Category: Virtual Reality: Applications

VR Architecture – Visualization

This is a visual representation of VR being used for architecture. 
It starts off with a Pre-Made Animation, designed to lay the groundwork for the future project. The next step is a 3-D Interactive stage, allowing for manipulation of the environment. Experiencing the project first-hand, before even building it, is the evolution of Architecture, and is made possible with VR. 

VR Fest Event: Convergence of Revolution

The entrance to the VR Fest: The Innovation Hangar. Appropriate name, given the event!

The entrance to the VR Fest: The Innovation Hangar. Appropriate name, given the event!

Finding an event to go and get pictures for my project was probably the simplest part of this whole thing. San Francisco has a lot of options available for me, and VR being the every-popular piece of tech nowadays, I found one almost immediately after searching. My efforts took me to this spot, at the Palace of Fine Arts: The Innovation Hangar. This event had several companies, each with their own booths, displaying different aspects of VR and its technological advances and applications to be used in the years to come. This event seemed to be only the beginning of the VR phenomenon. 

 

 

VR Q&A/Discussion Panel at the VR Fest. Here, they discussed and explained how VR is shaping the way the world works, and how it will continue to do so.

The VR Fest event was more than just about video games being played in Virtual Reality. For the most part, however, there were a lot of booths that had video games being played using a VR device. However, not all of these companies were game developers. The general idea was to get how the technology worked across to the public. The best way to do that was with fun, immersive games. The intiutive controls, the feeling of "being there," all of it was expressed and expanded upon. The panel gave insight not just into how VR is shaping the way the entertainment industry will operate, but with several other applications as well. 

Photo of a stereoscopic picture; this is the view of someone looking through a VR device; to use, it looks like the same picture next to each other. To the user, it's a new, immersive world, with depth and life.

Photo of a stereoscopic picture; this is the view of someone looking through a VR device; to use, it looks like the same picture next to each other. To the user, it's a new, immersive world, with depth and life.

There were displays that didn't even have a usual VR device, but just showed you how the technology worked (above). Usually, it was about a minute-and-a half long promotional video of the tecnology used, how it works, and what it looks like in real time. It showed you what the VR display technically looks like; from my experience, the stereoscopic images view is a very bare bones view. 

One of my personal favorite pictures, this is of two women going through with a mental, relaxing therapy. This VR application was developed to combat the effects of depression.

One of my personal favorite pictures, this is of two women going through with a mental, relaxing therapy. This VR application was developed to combat the effects of depression.

There were several groups there that had set up their booths to show their own creative applications of VR. The above picture depicts a VR app that meditates, calms, and soothes the user. It is used as a sort of therapy, and was designed to help relax the user. According to a bar graph they had set up, depression levels actually dropped a decent amount, without the use of medication. Ironically, VR technology is being used to naturally combat a mental issue. 

A man playing one of the bigger games at the event. I didn't catch the name, but it involved the player using archery to defend the tower you are stationed at. The main point of this attraction is the 360 degree of range the player has at their disposal.

A man playing one of the bigger games at the event. I didn't catch the name, but it involved the player using archery to defend the tower you are stationed at. The main point of this attraction is the 360 degree of range the player has at their disposal.

One of the biggest aspects of its technology is the degree of range. The game displayed above had 360 degrees of range; the player could be attacked from all angles, and they had to adjust accordingly. It was fun to watch people duck and spin, and the game react accordingly. 

Medicine

Medicine, more specifially, mental health, has been a huge issue for humanity for many years. Schizophrenia, PTSD, autism, are just a few of the several different, very difficult to treat mental conditions a large number of people suffer from (more specifically, referring to autism, socializing is difficult for most). According to an article on techrepublic.com, there are at least ten ways VR will change the way medicine and healthcare work. 

