SHOW OFF
virtual objects in the real world that has focused on AR headsets for all-day
actually feels like they are there use and even advanced contact-lens

THE SPEED OF
being manipulated. screens. Inition are understandably
excited about this technology but throw
9 AUGMENTED REALITY IPAD
CUTTING-EDGE
in the caveat that we shouldnt expect to
Using an iPad, Inition created an see it anytime soon. The closest we have

TECHNOLOGY
intelligent augmented-reality app that is Microsoft HoloLens but even thats
responds to movement. The result was a developing slowly.

63
NOW / SPORT

A significant number
of American collegiate
football clubs are
benefiting from
virtual-reality training

I N V E STI GATI O N

VIRTUAL Y
ou burst from midfield.
To your left is Messi; to
your right is Neymar.
Should you continue

SUCCESS
striving toward the
oppositions goal or pass
to one of your teammates? Sadly, your
indecision costs you as Sergio Ramos
tackles you before laying off to Ronaldo
who makes it Real Madrid one
Barcelona nil. This is no schoolboy
dream. Its not only the future of
virtual-reality sport in gaming, but its
THE BENEFITS OF VR ARE FILTERING happening right now in real life.
We use virtual reality for two
THROUGH TO PROFESSIONAL CLUBS aspects of sport, explains Brendan
Reilly, CEO of EON Sports, experts in
AND MEDIA OUTLETS ALIKE. WE the field of VR sporting application.
Theres the training application and
then theres the spectator side. Both
EXAMINE ITS IMPACT ON SPORT enhance the user experience.

ELEVATING PERFORMANCE
WORDS: JAMES WITTS With its interactive, immersive
and multi-sensory qualities,

64
PHOTO: GETTY/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
NOW / SPORT

it doesnt take a leap of FILMING VR


imagination to see how VR can
benefit sporting participants.
Lets say youre a quarterback
in American football. Too Virtual logistics
often, with the pressure on, Behind the scenes with US production company Headcase
Kimi Raikonen you succumb to the
tests out VR at
the Canadian oppositions charging
Grand Prix defensive tackle and are
sacked. Why? Because anxiety
overcomes your decision-
American making, spatial awareness
flies out the window and
football youre dumped on your glutes.
With VR, you can place

team the yourself into that same


scenario and receive a 360

Tampa Bay recall of where your defence is,


where the oppositions defence
is, and the movement of your
Buccaneers wide receivers and running
backs. Immersing yourself is
are already basically a more refined
method of replaying sporting
employing footage, adds Reilly,
highlighting studies that have

EONs VR shown athletes who use VR


improve decision-making

technology (albeit this is in the short-term


longer studies are required to
determine lasting benefits).
You can then learn which move might be more Headcase is an American Key to recording the
efficient than the one that had you sacked. virtual-reality production footage was the specially
NFL team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are already company who are currently engineered 360 camera
employing EONs technology, which utilises real-life developing projects for a system, engineered and
and CG sporting situations, as well as a number of number of high-profile built for specially directed
collegiate football teams and a handful of baseball clients including Nike, sporting shots. As you can
teams. Were also engaging with European soccer Chevvy, FX and see from above, the video
teams but we cant say who, adds Reilly. So numerous Ticketmaster. They also camera rig featured a
sports are realising the potential benefits of VR, have an ongoing number of cameras
though its use is sports-specific. relationship with the Pac-12 arranged in a spherical
VR application varies depending on the activity, Conference, who provided shape and captured images
explains Reilly. In baseball, we utilise a large VR the foundations for at 23.98 to 60 frames per
room that athletes walk into its like a VR hall deck Headcases project A Behind second. Resolution came in
and they slip on these glasses and feel like theyre The Scenes Look. at 1,920 x 1,080 with footage
transported to the baseball environment. Theyll then Headcase utilised virtual recorded on 12-bit raw files
practise throwing or striking. In American football reality to take viewers inside with premium-quality
and soccer, its more headspace training an an American football C-mount lenses. The camera
understanding of strategy where we use the stadium, sending them into was then mounted on a
Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear VR. the middle of a collegiate mobility platform for ease
EON arent the only ones. At Februarys NFL team huddled together of use around the pitch.
combine (where college football players seek contracts while the players elicited a Though the production
with professional teams), former Stanford kicker Derek collective war chant. The team had planned specific
Belch debuted STRIVR a programme specifically team also captured much of shots in advance and spent
designed to enhance game-film study and train the action, applying multiple significant time in the
PHOTOS: GETTY X4

quarterbacks by allowing them to relieve games cuts at the editing process editing suite, Headcase are
theyve just played. It certainly worked for Stanford to create the impressive confident that full games
quarterback Kevin Hogan, who by common consensus piece of sporting shown in virtual-reality
had the three best games of his career after using cinematography. are imminent.

66
At the recent SXSW Festival in
Texas, attendees strapped on
VR units and cycled on turbo
trainers to simulate riding with
ultra-cyclist Dave Haase

STRIVR. It impressed Dallas Cowboys enough to sign It was clearly a worthwhile exercise, says
up STRIVR on a two-year contract. Robertson. The higher the correspondence of your
mental moves to your physical movement, the greater
VISUALISATION AND PACING the mental stimulation and the better the athlete.
VR wont just benefit team sports where tactical With VR, visualisation will become even more
acumen and fine skills are key to success. Power precise. Runners will be projected into the race or
sports like running and cycling will benefit, too, and stadium and more accurately immerse themselves in
thats down to visualisation. Visualisation is a the upcoming competition. With VR, you could show
technique adopted by the worlds greatest sportsman the runner what it feels like to run faster.
where they mentally run through the race or game in Studies have shown that once a Will virtual reality help
the build-up to the actual event. runner subconsciously realises they Kenyas Dennis Kimetto
lower his existing
All top athletes engage in mental imagery, says can raise their pacing template marathon world record?
cognitive neuroscientist Ian Robertson. They go without harming themselves, they
through their routines beforehand, sometimes in real can then replicate this increased
time. If you do brain imaging of people when theyre speed in real life. In short, will
undertaking mental imagery of that kind, almost all VR hold the key to breaking the
the same parts of the brain that are active when youre two-hour marathon!?
actually doing it are active. Its only the final pathways
tied in with sending signals to the muscle down the VIEWER EXPERIENCE
spinal cord that arent active. Its not just sporting
Steve Backley, the former British javelin thrower, participants wholl benefit
was renowned for spending as much time visualising from virtual reality the spectator will
his throw than the physical action. When he injured be immersed in the VR world, too. In early
his knee in the build-up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics March this year, Sky announced the launch
and couldnt physically train, he devoted tens of of a virtual-reality film studio that will
hours t his mind, and run through the warm-up produce videos for Oculus Rift, Samsung
preparation and normal run-up and throw, all in real Gear and online 360 video platforms like
time. On his return to throwing, he took silver. Facebook 360 and YouTube 360. To celebrate
NOW / SPORT

RIGHT: David Hayes


last fight was shown
on his 360Haymaker
app. Sadly, it didnt
SPORTING APPS their VR entry, Sky showed two VR films during last long, opponent
Formula One testing with the Williams team over in Mark de Mori
Barcelona where youre taken into the pits and driven remaining upright for
a mere 131secs
BASKHEAD around the Spanish track, all in 360.
Follow in the giant footsteps of Its the first of 20 films Sky will make this year BELOW: Sky has set
Michael Jordan and co, though thanks to four full-time VR camera operators and staff up a VR studio. One of
their first ventures
slamdunks are achieved with a from across the Sky company, which will seemingly involved testing
nod of the head rather than a leap. grow year on year as VR takes off. time with Formula
One team Williams
2.82; Android, PC The technology to film is there, the technology to
view it on is there and the platforms are there, says
Neil Graham, head of VR production at Sky. What we
need to do now is populate them. As well as Formula
One, Graham says other sports will experience
the VR treatment. Already planned for release are
VR videos covering Anthony Joshuas bid to win a
world title and a film following Chris Froome and his
Sky teammates as they attempt to retain the Tour de
MOTORBIKE VR France title. Google has also recognised the potential
The choice of two motorbikes of the sports market, recently
and numerous race tracks giving away free 30,000 Google
transforms you into a
modern-day Evil Knievel.
If the NFL Cardboard units to New
England Patriots fans.
Free; Android, iOS, PC
give us the SPORT FOR ALL
go-ahead, Its not just media
heavyweights who are getting

we could in on the act. Start-ups like


Next VR have worked with the
NFL this season, capturing
livestream three football games, before
showing them at the Super
LUGE CRUSH
Watched the Winter Olympics in
American Bowl in January at the fan
convention. The viewer
envy of athletes pelting down a
bobsleigh run on an aerodynamic
football from watched the action from five
different angles and areas on
tray? Well now you can join in
1.40; Android, iOS, PC
as early as the field, the footage then
edited together for a truly

next season immersive experience.


However, according to their
chairman, Brad Allen thats
just the start. Were ready to livestream an event
today. If the NFL give us the go-ahead, we could do it
from next season.
Virtual-reality outfit IM360 also filmed David
Hayemaker Hayes comeback boxing match in 3D,
SHANE WARNE: which was available via Hayes 360Haymaker app and
KING OF SPIN involved a 360 camera set-up atop of one of the rings
See if you can handle the corners. Disappointingly for viewers, their VR
Australian legends googly and experience didnt last long, Haye knocking out
wrong un, all from the comfort of opponent Mark de Mori in just 131secs.
your VR unit. VR in sports still has issue to overcome, including
Free; Android, iOS, PC longevity and were not just talking potential
motion sickness. I mean, watching an entire cricket
test match in VR could test the most avid fan.
Still, the potential to transform sporting participation
and viewing is huge. And with so much money
driving this most tribal of entertainment, you can
bank on virtual reality soon becoming a mainstay
of sport.
PHOTOS: GETTY, SKY X4

68
69
PRESENT / THORPE PARK

VR THEME
PARKS

Thorpe Park and


Alton Towers are
rolling out the
VR rides in 2016
UK theme park Thorpe Park is joining the
VR party this May with the opening of
Ghost Train. Although the rides shrouded
in secrecy, three things are known:
visitors will sit in a suspended carriage;
master illusionist Derren Brown has
designed it; and itll feature multiple
HTC Vive VR headsets.
Brown, renowned for his psychological
trickery and showmanship, hasnt give
away much beyond vague mystical
rhetoric: No-one will have quite the same
experience where the guests will be
unable to make the distinction between
what is real or imagined.
What we do know is that the ride centres
on a 20m-long Victorian train carriage,
suspended in mid-air by iron chains. Its
housed in a warehouse and visitors will
board the carriage via an iron bridge.
What happens within well, thats a
PHOTO: MATT ALEXANDER/TNRPHOTO, THORPE PARK X2

mystery but itll last between 10 and 15


minutes with 12 possible journeys and
two different endings.
Alton Towers is also launching a
VR-based rollercoaster this spring named
Galactica. Thrill-seekers will strap into a
rollercoaster, slip on the VR headset and
ride into a series of galaxies over the
189-second journey. The height of the
biggest drop is 20m with maximum
g-force reaching 3.5 g/sec.