1) Exposure Therapy

2) PTSD

3) Pain Management

4) Surgical Training

5) Phantom Limb Pain

6) Brain damage assessment and rehabilitation

7) Social Cognition training with young adults with autism

8) Meditation

9) Opportunities for the Disabled

10) Opportunities for the homebound

Extensive practice and research has gone into each of these fields, and bounds have been made. VR has shown that it is capable of intensely immersing the user into the world or scenario that has been created. With that though in mind, scientists and doctors have gone to great strides to essentially trick the brain into helping itself. For example, the Exposure Therapy system involves exposing people to their fears in order to help them cope, or practice coping strategies. This same tactic works with PTSD, but with a different audience in mind. 

Another amazing application, while still on the topic of medicine, is clinical psychological help. VR technology has been seen as the basis of this clinical help, even as far back as 2004. In the book "Studies in Health Technology and Informatics, Volume 99: Cybertherapy: Internet and Virtual Reality Assessment and Rehabitation Tools for Clinical Psychology and Neuroscience," published in April 2004, in the chapter on Virtual Reality and Psychotherapy, they had data on VR's affectiveness already, only a couple decades after it's naming. They had data on VR helping people with anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and even sexual disorders. A couple of the advantages that VR held, according to the chapter, were that it can create an isolated/protected environment specifically for that patient, and that they can re-experience it any time they want; so, for example, if dealing with a fear of theirs and trying to overcome that fear (i.e. Exposure Therapy), they could it again and again to get used to it, and to practice tolerance. 

Education and Training

The VR Fest panel spoke about the boundaries of Education, and how those boundaries can be and will be broken by advances in the availability of VR. One of the audience members at the panel asked if education was on the minds of any of the developers up there. They laughed, and simply said "Yes." They explained how VR can change the way education works. In class, it's one thing to hear and see and be told how to do something, or how something should work. It's another to experience and practice it yourself. However, given the field of study, this can not always be done. A practicing surgeon, for example, cannot just borrow a person in need of surgery and try his best (hopefully with supervision, of course). He would have to be taught and would need to learn what he needs to from a book and a professor before eventually get hands-on training himself after the fact. Now, with VR, there can be accurate and effective training simulations for just this kind of thing. Architects and engineers can use VR to practice building designs. Archaeologists can use VR to visualize their data of their exploits. 

Even the military can use VR to train their troops. Before, it had been normal for troops to actually play shooting games, such as Call of Duty, as a means of testing their reflexes. The game is fast-paced and requires adept reflexes and aim. Now, with VR, this can be taken to a whole new level. Recently, the demo for a game called "Onward" was released. This game was actually made by some guys who have had extensive military training and service. Their aim was to create a real and immersive FPS (first-person shooter) game, while changing the way that FPS' look and feel (http://www.downpourinteractive.com/#onward). A game like this can be used for training on an extensive level, creating a new defintion of "reflex training." When you're responsible for taking cover and reloading your gun manually, with the pressure of war weighing down on you, this game will test just who'd be cut out for battle. 

VR can also be helpful to those with learning disabilites. VR offers the "possibilities of teaching in a controlled and structured environment, with opportunities for repetition and generalization to the real world…" (Bates Brkljac, 163). Kids with learning disabilities and/or autism find it difficult to socialize and participate in class, even harder to retain information. VR can provide a unique experience for these children, giving them an opportunity to grow and learn at their own pace, comfortably. 

Architecture

The organizer of the VR Fest in San Francisco. Though I could not get his name, he had a lot to say about VR and its applications, aside from being a way to evolve home entertainment

The organizer of the VR Fest in San Francisco. Though I could not get his name, he had a lot to say about VR and its applications, aside from being a way to evolve home entertainment

At the VR Fest in San Francisco, they held a Q&A/Discussion panel, where major people in the industry and groups would talk about VR and it's applications. One of the biggest ones talked about was Architecture. 

Architecture was a very difficult yet important task that required extremely intelligent people to draw up plans for a building, and then build it. This would take time, money, other resources, in addition to a bunch of man power. One of the biggest problems with architecture, however, were mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes, it's only natural. But when it comes to designing a building, especially really tall ones, where hundreds if not thousands of people will not only be standing in but around, and all of their lives hang in the balance once whatever mistake was made starts to take its toll… Needless to say, a mistake made in architecture is a mistake that can be catastrophic. 