70
RIGHT: Derren Browns
13-minute psychological
adventure is designed to
manipulate the mind

ABOVE: The VR
experience takes place
within a Victorian
carriage suspended in
mid-air by iron chains

RIGHT: Derrens
scribbles. Hes been
working on the project
for the past three years
PRESENT / VIRTUAL THERAPY

French patient Denis


Duet undergoes a VR
therapy session called
CtrlStress at the
laboratory of the
Institut des Sciences du
Movement in Marseille

72
I N V E STI GATI O N

CONFRONTING
AND BEATING
TRAUMA
POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER IS SADLY ALL TOO COMMON IN
RETURNING SERVICE(WO)MEN. THANKFULLY, THERES GROWING
EVIDENCE THAT VR CAN PROVIDE AN EFFECTIVE TREATMENT
WORDS: ROBERT BANINO

V
Rs growth in popularity stems related to the trauma, explains Albert Skip Rizzo, director of
from transporting individuals to medical virtual reality at the University of Southern
simulated environments that Californias Institute for Creative Technologies. But one of the
present no real, physical danger to cardinal symptoms of PTSD is avoidance avoidance of the
the person immersed in them. cues and reminders of the trauma. So its a tall order to expect
Being simulated also means those someone to create a vivid mental image of something that
environments can be precisely theyve been spending their whole time trying to avoid.
calibrated to deliver a tailored We take that same exposure therapy protocol but deliver it
scenario appropriate to that using VR simulations so that were not relying exclusively on
person. These two characteristics the persons imagination, Rizzo continues. We place the
make VR a valuable tool for person in VR simulations that the clinician can control in real
conducting exposure therapy, in which patients with time and customise based on that persons experience.
anxiety-related conditions, such as post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD), repeatedly confront the cues that trigger RECREATING TRAUMA
their stress reactions. The therapy starts with a discussion between the patient and
Prototype VR exposure therapy applications began the clinician to determine if the VR therapy christened
appearing in the 1990s but were held back by capabilities of Bravemind is appropriate. If so, a traumatic memory is
the technology available at the time. But as the technology selected and used as the basis for a virtual scenario. The
improved, so too has VR therapys potential. Now its reached a patient can then be immersed in that scenario for up to
point where all branches of the US military are funding a VR 40 minutes at a time during the 10 weekly sessions.
PTSD treatment developed specifically for servicemen and The clinician has what we nickname a Wizard of OZ
PHOTO: GETTY

women returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. control panel, and they start by selecting one of the 14 VR
Traditional exposure therapy to treat PTSD relies on worlds that weve created, says Rizzo. These worlds
imagination alone; the person has to imagine the situation vary from a highly populated Middle Eastern city, to 2

73
PRESENT / VIRTUAL THERAPY

Skip Rizzo (right)


demonstrates the

CASE STUDY Bravemind VR system

Marine Merkle experienced


TUVJCPFVJGDGPGVUQHXKTVWCN
VJGTCR[CHVGTCEVKXGUGTXKEGKP+TCS
CPF#HIJCPKUVCP
Name Chris Merkle
Regiment First Marine Division
Active Service 2003-2010, three tours in Iraq,
four tours in Afghanistan

The first couple of times using Bravemind were hard. I was


disorientated and nauseous, partly because you have the
headset on but also because youre bringing up difficult
memories. It was 10 years since the invasion of Iraq to the time I 2 marketplaces, mosque areas and slums, to Afghanistan
started speaking about it and a lot of emotions were buried deep villages and remote mountain outposts. The clinician can
down. Id tried traditional psychotherapy and wasnt getting put the patient in that world and systematically adjust
results. I had a good therapist but I couldnt talk about the deep, what goes on in it.
dark things. I think she realised that there wasnt one big trauma Once the background to the experience has been decided
incident, so we couldnt get down to the root of the problem. upon, its then a case of questioning the patient to tailor the
Shes the one that suggested trying the Bravemind project. scenario to their recollection. For instance, were they
I had to pick a scenario to be created in VR carefully. It has to driving a vehicle, on a foot patrol or manning a gun turret?
be something thats bothering you but nothing thats going to Did it take place at dawn or later in the day? What sort of
trigger you to the point where you cant talk about it or youre noises were heard?
going to break down. I chose one of my days during the initial All this begins to set up the experience in a way thats
invasion into Iraq with the US coalition. Some of those days were relevant to the patients trauma experience, Rizzo explains.
really long; you didnt really have a base to work out from you As they work through this narrative retelling and begin to
were just driving all day from Kuwait towards Baghdad. confront and process these difficult emotional memories,
And it turned out that it was actually a big day for me. Driving the clinician can make things happen to heighten the
through Nasiriyah, I was exposed to 30 different stimulus realism. He can set off an IED (improvised explosive device)
situations, any one of which could cause of PTSD. Youre seeing nearby, have a helicopter or a jet fly over, or insurgents
unbelievable things and inflicting carnage and its one [trauma] appear on a rooftop and fire an RPG (rocket-propelled
event after another but you keep on driving. You dont process it. grenade) Its never going to be an exact replica of the
Those Bravemind sessions were the first times I talked to trauma experience but its close enough to engage the patient
somebody about my deepest issues so, after the initial painful in their trauma memories and stir up imagination, all in the
reaction, I felt calmer. I could deal with everyday situations better context of the safety of the therapeutic environment.
and was less stressed out. It gave me time to rationalise when
faced with a stressful situation. I didnt have a yellow light before; A SCENT OF RESOLUTION
it was either green or red. Further realism can be added by engaging the patients sense
Ive gone back to the traditional psychotherapy now but of smell. Olfactory stimulation is incorporated by a
Bravemind was a big key that helped me unlock the majority of compressor that blows air over phials containing pellets
my problem. It might not be right for everybody but, for me, it impregnated with scents such as body odour, gunpowder,
was a great success. burning rubber or diesel. Ill say right upfront that we dont
have the data to say whether odours add to the clinical effect,
says Rizzo. But we do know that smell is intimately tied in
the brain with memory and emotion. So we feel its
Olfactory stimulation theoretically informed and an important thing to add.
All of which makes Bravemind sound like an amped-up
is incorporated by a computer game. But to view it as such is to misinterpret the
intention behind it, says Rizzo. The goal in a game is to find
compressor that blows the biggest weapon you can get your hands on and lay waste
to everything. If we thought fostering a cathartic revenge
PHOTO: BRANIMIR KVARTUC

air over phials fantasy was a healing method for PTSD then we could just
use games. But it doesnt. The difference between a game and

containing scents like Bravemind is that were trying to help the patient to confront
and process difficult emotional memories.
Bravemind is about reliving traumatic experiences in a
body odour and diesel safe environment, so that the experience becomes paired

74
Army Colonel Michael J Roy, who oversees the Virtual Iraq exposure therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center,
demonstrates a life-like simulator that represents a new form of PTSD treatment. His dummy patient is Sergeant
Lenearo Ashford of the Uniformed Services University in Washington DCsdefence department

HOW BRAVEMIND FITS IN


8KTVWCNTGCNKV[KUQPGGNGOGPVQHGZRQUWTGVJGTCR[VQVTGCVKPFKXKFWCNU
UWHHGTKPIHTQORQUVVTCWOCVKEUVTGUUFKUQTFGTe
EDUCATION BREATHING REAL-WORLD PRACTICE TALKING TRAUMA
Therapy begins with Breathing in a relaxed manner This is where VR fits in. You Repeatedly talking about
education about the upcoming helps the individual to relax. approach situations that are safe, trauma with the therapist is
treatment. The service(wo) When people become anxious but which you may have been called imaginal exposure, and
man will also learn about or scared, their breathing avoiding because theyre related will help the solider gain more
common trauma reactions changes. Learning how to to the trauma. An example control over thoughts and
and PTSD. Education allows control breathing can help in would be a veteran who avoids feelings about the trauma.
the individual to learn more the short-term manages driving since he experienced a They learn that they dont
about their symptoms and immediate distress. roadside bomb while deployed. have to be afraid of their
understand the goals of This type of exposure practice memories. Talking through the
the treatment, laying the helps trauma-related distress to trauma helps to make sense of
foundation for future sessions. lessen over time. what happened.

with the safety and support of the clinical environment, Research and development of
virtual-reality systems as a
Rizzo continues. Gradually, the patient no longer therapeutic tool is ongoing,
experiences the same level of conditioned fear or anxiety with the US leading the way
that had previously occurred from the recall of their
trauma memories.

STATISTICALLY PROVEN
Trials of an earlier version of the virtual therapy that
Bravemind was developed from proved promising with
80% of the patients that completed the treatment showing
statistically and clinically meaningful reductions in PTSD,
anxiety and depression symptoms. The patients themselves
also claimed to have noticed lasting improvements in their
everyday life.
So are VR treatments, such as Bravemind, a better that go along with the traditional therapy to help support
PHOTOS: US ARMY X2

alternative to traditional exposure therapy? Some scientists the patient. Its not therapy delivered by machine. Its not
say adding other elements to the traditional exposure designed to replace a clinician. In the end its simply a tool
therapy doesnt really matter youre not going to get any to extend the skills of a good clinician to better deliver an
better clinical outcomes. Im not in that camp, says Rizzo. I already evidence-based therapy for PTSD. Ultimately, that is
think that the complexity of PTSD calls for other elements virtual therapy in a nutshell.

75
PRESENT / INDUSTRY

REVOLUTIONISING
INDUSTRY
The Oculus and Samsung headsets might only just
be hitting the market but VR technology is already 1
GUVCDNKUJGFKPCPWODGTQHGNFUe
Words: Robert Banino

76
2

01 REAL
ESTATE
Of the many stresses you encounter
on the joyous journey of buying a
house, the time and costs involved
when viewing properties are among
the biggest inconveniences. And
those inconveniences are multiplied
if youre looking for a home in
another country.
Photos, 360 videos and Skype
viewing give potential buyers a taste
of the properties theyre considering
but they dont solve the problem
completely. To enjoy a more rounded
appreciation of the house and its
interior space, you need to get inside
it, which again requires travel and
expense. Unless, that is, you can
wander around the prospective
properties remotely, which is
precisely what VR allows you to do.
In July 2015 UK estate agents
Savills unveiled Horoma, a system
that let interested parties take a self-
guided tour of the 16.75-million
mansion Furze Croft in Surrey.
Horoma, created by the virtual-
reality production company
Rewind, utilises laser scanning to
build a virtual reproduction of a
houses interior and head-mounted
displays to let customers wander
around inside. Currently its only a
demo to showcase the technology,
but Savills hopes Horoma will
become a valuable tool in the
marketing of properties.
Similar technology is already
being used in Los Angeles,
California, where the Michael Hood
Real Estate Group is providing VR
tours of its high-end properties in
PHOTOS: REWIND:VR, SAVILLS ESTATE AGENTS

Beverly Hills and Malibu.

1 UK estate agents teamed up with VR technology


company Rewind to build a virtual reproduction
of a houses interior
2 Consumers used Oculus Rift headsets to virtually
experience the palatial surroundings
3 3 The demo property was certainly palatial, the
16.75-million Surrey mansion coming with a private
cinema, indoor pool and 1,700-bottle wine cellar
4 Key rooms were scanned, allowing depth data to
be combined with photogrammetry for a realistic
and important feeling of space and scale

77
Work at their Immersion Lab led Ford
to redesign and manufacture new
PRESENT / INDUSTRY wing mirrors for the Fusion

02 ARCHITECTURE The problem at the heart of doesnt give you a true appreciation
architecture is scale. Designing a of the space within a structure. VR
building at full size is clearly not provides a solution by allowing
practical, so architects make their architects to render their designs in
plans using scaled-down drawings 3D and at full-scale within a
and models. That helps but virtual environment.
US company IrisVR has communicating a 3D design on a Companies such as IrisVR in the
developed software
that enables 2D plans 2D format in other words, a sheet US are developing software that
to be viewed in 3D of paper or a computer screen enables architects to drag and drop
designs into a VR programme
before donning an Oculus Rift or
HTC Vive headset to walk around
within their building.
VR modelling also enables
architects to see how much space
is needed for people to use the Virtual reality can be brought in at any stage of
the car manufacturing process to test an idea,
interior effectively. As such, when from the original concept to physical prototypes
British-firm 3d Architects
submitted its updated shop-floor
proposal to the Boots pharmacy
chain, it included a virtual-reality
shop furnished with the new
design to see how customer
navigation might be affected.

03 EDUCATION
Archaeology students at Harvard Universitys Earth and Planetary
Students
can view a
life-size model
of the Khufu
pyramid
may not be able to travel back in Sciences Department, students
time but, thanks to VR, they can don 3D glasses and sit in front of a
roam around Egypts Giza plateau 23-foot semi-circular screen onto
and see how it would have looked which the Giza reconstruction is
around 2500BC. Using photos, projected. The students can then
maps, notes and the excavation decide where to go and which
diaries of the Egyptologist George element theyd like to examine in Thanks to VR,
Harvards archaeology
Reisner, an approximation of the detail, including the subterranean students can roam
entire site has been rendered in a shafts and burial chambers. around ancient Egypt
virtual-reality landscape.
PHOTOS: FORD MOTOR COMPANY X5, DASSAULT SYSTEMES

Life-size models of the pyramids


of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure,
along with the Great Sphinx and
other structures in the necropolis,
have been created by Dassault
Systmes as part of a joint venture
with Harvard University and the
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The
virtual model is the only place
where every temple and tomb
structure on the Giza plateau can
be seen reconstructed together.
How does it work? Inside the
Visualization Center in Harvard

78
Ford
used virtual
reality to check

04
around 135,000
separate car
details

AUTOMOTIVE
INDUSTRY
A challenge for car manufacturers on 193 prototypes, and resulted in
is marrying the design aesthetic changes to the wing mirrors on the
with the practicalities of fuel Ford Fusion (Mondeo) and
efficiency and aerodynamics while windscreen wipers on the new
making the end result appealing to Mustang. Fords certainly confident
the consumer. It can be a long, in the technology after being one of
laboured and costly process but the early adopters all the way back
one thats becoming more in 2000, where they
streamlined thanks to employed it to refine the
VR. At Fords bodies and cabins of
headquarters in its range of cars.
Michigan, the And its not just
American car the designers who
behemoth has use are benefiting. At
of an ultra-high- CES 2016, Audi
definition VR announced virtual
facility that allows showrooms will
its designers and soon become the
engineers to sit inside norm. Working with
life-size virtual versions Nvidia Quadro GPUs
of prototype vehicles. As ABOVE: Designers utilise and VR suppliers
well as showing them a VR headsets to refine Oculus and HTC, Audi
everything from the
full-scale, 3D model of engine to the chassis is introducing the new
the proposed car, the concept to allow
Ford Immersion Lab also customers to experience
lets engineers see beneath the Audi vehicles there and then, even
bodywork to examine how its if the specific model isnt stocked
mechanical systems work. by the dealership. Audi expect
In 2013 alone, the Immersion Lab the first showroom to go live in the
was used to check 135,000 details US later this year.

Ford has virtual labs around the world,


combining the knowledge of engineers
in Australia, Brazil, Germany and China

Automobile evolution: Ford rolled


out its first car in 1903; the
American car giant has been
working with VR since 2000
79
PRESENT / INDUSTRY

05
Thomas Cook
customers could
accurately preview
potential holidays

TOURISM
Nobody is seriously shooting 360 footage of the
suggesting that VR could be attractions and activities
an alternative to actually holidaymakers could
going on holiday but it has a experience in those places.
role to play in marketing Without leaving the shop
trips overseas. In 2014 British in Kent, customers could
travel agency Thomas Cook stroll among the Pyramids,
teamed up with VR scuba dive in Sharm-el-
production company Sheikh, take a helicopter tour
Visualise to produce of Manhattan or walk across
immersive experiences of the the OCBC Skyway suspended
holidays they offer. 22m above Singapores
Customers visiting the Marina Bay. When it comes
Thomas Cook branch in the to choosing a potential
Bluewater shopping centre holiday destination, it
could slip on a Samsung Gear certainly beats flicking
VR headset and be instantly through travel brochures.
transported to one of the Thomas Cook seems to think
many locations the company so, at least, as the VR system
arranges travel to. Achieving is said to have led to flights
this required the Visualise and hotel bookings totalling
staff flying to Egypt, America 12,000 in the UK in the
and the Far East over a three months after its official
period of months, and launch in 2015.

Flight simulators first appeared in introduce new challenges to keep


1976. The VR environment in the trainee progressing.
A2FS1 Flight Simulator was If youre training a pilot to land
limited but, in the 40 years since, on a aircraft carrier, we can induce
VR flight simulators have become a crosswinds on the final approach,
sophisticated and crucial training which is a very dangerous situation
tool. Its all about bringing in reality but a pilot has to learn to
affordability and safety to pilot handle it, Patel says. As they
training, explains Atul Patel, improve, we can make the carrier
director of advanced deck pitch and roll, which
technologies at Lockheed frankly you wouldnt want
Martin, a manufacturer
of military simulators.
Simulators a real trainee to encounter in
life, but in a
From the military allow pilots to simulator he can learn
perspective, a lot of refine their to deal with that
aircraft are single- handling situation safely.
seaters and training a VR flight simulators
pilot to fly one of those skills arent just the preserve of
is more difficult [as the pilots with engineers and
PHOTOS: THOMAS COOK, LOCKHEED MARTIN

06
instructor cant accompany mechanics benefiting, too.
Aircraft simulators are
the most tried-and- the trainee]. Thats where Think about the complexity of the
tested 3D technology simulators come in. aircraft and their engines, says
on the market We ensure the virtual aircrafts Patel. Having a virtual capability
dynamics are modelled accurately to learn how to access and work on
so the pilot can understand exactly them is critical. And a virtual

FLIGHT whats going to happen when hes


flying the real plane, adds Patel.
environment is a more affordable
and quicker way to train the

SIMULATION As the pilots skill increases, the


simulators allow the instructors to
mechanics than having to put
them to work on a real aircraft.

80
ABOVE: Haptic
technology means the
trainee feels the actual
sensation of drilling

LEFT: VR enables the


dentist to view the
tooth or jaw from
different angles

07
MEDICAL
TRAINING
Dentistry is one of the leading
pioneers in the application of VR
technology. Take student dentists
at Kings College London whove
been using the HapTEL Virtual
Dental Lab essentially a virtual-
reality mouth to develop their
drilling skills since 2010.
Instead of peering down into
a patients mouth, the
undergraduates sit over a monitor
that displays a 3D representation
of either a specific tooth or a
complete jaw. By wearing special
glasses that track their head crucial to prevent them from up to 40,000. Also, the plastic Next Galaxy has
movements, the students are able to applying too much pressure and teeth could only be drilled once worked with the Miami
Childrens Hospital on
examine the tooth or jaw from damaging the patients teeth, and cost 16 each to replace. several VR projects
various angles. gums or jaw. Other branches of medicine are
They work on the The Aside from also starting to appreciate the
tooth using a replica HapTEL unit eliminating the risk of potential benefits of VR training. In
drill that provides is 30,000 injuring real patients 2015, the Miami Childrens
haptic feedback to give Hospital began collaborating with
cheaper than while the new dentists
PHOTO: KINGS COLLEGE LONDON

them the sensation of train, a key advantage Next Galaxy, a VR content


drilling into a real traditional of the HapTEL Virtual developer, to build VR software
tooth. The feedback is tools Dental Lab is cost. One that trains people to perform life-
sensitive enough to help HapTEL unit costs 10,000 saving emergency procedures, such
the trainees differentiate but prices for the mannequin as cardiopulmonary resuscitation
between drilling into healthy or heads filled with plastic teeth the or clearing blockages from a
decayed enamel a skill thats previous training method reach choking persons throat.

81
82
COMMON QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Kate Russell is a technology journalist of over 20 years. Shes also a broadcaster and is a regular on BBC technology show Click

DO VR UNITS MAKE
YOU SICK?
Many people have reported experiencing motion sickness
when using VR headsets. This is caused by latency, which
creates a microscopic mismatch between what the user
sees and when the inner-ear registers the movement. But
the brain is remarkably adaptable and can be trained to
overcome this nausea by increasing the duration of use
and easing into a session by looking around gently at first.
Last year Valve claimed its HTC Vive VR headset
eliminated latency with technology that uses timing
sequences in a PC together with light from spinning
lasers to figure out the position of your head and
perfectly match it with your vision. However, some
users still reported mild motion sickness. Its
likely this isnt just a hardware problem.
Developers build unnatural actions into their
games such as rapid spinning and what
would make a person sick in the real world
will still make them sick when
experienced in virtual reality.
Many manufacturers recommend that
children under the age of 13 should not
use VR headsets as it may affect their
visual development. All users are
recommended to take a 10- to
15-minute break every 30 minutes.
PHOTO: GETTY

Motion sickness often


derives from actions
thatd make you ill in
real life, like spinning

83
Is it true that
VR can cure
phantom pains in
amputee victims?
There are some scientific
case studies to show that
using signals from a limb
stump to control a virtual-
reality limb can, indeed,
dramatically reduce the
phantom pain experienced
by some amputees. These
treatments are still in the
early experimental phases,
however, and while the
results are promising, they
will need to be tested in
controlled clinical trials Further controlled
clinical trials are needed
before any conclusive into curing amputees
claims can be made. phantom pains

F U T U R E - P RO O F I N G V R

Will VR units
become more
streamlined?
Tech makers are always looking to
streamline and reduce the size of their
gadgets, especially as one of the enduring
criticisms of VR headsets is that they are
bulky and uncomfortable to wear. We can
already see with devices like the
Microsoft HoloLens, which has a
development headset due out in 2016,
that sizes are likely to reduce drastically
in the first few iterations of the genre.
Interestingly, Microsoft is also
incorporating augment reality, which
will allow its headset to play mixed- PHOTOS: ORTIZ-CATALAN ET AL/FRONTIER IN NEUROSCIENCE, MICROSOFT
reality programmes. At an eye-watering
$3,000, though, it might take a while for
the price-tag to be streamlined, too.
Another development with the
potential to reduce the weight of headsets
lies with the display technology.
Avegants Glyph is currently available in
the USA and China, and uses an array of
micro mirrors to reflect an image directly
into your retina rather than the
smartphone-like screens used in other
devices. In the more distant future, Sony
has already patented an idea that may
lead to the beaming of ultrasonic waves
Avegants Glyph is a lightweight VR unit
into the brain to recreate our senses, the that employs a series of micro-mirrors to
end result of which remains to be seen. reflect an image directly onto the retina

84
I N N UM B E R S

$30 billion
is what industry experts Raspberry Pi welcomes
forecast the VR industry VR developer tools!
could be worth by 2020 Can Raspberry
Pi be programmed

171 for virtual reality?


Yes. You should be able to
plug a Raspberry Pi into
tells me that they are still
some distance from being
hardware issue. For this to
happen, ideally a VR

million
any VR headset that able to give people the headset manufacturer
features an HDMI input. opportunity to work on would need to release their
Thats all youd need to run programming their own developer tools to
users worldwide are VR programmes on the VR environments, but Raspberry Pi, who tell me
expected to be plugged affordable mini-computer. thats a software tool they would be delighted to
into VR headsets by 2018 That said, Raspberry Pi issue rather than a hear from them!

O P T I CA L S O LU T I O N S

CAN I WEAR GLASSES


WHEN USING VR?
That largely depends on the VR device being used and the size
of your glasses. My relatively small frames fit comfortably
inside most devices I have tried, like the simple I
AM CARDBOARD viewer and VR-One headset.
More advanced headsets give you some control over
focus, in which case you may well find you dont need
glasses at all as you can adjust the lenses to
compensate. Other headsets, like Oculus Rift, come
with several different lenses that the user can switch
around to provide the best results. The only way to be
sure is to try the device before buying.
PHOTOS: GETTY X2

Bespectacled users
should be able to use
most VR cardboard units

85
W H AT I S T H I S ?

86
VOID theme park
The VOID is a new theme park being built in the suburbs of Salt Lake City
that uses virtual-reality equipment in a controlled space to bring a truly
immersive entertainment experience to life. Combining real-world
spaces and effects like sprays of water and wind, visitors will be able to
walk around wearing a headset and experience fantastical worlds and
the kinds of rides that would be impossible to create safely in reality. The
full eight-acre gaming centre opens later this year, but early-birds are
PHOTO: THE VOID

already getting a glimpse of the future of theme parks with six- to seven-
minute interactive experiences on stages measuring 30 by 30 feet.

87
LIFE-CHANGING?

Ive heard that virtual reality can


encourage people to save for their
retirement. Is that true?

Would a virtual glimpse


of your future self make
you more frugal?

Several years ago, a team of researchers allocated twice as much money towards a
at Stanford University, California, hypothetical savings account following
developed a virtual reality experience the future encounter. However, there is
that allowed people to look into an aging no evidence to suggest that virtual
mirror and see their future selves, aged reality had anything to do with these
64 years old. Among myriad of results, results other than delivering a more
the study showed participants generally immersive experience.
The fantastical Magic
Leap looks set to appeal
to users of all ages

Have Blippar any I N N UM B E R S

plans in VR?

1968
Currently Blippar have one VR app on
the market a game to be played on
PHOTOS: GETTY X2, MAGIC LEAP, BLIPPAR

Googles I AM CARDBOARD called


Cardio VR, which aims to teach kids
about medical conditions within their
bodies. The company tells me they are saw the worlds first
looking to further develop and explore head-mounted
the VR space this year, including using virtual-reality display,
mixed reality with VR and AR The Sword of Damocles,
combined, but cannot disclose any developed by Ivan
specific details at the time of writing. Sutherland and Bob Sproull

88
What is Magic Leap?
Magic Leap is a start-up thats attracting
investment from some technology big-hitters,
like Google, to develop software that places
virtual 3D objects in the real world through
virtual reality. Augmented reality has been
doing this for a long time, but this mixed
reality concept will elevate that from a two-
dimensional experience to something akin
to experiencing 360 holographic models in
the world around you.

A N EW CA R E E R PAT H WAY

How do I become a virtual-reality designer?


Many of the technologies used in developing virtual reality are already
commonly used in computer game design and by architects and product
designers. Thats why skills like software development, digital modelling, 3D
and computer-aided design, and meta language like XML and HTML are
essential. There are currently a handful of specialist virtual-reality courses
available at higher education institutions in the United Kingdom, but we can
expect this number to grow in-line with the expansion of the market. Some of
There are a handful the more generic software/computing degrees also offer virtual reality as a
of virtual-reality module. Heading to thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk is a good place to start
courses available in if you want to search for courses currently available in this field.
the United Kingdom

89
D I S C OV E R

PAGE 92
TOMORROWS WORLD
THE GAMECHANGER THAT IS AUGMENTED REALITY
PAGE 98
APPLES VIRTUAL DREAM TEAM
VIRTUAL-REALITY PLANS OF TECH GIANTS
PAGE 102
JOURNALISMS NEXT FRONTIER
EVOLUTION OF THE NEWSROOM
PAGE 106
RECOGNISING THE RISKS
VIRTUAL HEALTH AND SAFETY GUIDELINES
PAGE 110
VIRTUALLY SOCIAL
IT DOESNT HAVE TO BE A SOLITARY ACTIVITY
PHOTO: GETTY

Augmented reality will


become an everyday
PAGE 114
part of professional BENTLEYS BUTLER
and personal life CLASSIC CAR MEETS HOLOGRAPHIC SERVANT

90
VR: THE
FUTURE
VR isnt just a novel gaming option its impact will
change how we interact as human beings. We investigate
how itll revolutionise news and social platforms, as well
as revealing why augmented reality could be even bigger

91
FUTURE / AUGMENTED REALITY

ABOVE: Augmented reality has the


potential to transform education,
bringing lessons to life like never before

RIGHT: L Frank Baum first envisioned AR


115 years ago in his book The Master Key:
An Electrical Fairy Tale

92
I N V E STI GATI O N

TOMORROWS
WORLD
AUGMENTED REALITY IS SET TO CHANGE
THE NATURE OF ENTERTAINMENT, INDUSTRY
AND LIFE AS WE KNOW IT
WORDS: DAVID BODDINGTON

I
n 1901, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz With internet connectivity and apps, users can
author, L Frank Baum, first envisioned hold their phones up in front of a foreign menu, have
augmented reality. In The Master Key: An it translated into their mother tongue and overlaid
Electrical Fairy Tale, a young boy is given onto the image. You can try it for yourself right now
a special pair of spectacles by the Demon with the free Google Translate app: Je voudrais que
of Electricity, which overlay character les escargots et une bire sil vous plat.
trait information for everyone he meets. Wearable AR technology is also a growing sector
Little did Baum know that, just over a with helmets featuring visors already in use in the
hundred years later, this technology construction and engineering industries.
would become reality. But it wasnt until They have real potential to increase
towards the end of the 20th century efficiency of workers, while eyeglass AR
that the term augmented reality devices have also found their way onto the
(AR) was itself first coined, and mainstream marketplace.
engineers and developers began to Bionic contact lenses and VR displays
take things seriously. are also soon to be unleashed on
consumers, and as with so many forms
STATE OF PLAY of technology, with miniaturisation
Unlike virtual reality, where an entire comes mass-market appeal. But
world is generated and displayed to the what does the future hold for AR? In
viewer, AR is where real-world places are industry, especially when coupled
seen by the eye or depicted on-screen and with haptic technology (which
supplemented by computer-generated, provides motor-driven feedback to
real-time, audio-visual material. These can the user), AR could make the world a
be simple 2D data representations or, as much smaller place yet again, and
with Microsofts HoloLens, interactive 3D increase the influence and productivity of
holograms anchored to real-world objects. international experts in many different fields.
From choosing the best restaurant while
walking down the street, to replacing a heart valve UNDER THE KNIFE
from a thousand kilometres away, the potential for Already, wearable AR devices are being trialled for
AR to affect almost everything we do is enormous. use by surgeons during operations. Anchoring
With over six-billion people expected to have themselves to a mark on the patients body, the AR
PHOTO: GETTY

smartphones by 2020, the overwhelming majority of unit can then superimpose animated steps in the
the worlds population will carry with them all the procedure, highlighting key anatomical features
technology they need to take advantage of basic AR. including nearby vulnerable tissues, and even

93
FUTURE / AUGMENTED REALITY

1 AR will become more popular in surgery,


projecting key anatomical features into the
patients yet-to-be incised body
2 Military potential is huge, stretching from
the control room to the frontline
3 Astronauts including Tim Peake are using
Microsofts HoloLens unit on the
International Space Station
4 Volvo is already working with Mircosoft to
produce the next generation of automobiles

2 3 3

PHOTOS: NASA X3, SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY, ALAMY, REX

94
advising on the correct equipment to use at any
moment. This is undoubtedly the kind of knowledge
surgeons already possess, but having AR as a guidance
Its easy to imagine a near
future where, following
contact with the enemy,
Microsofts
tool frees them up to focus fully on the patient. Along
with remote surgery and haptic feedback systems, this
artificial-intelligence-guided
orders could be given on-the-
HoloLens
will allow top surgeons around the world to share
their expertise in training and live operations.
fly to an entire combat unit via
AR, overlaying onto the
will overlay
FUTURE SOLDIER
environment the precise
timing and direction of
animated
Its not just clinicians wholl benefit. Military
personnel in air forces and navies around the world
movement and firing for every
man or woman. holograms
will be familiar with heads-up display (HUD) AR
technology, but for troops on the ground in the US THE FINAL FRONTIER on top of
Army, there is a step change coming in the form of In December 2015 AR made
DARPAs ULTRA-Vis technology.
This moves away from the separate screen
one giant leap in space
exploration, as Microsofts
whatever the
information source of the old Nett Warrior system, in
favour of an AR HUD that doesnt interrupt the
HoloLens technology made its
way to the International Space
astronaut is
soldiers view of the environment. Instead, the glass
lens that rests in front of one eye has a system of
Station (ISS). In a partnership
known as Project Sidekick,
working on
channels etched into it, onto which a pico projector NASA and Microsoft hope to
overlays the pertinent information. Everything from make life simpler for astronauts on board the ISS by
the location of tactical objectives to aircraft can be utilising HoloLens AR capabilities to expedite all
tracked and overlaid within predetermined manner of necessary tasks in orbit. NASAs Dan Huot
parameters, even without direct line of sight. explains that, We see augmented reality being a great
In fact, theres almost no limit to what could be tool to make the astronauts even more efficient in their
displayed in real-time. Enemy positions, streamed work, whether thats conducting scientific
video from drones and live squad status updates experiments or repairing systems on board the
all are possible. The fact that this degree of technology station.
has been made public means we can only speculate In one of the modes being tested, HoloLens will
about what kit various military organisations automatically overlay animated holograms on top of
around the world are keeping behind closed doors. whatever the astronaut is working on, in order to

E D U C AT I O N

AR IN THE Augmented reality has the


potential to revolutionise the
augmented reality. We had the
students dress up as the
It yielded powerful results for
struggling students.

CLASSROOM way we teach our children, and


bring lessons to life like never
character and record a video of
them reading their writing. We SCIENCE
Augmented reality will redefine the before. US teacher and AR would then attach that video to Augmented reality in science
way we teach our students advocate Drew Minock believes their drawing with augmented just makes a lot of sense.
that AR is already changing the reality. Parents were able to Applications like Elements 4D
way we learn. And hes already bring these projects to life at our allows you to print paper blocks,
applying it in the classroom student showcase using the and use them to explore
DAQRI [smartphone AR] app. elements from the periodic
ENGLISH table using augmented reality.
Each year our students would MATHS This provides a completely new
do a writing project using a I decided to record a 1-2-minute medium to explore the content,
visible thinking routine called mini lesson and attach it to each and also allowed students to
Step Inside. The students would nights homework using interact with dangerous
slip into the shoes of a character augmented reality. If a student materials like mercury in a
and write from their needed help or a refresh from completely safe manner.
perspective. They would then the days lesson, they could Students can also use many
create a drawing to go with their open the DAQRI app, scan the augmented reality applications
writing. The students were homework, and get a short mini to explore the solar system, or
never very excited about this lesson using the vocabulary and use Anatomy 4D to learn about
project until we introduced examples from that days class. the human anatomy.

95
FUTURE / AUGMENTED REALITY

WEAR ABLE TECH

SMART GLASSES
Experience the world of augmented reality 1
with these advanced optics

3 4 5

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LAFORGE EPSON ORA-1 MICROSOFT ATHEER


SHIMA MOVERIO WWW.OPTINVENT.COM HOLOLENS WWW.ATHEERAIR.COM

WWW.LAFORGEOPTICAL.COM BT-200 WWW.MICROSOFT.COM

3 The ORA-1 5 Aimed squarely


WWW.EPSON.CO.UK
1 Laforges AR glasses claim to 4 Microsofts at deskless
glasses have have unparalleled HoloLens is professionals the
avoided the bulk of 2 Epsons see-through lenses, currently the most Atheer Air AR
many competitors, affordable AR so your real-world exciting AR product headset is designed
and have instead glasses are powered vision is not overly out there. Although to provide useful
developed a system by Android, obscured. only development documents and
that streams meaning there are Switching between kits are currently real-time data on-
data from your many apps available full AR mode and available, the the-fly to workers
smartphone to run on the glance mode will everyday life in heavy industry,
directly to your device. It has a also allow you to integration the healthcare, logistics
designer-look battery life of up to control how product promises and beyond.
frames. You can six hours and it invasively you want suggests this could
even order them can even play 3D data displayed. be the market leader
with prescription movies. for some time.
lenses.

96
Minecraft is set to become
even more addictive thanks
to the application of AR

supply them will all the information they need, also completely change how we visualise and interact
thus increasing their efficiency. with games like Minecraft, allowing the world youre
But the potential for NASA and Microsofts building to be secured to your living room floor.
partnership extends much further. NASAs Huot says, Especially exciting is the promise that this kind of
AR could be a boon to improving not only the software could be coupled with haptic technology,
efficiency of astronauts on deep-space exploration allowing you to physically feel the holograms you see
missions, but also their autonomy. As we move beyond in front of you. Among others, researchers at the
Earth, everything gets more University of Tokyo are using ultrasound waves to
difficult. You experience create acoustic radiation pressure, giving perceived
With haptic massive communication
delays, spare parts are limited
substance to virtual objects without the need for
special feedback gloves, potentially bringing a whole
technology, and abort scenarios become
difficult to non-existent. The
new dimension to gaming experiences.
In the kitchen, AR tech will be able to automatically
you could big takeaway is a lot more
responsibility is transferred to
scan your shelves and project recipe suggestions onto
the wall. Virtual to-do and shopping lists could be

physically the crew members to be more


self-sufficient as they dont
pinned to the fridge to make sure you never again have
an excuse to ignore the DIY or miss items off the
have folks on the ground there weekly shop. Going to a party and not remembering
feel the for immediate assistance. someones name will be a thing of the past, too, as their
key Facebook data could be overlaid onto your
holograms HOME COMFORTS
Of course, AR doesnt
invisible smart contact lenses, along with their most
recent cat/baby pictures. Just as L Frank Baum
that you see always have to be serious.
The potential applications
doubtless envisaged it.
Augmented reality was conceived in 1901, grew in
in front of in the home are also very
exciting. While watching live
the 1990s and is today just about learning to crawl.
However, in the blink of an eye itll be running.

your face sport on your flatscreen TV,


for example, an AR headset
Increases in portable computing power mean that
headsets will quickly shrink and that will lead to
like HoloLens could allow much wider mainstream adoption. And once this
you to increase your viewing angle, seeing the entire reaches critical mass, big business from all sectors
stadium projected around your living room, will pour money into the space, just as we have seen
essentially giving you the best seat in the house! with smartphone software over the last decade. The
PHOTO: MICROSOFT

Additional information on player stats, tactics, explosion in AR is nigh


league standings and much more besides could be
accessed and hover in the air next to your sofa, just by David Boddington is a freelance science writer whos also a
saying a players name or making a gesture. AR could dab hand at video production.

97
PHOTOS: GETTY X2, ARISTOMENIS TSIRBAS/MENI THINGS
PRODUCTIONS, MARTIN HAJEK/COMPUTERBILD.DE
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With iPhone sales stagnating,


the evidence is growing that
Apple is investing heavily into
the fast-paced world of VR
Words: Alex Dale

ts testament to the development via the input of around 1,000


hold Apple has over engineers. But progress on Titan has

I
consumers and the purportedly stalled due to a lack of
industry that even confidence about its direction.
the most banal of
statements can TITAN POTENTIAL
positively or Enter VR and AR. With their untapped
negatively impact potential for real-world applications, both
set

upon the technology sector. Rewind to the may yet provide the link between Apples
ead

hardware giants Q1 2016 earnings report, traditional expertise and movement into
eh

where Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked his new areas like automobile. As an example,
on
iPh

opinion on VR. He replied, simply: I think Titan could be bolstered by a windscreen


R-

it can be really cool and has lots of that overlays directions and hazard
tV

interesting applications. warnings onto real-world elements, like


bu
de

Hardly a ringing endorsement. But that that being developed by automotive


e s
pl

evidence is mounting that with sales of giants PSA Peugeot Citron.


Ap

iPhones tipped to fall for the first time ever Indeed, while Cook is non-committal in
ts
ai

in 2016, Apple are looking to branch out public, behind closed doors Apple are
aw
ld

from their core business of consumer investing heavily in VR technology,


or
w

electronics. One rumoured tangent is acquiring numerous start-up companies


e
Th

Project Titan a high-tech electric car in with expertise in the field and hiring
B
HU

T
AR
SM 99
FUTURE / APPLE PRIMESENSE
The Israeli company behind the 3D
sensor technology that fuelled
Microsofts original Xbox Kinect,
allowing the console to read the

to the table
layouts of 3D spaces such as living
rooms. It was originally assumed
PrimeSense would work on the
Apple TV, but the tech could also
benefit an AR device.

ring
yb
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Kn

at
wh
A
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S AND S
R-
re
lat le
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com App
panies acquired by

several high-profile VR developers. cheaper touchscreen tech at the time but it didnt
Reportedly, the VR/AR team is a work so well. The iPhone was a premium product,
separate division consisting of and both the touchscreen and the interface had to
hundreds of experts, and theyre reflect this. Wu suggests Apple could make a
already experimenting with numerous smartphone-VR product tomorrow but, she says,
headset configurations. Apple arent potential nausea is an issue theyre yet to
talking publicly about their plans, but overcome at an affordable level.
delving deeper into the talents involved Apple is a company thats very friendly to
The Cube is a VR reveals insight into what they might be planning. women, and women experience VR sickness at a
research centre based Apples interest in VR dates back to the mid- rate much higher than men do, she explains. To
within the Moss Arts
Center on the Virginia noughties. Unearthed patents reveal prototypes overcome this on a dedicated device, the
Tech campus with typical Apple flourishes like the ski-mask hardware has to render the experience in 60
design from 2008 that features breathable foam, frames per second, so your eyes dont know the
which rests against the users face for comfort. difference, and track your movements so fast that
Other patents point to more practical applications: your biological systems cant tell. And it has to do
a picture-within-picture display that would allow it twice once for each eyeball. This is one of the
a user to keep an eye on the world around them, most computationally expensive things you can
and a headset with an advanced zooming feature possibly do.
that effectively transformed it into a set of next- Currently there isnt a commercially available
generation binoculars. Mac in the world capable of running something
All of these ideas were on the level of Oculus Rift, with Oculus CEO
eventually scrapped. Palmer Luckey laying the blame at the door of
Apples primitive graphics processing units.
Apple is OVERCOMING NAUSEA
Brianna Wu, a video-game
Instead, many argue it makes sense for Apple to
leverage their huge iPhone user base by
showing keen developer with extensive
knowledge of both iOS and
developing a phone-mounted VR headset to rival
the likes of Samsung Gear VR and a patent

interest in the VR tech, believes Apples


late entry into the sector is
dating back to 2010 reveals Apple has been
working on such a device for some time.
PHOTOS: PRESS ASSOCIATION, VIRGINIA TECH

because they feel the tech However, according to Peter Pashley, head of
role sound isnt yet at a point where
Apple can provide the kind
development at ustwo a studio that developed
Lands End, a VR adventure game for Samsungs
plays in the of sleek, desirable
experiences that define
device current iPhone tech lags behind its
rivals. Theres a lot that can be done in software,
immersive VR their products. If you think
back to the iPhones launch,
both within the VR app and at the iOS level, but
current generation iPhone screens are too low
experience it debuted at a very high
price point, says Wu. The
resolution and too smeary for VR, explains
Pashley. They would need a screen resolution of
truth is we already had at least 1,440 pixels and some form of low-

100
FACESHIFT FLYBY MEDIA
The Swiss studio behind the motion-capture technology Apples most recent purchase
in Star Wars: The Force Awakens has created software is Flyby, a tech offering that
that transfers a persons facial expressions onto an allows mobile devices to see
animated avatar in real-time. Not technically a the world around them. The
virtual-reality company, then, but its easy to imagine Flyby app lets you scan in a
how VR apps could use the technology. real-world object for
example, a coffee cup
which you can then send
messages to. Your friends can
then read the message when
theyre in close proximity to
the item in question.

METAIO
Beginning life as a side-project at
Volkswagen, Metaio is an
augmented-reality company with
many impressive apps under their
belt, such as Time Traveler, which
enables users in central Berlin to hold
their iPad in front of them to see
what the world around them looked
like in the time of the Berlin Wall.

persistence-of-vision tech, most likely OLED


screens similar to Samsungs flagship phones.
The latter is important in eliminating blurring
effects when you turn your head.

AUDIO EXPERIENCE
But with many billions sitting in reserve, Apple
look intent on refining the VR experience. In
particular, Apple appears to be showing interest
in the role sound plays in the experience. Last
year, Apple Music teamed up with production
company VRSE to create a 360 VR video for the
U2 song Song for Someone, in which the music
changed dynamically as the user moved their
head to look at various musicians. That musical
interlude provided a hint of Apples direction as In 2015, Apple teamed like, so its likely Bowman will be tasked with
does the acquisition of Nick Thompson. up with production creating an intuitive interface, perhaps building
company VRSE to create
Thompson was the Audio Hardware a 360 video for the U2 on previous patents around haptic (touch) control
Engineering lead on Microsofts HoloLens device, tune Song for Someone schemes. Its a direction thatll pay dividends,
which uses two speakers on either side to create a according to Wu.
spatial sound effect, meaning you can identify the Many are focusing too much on the graphical
direction the sound is coming from. Another aspect and not how you interact, she explains.
high-profile hire, Doug Bowman, previously In my opinion, things wont catch fire until its
worked as a computer science professor at use is as simple as swiping on an iPhone, whether
Virginia Tech. Among the projects Bowman that means haptics or other intuitive gestures. If
worked on there was something known as The anyones going to solve these issues its Apple.
Cube a 10-foot x 10-foot enclosure designed to Apples reputation is built on creative
enable cutting-edge virtual reality research. workarounds that make their products more
Among the high-end toys available within The comfortable, accessible and desirable than the
Cube is a 360 audio system containing 124 competition. But theres one issue they might
speakers, which enables unique aural never lick. The technical bottleneck with phones
experiences, such as what itd feel like to stand isnt necessarily the processor, says Wu. You
in the middle of the tornado. could put A9 processors in an Apple device
Bowmans most celebrated work, however, tomorrow and have it work. The problem would
involves 3D user interfaces. His CV includes being be the battery life. A familiar story, perhaps, for
principle investigator of Virginia Techs 3D any iPhone owner.
PHOTO: VRSE

Interaction Group, which researches immersion


and user experience in 3D spaces. Its an area Alex Dale is a writer and editor who specialises in science,
thats currently very clunky and, well, un-Apple- technology, travel and space.

101
FUTURE / JOURNALISM

In 2015, The New York Times gave their 1.3-million


subscribers a free Google Cardboard to watch their
documentary The Displaced. It will prove a pivotal
moment in the evolution of VR journalism

PHOTO: GETTY

102
JOURNALISMS
NEXT FRONTIER
Virtual reality is set to change how the media
industry conveys news. Are we about to enter a
new dawn of empathy?
WORDS: RUSSELL DEEKS

n 7 November 2015, able to watch an immersive documentary


1.3-million New York about the global refugee crisis entitled The

O
Times subscribers Displaced. Its one example of how media
received a free gift with organisations are exploring the potential of
their Sunday paper. It VR to change the way news and current events
wasnt a DVD, protein are reported. CNN has been in on the act, too,
shake or supplement it providing Samsung Gear VR users with a live
was a piece of cardboard. stream of the US election debates, while in the
But this wasnt just any cardboard: this was UK the BBC is already adding 360 video
Google Cardboard. By folding it up into a pair content to many of its online platforms.
of smartphone-holding goggles and The age of virtual-reality journalism is upon
downloading an app, NYT subscribers were us. So how does it all work, and is it a good


103
FUTURE / JOURNALISM

thing? One of the leading standard-bearers for simulation of logging in the


VR journalism is Nonny De Le Pena, a former
Newsweek reporter and documentary film-maker
How do you rainforest and another set
who merely read about it
whos now CEO of Emblematic Group, a company
based in LA that creates immersive journalism
ensure that whats both declared a wish to
reduce their own paper
projects. These include Hunger In Los Angeles (about
LAs food banks), Use Of Force (about brutality by US
recreated actually consumption afterwards,
only the former group
border guards) and Project Syria, a piece
commissioned by the World Economic Forum about
reflects reality? actually did so.
In gaming and education,
life in Aleppo during the current civil war. then, VR systems offer
De La Penas films work in mixed media, greater engagement and ensure the take-home
combining the real with CGI to tell real-life stories message stays with you longer its natural to
(see Q&A box for more). Project Syria, for instance, imagine the same will be true of news.
looks at the aftermath of a bomb explosion.
Everything you hear in the film is real audio ZUBR MAKING WAVES
captured at the scene, while the witnesses you hear With fully immersive, true virtual reality still
describing the events are people that were actually some way off, hybrid approaches like De La Penas
there. But the explosion you see onscreen is a CGI are pretty much the norm right now. Another
rendering created using the Unity games engine, company thats working in the field is Bristol start-
and the people scurrying around in its aftermath up Zubr, who are pioneering a blend of virtual
were motion-captured by De La Pena at her studio as reality and augmented reality (AR) techniques.
they re-enacted the event later on. Using their method, 3D VR content can be captured
The point, says De La Pena, is that the spatial with depth-sensing cameras, then embedded in a
narrative really lets you feel the whole thing with flat image (much like a QR code). When this image is
your whole body, not just through your eyes and viewed using a smartphone-and-goggles combo, the
your mind. Its pretty extraordinary, actually. Thats 3D image comes to life, like a hyper-realistic
the big advantage. hologram and your own head-movements are
tracked so that, unlike 360 video, you can move
SUPPORTED BY SCIENCE around the image and see it from different angles
Scientifically speaking, De La Pena seems to have a (thats the AR part).
point. VR journalism is such a new field that Weve seen Zubrs set-up in action and its mightily
research into its impact is thin on the ground, but impressive. Viewing their recreation of a Banksy
studies of the use of VR in gaming and education painting here in Bristol, we didnt just get a sense of
back up De La Penas logical conclusion that a story being there we could actually peer behind the
will have more impact if you feel like youre there. dustbins that sit below the mural.
In 2007, Susan Perksy and Jim Blascovichs paper The potential here is huge. Imagine a power
Immersive Virtual Environments Versus station. In the past, Focus would have shown you
Project Syria looks at the
Traditional Platforms: Effects of Violent and aftermath of a bomb pictures of it in the magazine; now we can also bring
Nonviolent Video Game Play, published in the explosion. The audio and you video on our website or mobile editions. Using a
witnesses (above)
journal Media Psychology, showed that gamers describing the events
system like Zubrs, we could let you don a pair of
became more emotionally involved with games are real, while the visuals goggles, focus on a small icon on the page and have a
played using VR headsets. And in 2011, research at (below) are a CG wander around the control room all while sitting
rendering of people
Stanford Universitys Virtual Human Interaction scurrying around in on the morning train. But its not just about what we
Lab found that while people who took part in a VR complete confusion can do its about what you can do, too

VR CITIZEN JOURNALISM
The smartphone has seen a rise in citizen
journalism, with Joe and Jane Public capturing
pictures and video of world events and posting them
to blogs, YouTube and so on. Today, apps that let you
capture your environment in 3D are growing in
popularity, too. And there are two further emerging
technologies that could make the whole business
even more dynamic.
PHOTO: NONNY DE LA PENA X2

Photogrammetry and videogrammetry refer to


the process of taking accurate measurements of an
object or place from 2D photographs or video.
While this process isnt new archaeologists have
used photogrammetry to create models of ancient
sites for years we now have the ability to turn
those measurements into lifelike, animated 3D

104
Q&A The crusader
9GVCNMVQQPGQHVJGRKQPGGTUKPVJGITQYKPIGNFQH
immersive journalism, Nonny De La Pena
models. You need a lot of raw 2D matter to work
with, but if enough eyewitnesses captured pictures Your films combine different What are the implications for
and video of, say, a riot on their phones, you could media the real and virtual. Can ethics and believability? How do
create a pretty realistic 3D representation of that you explain how that works and we know that a VR film, as
event within a few hours for very little cost. why you use that approach? opposed to standard film footage,
So citizen VR journalism, it seems, is just We utilise gaming platforms to is telling us the truth?
around the corner. You might not need to send a create content but, as a very My company Emblematic Group
New York Times film crew to refugee camps, minimum, I use audio from the is working with the documentary
because the refugees themselves will be able to tell real world. Then I want to put series Frontline to produce a set
their stories to the world virtually. When we spoke, you in the scene, and I do that of guidelines for best practices,
both Nonny De La Penna and Zubr director Jack using computer-generated but those wont be published for
Norris were very excited about the democratisation imagery. But its based very another year. In the meantime, I
of VR via photogrammetry and videogrammetry, carefully on photographs, video have to be as transparent as
and its easy to see why. VR technologies are and audio from the actual scene, possible. I show people how we
already enabling important stories to be told in so its grounded in the same document every square inch of a
more engaging ways; with photogrammetry and practice that I would have used space before we produce it. Ive
videogrammetry, anyone with a smartphone can to make my documentary films. had people who are from Aleppo,
become the storyteller. who know the area where the
Is that something youd always bomb goes off in my film Project
ETHICAL DEBATE stick to or would you have used Syria, come out bawling, saying,
All of this, though, raises questions about ethics. real footage of the Aleppo Youve even recreated the exact
Those working in TV, radio and print news (at least, explosion seen in Project Syria, for colour of the bricks, which are a
those doing it right) have long adhered to certain instance, if youd had it? type you only find in Aleppo. So
standards regarding issues such as the use of Well, 360 video can be very really its about trusting the news
traumatic imagery, and ensuring different views are powerful, and we do use it for organisation involved. But thats
represented in a story. And in these areas, VR certain stuff but its still 2D always been the case with print
journalism throws up a host of new dilemmas. imagery. You cant move around, and TV, too.
With regard to impartiality, for instance, if the and theres something unique
viewer is shown one side of a story via the empathy- about being able to move around Will VR replace those media?
inducing medium of VR, do they need to be shown that is much closer to how we No. Remember how everyone
the other side, too? If scenes are to be recreated in experience the real world. So a predicted the end of the book and
CGI, exactly now much recreation is permissible hybrid solution works best for yet print has never gone away?
and how do you ensure that whats recreated now, but soon Im going to start This is just another new form.
actually reflects reality? If youre shooting in 360 working with videogrammetry, There are audiences who are
video where theres no framing of shots, and a where you can capture the extremely comfortable with
heap of dead, mangled bodies cant simply be filmed physical, real world in such a digital environments, and this is
over or around does the content-maker have a way that it still allows you to a no-brainer of a space for them
responsibility to spare the viewer scenes they might walk around. The field is to get their news. But that doesnt
find distressing? And if you dont, do you risk changing very quickly. mean that text is going away!
desensitizing the viewer, and reducing one persons
trauma to the status of anothers entertainment?
The Displaced, for instance, attracted criticism for questions regarding the use of VR
a scene shot from the perspective of a Ukrainian boy technology, too.
cycling down a war-ravaged street. Critics said this During the Crimean War in the 1850s,
was interference, though Jake Silverstein, editor of WH Russell of The Times was the first
The New York Times Magazine, argued such war correspondent to travel to the
interference was minimal, He had to wait to let us frontline with the troops; his harrowing,
mount the VR rig on his bicycle, but once he did, he accounts of what he saw inspired
was riding his own bike down the street that he Florence Nightingale to set up her
typically rides his bike down. Nevertheless, former military hospitals. In the late 1960s, the
Washington Post managing editor Robert Kaiser Vietnam War was the first whose
expressed concerns about a future where VR stories atrocities were beamed into peoples
will often be based on tricks and deceptions by Bristol-based Zubr are homes via television, resulting in a huge protest
pioneering a blend of
photographers [and] cameramen. virtual-reality and
movement that eventually stopped the war. In the
To that end, Nonny De La Pena is already working augmented-reality 2010s, with VR journalism in its infancy, it remains
with one leading US broadcaster to draw up a set of techniques that make to be seen what its impact will be. But given the
embedded 3D images
ethical guidelines for VR (see Q&A box), while the leap out from a 2D format mediums more engaging nature, that impact is
European Journalism Observatorys ongoing build like a hyper-realistic unlikely to be anything less than significant.
PHOTO: ZUBR

your own ethics code project an attempt to create hologram. This could
have connotations with
a crowd-sourced, widely-agreed set of standards for how the media create Russell Deeks has been writing about consumer technology since
online and digital journalism is now embracing and present news stories Walkmans and VHS players were the hottest hardware in town.

105
FUTURE / RISKS

RECOGNISING
THE RISKS
VR signals a brave new world of immersion. But, like any
game-changing medium, some factors remain unknown
Words: David Boddington
BELOW: Experiments on rodents show VR
activates less neurons than true reality.
But, say the researchers, its too early to
draw any concrete conclusions

ou cant open up a tech


magazine without seeing

Y
that 2016 has been dubbed
the year of VR, and with
good reason. While 2015
saw Google Cardboard and
Samsung Gear virtual-
reality headsets enter the
market, its this year that the big boys like Oculus
Rift will finally hit the shelves.
Surely, then, the magical virtual future we were
promised in the 1990s [see history of VR, page 8]
is finally here? Perhaps. But although the latest
technological developments are indeed providing
the deepest and most impressive immersion in
virtual worlds to date, the potential dangers
inherent in VR are yet to be fully understood.

OVERCOMING CYBERSICKNESS
Virtual-reality sickness (also known as
cybersickness) is a side-effect experienced by
some when using VR. Symptoms are similar to ingesting a neurotoxin and tells your body to eject
those of motion sickness, including nausea, the offending substance post-haste. (Theres more
disorientation, pallor, headaches, sweating and on this phenomenon in the Q&A section,
even vomiting. Its widely thought that this is beginning on page 83.) This phenomenon is more
caused by a conflict taking place within the brain. likely to affect children between two and 12
Your visual and auditory sensory inputs tell you years, which is why some VR unit manufacturers
that youre moving through space, whereas your advise caution or even for their units to be used
inner ear doesnt detect the corresponding only by children of 13 and over.
motion. Similarly to motion sickness, the area Thankfully, many of these short-term side
postrema in the brain senses this conflict, effects have been reduced by technological
assumes youre hallucinating after accidentally developments over the last few
years and will continue to do so as
time rolls by. Increased resolution
and screen refresh rates have had a

Increased positive impact, as has game


design itself, with developers
gaining a deeper understanding of
resolution and what makes a truly immersive and
stable VR experience.
screen refresh RAT REALITY
rates have had Research is, however, being
carried out to uncover whether the
a positive impact VR has on the brain is
more significant than the

impact on superficial symptoms of


cybersickness. Professor Mayank

cybersickness Mehta and his colleagues at UCLA


(University of California, Los
Angeles) have been conducting
experiments to explore the effects
of VR on the brains of rats.
By building an environment in
which the animals can explore a virtual space on
PHOTOS: GETTY X2, UCLA X2

treadmills, the team have been able to monitor


activity in the hippocampus an area of the brain
LEFT: Despite technological important for spatial awareness, learning and
improvements, cybersickness memory. They found that around half the neurons
is still experienced by some that fire in a real-world environment simply
when viewing virtual reality
shut down when in VR. Research is ongoing to

107
FUTURE / RISKS

V R SA F ET Y One of the key concerns


of VR use is how the user
manages the return to
reality from these
BEATING THE exciting VR worlds

PHYSICAL ISSUES
Five common VR hurdles that are
being overcome by developers 1

1 Field of View from the


In order for VR to approximately
feel immersive, a 7m/s of Call of Duty,
field of view (FoV) to less than 1.5m/s,
of around 60 has to while strafing (to
be maintained. The attack repeatedly
human eye can with guns or
perceive a FoV of bombs) needs to be
200 so the greater done at a snails
the FoV in VR, the pace of less than
more immersive 1m/s.
and real the 2 what impact this may have on the brain, but it at
experience feels. 4 Hand tracking least intimates that the industry and researchers are
The StarVR headset Being able to pop on taking the issue of VR and physical and mental
has the highest a headset and then healthy seriously.
FoV on the market use your hands to
at 210. interact with the SOCIAL IMMOBILITY
virtual world is the Truly understanding the long-term neurological
2 Comfort next great challenge impact of VR in humans will take time, but what of
and immersion facing VR. Wireless the social ramifications? Weve already seen the
Decreasing the size controllers and dangers that immersive gaming can pose in the
and weight of gloves can work MMO world, with isolation and reclusive behaviour,
virtual-reality well, but newer depression, suicide and even virtual-world conflicts
headsets is also of products like spilling over into real-world violence.
3
great importance Leap Motion are a There was even the 2008 case of a Russian man
long term. The glimpse into the dying after becoming embroiled in conflict resulting
Samsung Gear VR, future, attaching to from the (virtual) death of one of the members of his
for example, weighs the front of a VR game. A physical violent brawl ensued and the man
in at over half a headset and died. Although such extremes tend to be rare, they
kilo, whereas the employing cameras do happen, and the introduction of VR into
Oculus Rift to track your mainstream culture means that unexpected social
consumer release hands directly. problems will inevitably come to light.
will be less than Having spent a lot of time in VR ourselves, one of
380g. Long-lasting 5 Translucency the most peculiar sensations isnt being in the
comfort will only You can combat virtual world itself, but the act of removing the
really be achieved cybersickness by headset at the end of the session, which is followed
when units weigh decreasing the 4 by the dull thud as you return to a comparatively
under 150g. opacity of the beige reality, devoid of the wonder and
viewing surface, boundlessness of the synthetic. Its all too easy to see
3 Movement effectively enabling how, as the technology advances with ever greater
Many gamers want the user to spatially velocity, users young and old will become ever-more
to play first-person anchor themselves reluctant to return to reality. Imagine trying to get a
shooters in VR, but in the real world. teenager to do their homework when theyre busy in
everything has to Headsets that can the cockpit of an X-Wing, taking down the Death
slow right down in do this on-the-fly Star single-handedly. Youll need more than Jedi
order to avoid will also allow for mind tricks for that one.
PHOTO: GETTY

cybersickness. augmented reality This escapism isnt just limited to gaming. As with
Walking speed applications to so many technological developments, much will be
needs to be reduced be run. driven by the porn and sex industry. Teledildonic
5
108
Q&A
Professor Mayank R Mehta of the
sex (remote sexual activity)
is already bedding in, as Department of Physics and Neurobiology
Virtual reality products that allow
partners many miles apart
at UCLA on the unknowns of VR

and social to control mechanical sex


toys in real time are flying

media opens off the shelves. Combined


with VR and social media,

up a whole this opens up a whole new


frontier of sexual
exploration. Thats fair
new frontier game for liberal, single
individuals but what ethical
of sexual rules apply if you have a
partner and are having a
exploration virtual sexual encounter
with a digital avatar?
Perhaps it will simply be up
to each and every
individual, but itll only be a
matter of time before such
cases are raised in court.

INTO THE UNKNOWN


As is so often the case with new technology, there
are many unknowns. Further studies into how VR Which parts of the brain see a decrease in
impacts brain function are required to understand activity when in VR?
the potential pros and cons, while discourse on the All our experimental measurements were
social implications of the technology is equally undertaken in a brain region called the
important. Like most things in life there are hippocampus, which is very important for
potential risks but, used wisely, virtual reality will things like learning, memory and spatial
bring positive experiences to millions. navigation. Its also a region thats associated
Even now, organisations like the charity Special with epilepsy, Alzheimers disease, ADHD,
Effect, who develop and supply video-game control PTSD and depression.
systems for people with disabilities, are taking
advantage of the latest technology. As founder Dr How does the hippocampus work in real space?
Mick Donegan suggests, these systems could allow Thats a long story. Essentially, when a subject,
people with severe mobility challenges, even those which can be rats or humans, walks around in
BELOW: Clinicians
who are completely paralysed, the opportunity to an environment, different neurons in the
continue to move freely in both the real and virtual worlds. hippocampus become more activated in
research the And its through applications like this that VR will different parts of the maze and provide a
potential
side-effects of truly unlock its full potential, regardless of the cognitive map of the environment. In addition,
time spent in VR possible downsides. the hippocampus activity also becomes more
rhythmic. We found that both of these things
were significantly altered in VR. The spatial
maps were sort of lost in VR and the neural
rhythm was also altered.
PHOTOS: SPECIALEFFECT.ORG.UK, REED HUTCHINSON/UCLA

Why are VR units generally not recommended for


use by young children?
Partly due to the reasons above. Other reasons
also exist. For example, childrens brains are far
more plastic and changeable than adults and
hence its possible that some problems VR
creates for the brain could have a bigger, more
lasting effect on childrens brains than adults.

Could long-term damage to the hippocampus, or


other areas of the brain, result from VR usage?
We dont know but we cant rule this out. We
want to do experiments to test this fully.

109
FUTURE / VIRTUALLY SOCIAL

VIRTUALLY
SOCIAL
Weve seen the gaming, entertainment and commercial
potential of virtual reality, but what will the social
TCOKECVKQPUHQTVJGDWTIGQPKPIPGYRNCVHQTODG!
WORDS: DOM RESEIGH-LINCOLN

110
1
Going public
with cafes
Once upon a time, when the
internet became more than a
backroom experiment for
software engineers, the internet
cafe was all the rage. It provided
the perfect platform to delve into
the exciting world of the web.
Cost effective and approachable,
it brought together people of all
walks of life to surf and send
emails at the dawn of a new
commercial age of technology. with a Chinese internet cafe With the Vive, HTC is share their experiences with
Virtual reality, with its science- chain to bring its headset to hoping to tap into Chinas others through solo and group
huge internet cafe
fiction roots and reborn form, feels 100,000 of its outlets. customer base to promote apps. Such sites might take a little
a similarly alien prospect, so its In China, the internet cafe is very the headset on a huge scale longer to seed in the West, but the
intriguing and a little comforting to much still alive there are over idea of enjoying VR in a safe,
know that the technology cafe is 200,000 of them and HTC hopes pre-set-up environment might
set to experience something of a that having such a significant make the experience far more
renaissance. HTC, the Taiwanese customer base will enable users to attractive to curious new users.
smartphone manufacturer behind
VR headset Vive, believes that Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer HTC has
virtual reality offers a new avenue
for social interaction so much so
signed a sizeable deal with a Chinese internet cafe
that HTC has signed a sizeable deal chain to bring its headset to 100,000 of its outlets

2
AltspaceVR combines the world, and enjoying the
principles of a social media entertainment youd
platform with the concept experience on a night out in
of a multimedia centre. person. Or coming together
Imagine meeting up with to visit a comedy club for a
Social media your friends,
wherever they
good laugh.
More than that,
meets multimedia might be in the
Soon,
therell be
it feeds directly
into other social
Social media apps,
both existing ones no excuse for spheres. For
re-appropriated for
missing instance, users
VR and those built
can attend
specifically for it,
will play a pivotal
university lectures
role in the future lectures together and
of virtual reality as
a social platform keep up with their
chosen subject, even if
theyre not able to attend
the course in person. Or you
could use Altspace to play
Dungeons & Dragons, a
PHOTO: ALTSPACEVR ILLUSTRATION: ANDY POTTS

game built designed to be


played face-to-face.
Social spaces like these
will break down walls, not
just for able-bodied users,
but also for those that are
house-bound or debilitated
by disability. Suddenly the
world isnt a place outside a
set of walls its a social
environment ready to be
explored from home. 
111
FUTURE / VIRTUALLY SOCIAL

3
Opening up
the classroom
Classrooms, whether theyre
filled with enthusiastic children
or wistful mature students, have
forever been a hive of social
activity. So, like AR (see page 92),
its no surprise that VR both as a
concept and in the form of bespoke software is
being tailor-made for learning.
VR provides a platform for children from every
walk of life to enjoy a new sense of equality.
Programmes such as the MissionV Schools pilot
project, which was tested in 20 schools across
Ireland, offered students the chance to share
their creations and discoveries, forming new
Virtual bonds and relationships via a new
reality will educational medium. This hands-on
instill a new means of learning will thrive in VR,
enabling young and older learners alike
sense of to share knowledge and understanding
educational in exciting new ways.
equality Pioneer Expeditions, a new initiative by
Google, is another example. Available to
schools across the world from the United
Kingdom to Brazil and Singapore it provides all
the equipment a classroom might need for VR
learning made available for a single day. With over
100 apps to choose from, students can visit
VR will enable tutors to far-flung locations together, enjoying a first-hand
teach their students in new,
exciting ways that will learning experience like never before.
enhance their understanding

4
EVE:Valkyrie is just one of
a number of VR games looking
to use multiplayer to expand
the social side of VR

Making gaming
sociable again
Virtual reality will lend itself to dogfighting simulator that will
plenty of single-player content project you, and multiple other
in the coming months and years users, into one giant space battle.
and looking at the likes of From your fully automated
demos such as London Heist, virtual cockpit you can
which did the rounds with communicate with other players
PlayStation VR last year, those and form squadrons, working Icelandic developer CCP is putting the
games will be all about immersing together to take on others in PvP
the solo player but its in (player vs player) or PvE (player
finishing touches to EVE:Valkyrie, a
multiplayer where things are vs environment) against the space-based dogfighting simulator
going to get really exciting. games in-built AI.
CCP, the acclaimed Icelandic Sony, with its PlayStation VR players) to power many of its feel as awkward [with VR head
developer behind the tactical headset running off the future multiplayer projects. This units on] with other people
sci-fi MMO EVE:Online, is putting PlayStation 4, is looking to use will make it a more social Wantcomments
around, to swim through gold
Shuhei
coins like Scrooge McDuck?
the finishing touches to the concept of asymmetrical experience so therell be greater Yoshida, head of Sony Computer
Then bet big on casino games
EVE:Valkyrie, a space-based gaming (one player vs a group of interest in trying VR as you wont Entertainment Worldwide.
that offer a tiny house edge

112
Existing in virtual space is all about
representing yourself, so apps such
as vTime will offer a huge breadth
of customisation
5 The social network reborn
Facebook and Twitter have
revolutionised how we
communicate with the
wider world, and how we
share and document our
lives. And with Facebooks
investment in Oculus Rift and the future of VR
as a whole, its clear social media will play a
pivotal role in its success as a social platform.
For Clemens Wangerin, the managing
director of VR social network vTime, the
social possibilities are endless: If youre into
between rooms like you would threads on
a social media feed.
Much like its potential in education, VR
creates a potential equality for users who
might be otherwise hindered by barriers in
real-life. Users that lack confidence might
find it easier to communicate and be
themselves in a space such as vTime, says
Wangerin. VR offers you the chance to break
out of that bubble and feel like youre doing
more than just chatting to someone on the
phone or over a Facetime video. Its the idea
VR, vTime will give you a way to connect to that youre somewhere else with someone
other users across the world. For us, its that else and thats really exciting to us.
sense of social presence of actively feeling VRs potential is huge and if, as predicted, it
like youre in a different place and youre finds success in the mainstream, a whole new
sharing that with another person. world of social interaction awaits. The world,
For vTime users, that means slipping on a already shrinking, will now seem even smaller
Customise your avatar headset the programme is being tailored for as we meet new people in incredible new
everything from Cardboard to PlayStation VR places, forming bonds and sharing the media
and enter rooms themed and instantly entering a virtual lobby. From that documents and defines our lives.
with 360 images. here you can customise your 3D avatar and
enter rooms themed with 360 images. These Dom Reseigh-Lincoln is a Bath-based
These rooms act as rooms act as conversation platforms for up to freelance journalist specialising in virtual
conversation platforms four different users, and you can shift reality, technology and video games.

Aint no party like a vTime party: vTime enables you to hang out
with friends in rooms that each have their own theme or topic
PHOTO: MISSIONV, CCP

113
FUTURE / AUTOMOTIVE

Unsure why youre stuck in


traffic or concerned about
roadworks? Simply ask your
very own butler wholl steer
you clear of trouble

114
FUTURE OF
AUTOMOTIVE

Speed served by
Bentleys butler
British luxury car manufacturer Bentley is
associated with classicism, grandeur and a
certain regal sophistication. A Bentley is a
sign that youve made it in life and youre
in a position to be served rather than
serve even in holographic form. In March
this year, Bentley unveiled their concept car
thats so ostentatious it comes with its own
holographic butler.
Mind you, even Bentley hasnt created a
butler-like Rimmer wholl actually
physically complete your commands for
you; instead, your virtual servant is there to
offer you guidance as well as company.
Luxury is always related to service,
explained Bentleys design director Stefan
Sielaff. People dont like the idea of just
talking to a hidden microphone. We are
thinking of how to personalize the next
generation of communication.
So in the future, the next time youre
panicking that youll run out of petrol on
the M4, simply ask your holographic Jeeves
and hell guide you to Heston services.

115
FROM TH E M A KERS O F FOCUS M AG A ZI N E
VIRTUAL REALITY
THE COMPLETE GUIDE

OH MAN, THIS IS GONNA BE HUGE.


ORDINARY PEOPLE ARE INTERESTED IN VR,
NOT JUST US CRAZY SCI-FI NERDS
PALMER LUCKEY, OCULUS RIFT FOUNDER

BBC FOCUS BIG BOOK COLLECTION

9.99