The panel discussed this issue. With VR, literally a virtual blueprint can be created. Architects can mold, shape, build, move, etc whatever piece of whatever it is they're making. The work is literally in their hands, and they can change it however they want. With this in mind, they can get a concrete idea and plan created, flush out any mistakes, and get to work with the exact piece in mind, knowing exactly what it will look like in relation to its surrounding architecture. Tests can be run to find any mistakes; so if something doesn't fit right, or if something would just get in the way, they can either adjust the problem, or get rid of it entirely, as opposed to just following the plans, and then realizing that something doesn't make sense. 

With this application in mind, this'll mean that VR will become a necessary tool for architects and engineers to utilize whilst planning for a building. The implications of this are astounding, as it opens up the door to a very great opportunity for expansion and application: Education.

My Perspective on Virtual Reality (Gaming)

I have only ever used Virutal Reality devies twice, personally. Once when I attended the VR Fest in San Francisco, at the Palace of Fine Arts on July 27th, 2016. There, I experienced something I never even considered I could experience. It was very surreal, very immersive, and pretty horrifying… but in the best possible way, given that one can be empathetic and understanding. I stood in line to use the Occulus Rift, one of the VR Devices currently on the market, to experience what it would be like to have schizophrenia. 

Myself, experiencing Schizophrenia. I am completely turned around because I had 360 degrees of view, given that I looked behind me and all around.

Myself, experiencing Schizophrenia. I am completely turned around because I had 360 degrees of view, given that I looked behind me and all around.

The scenario of the experience was that I was in a library with some friends. Everyone was scattered about, talking amongst themselves. Looking straight ahead, I was at a table with two other girls. Behind me was a man on a beanbag chair, and two others at a table. The laptop's screen depicts what I see, and the headphones allows me to hear my surroundings. The headphones, however, didn't just let me hear their chatting. As time progressed, I began to hear voices; whispers that were made to sound like they were coming from behind or around. It sent chills down my spine. The scenario ends with everyone eventually staring at you, and the whispering, which was once soft insults in the back of my mind, now just the other people, blatantly insulting me. It all fades after a minute, everything going back to normal. It was unbelievable how weird it was that it made me feel pretty bad!

The last time I used VR, and my second time, was August 5th. Sony held a small setup at a Best Buy in Vallejo, where they allow people, for about five minutes, to try their own VR device, "PlayStation VR." I went with my friend, Vamario, and we both got opportunities to try it out. Before getting there, I wasn't too sure how the PlayStation VR would be used. I studied how the people ahead of me in line used it, as a way to prepare myself for it. No matter what I could've known, though, nothing could've prepared me for it. It was more amazing than I could have anticipated! 

Gamer using the PlayStation VR. He is playing a game called "BattleZone." Honestly, he made the game look a little harder than it was, but it was a fairly difficult to play game, if only because of how I was not used to VR. Regardless, it was very, very cool.

Gamer using the PlayStation VR. He is playing a game called "BattleZone." Honestly, he made the game look a little harder than it was, but it was a fairly difficult to play game, if only because of how I was not used to VR. Regardless, it was very, very cool.

The VR headset was used to look around, with about 180 degrees of range being necessary. The tank you drove did not have windows behind you, so there was no real reason to look behind you. However, you could, and if you did, you would see your chair and the back of the tank. You used looking around to look for enemy vehicles and to turn your tank accordingly. Other than that, you used the PS4 controller to operate the tank in every way. It was amazing how stunned I was after I put on the headpiece. It legitimately felt real. I immediately (instinctively) tried reaching out to grab hold of one of the grips in front of me. I also kept trying to place my feet on the floor of the tank, as I felt like I was suspended in the air too high. So, I stomped my feet on the actual ground a couple of times. It took a couple minutes of me needing to adjust to the world I had just entered, because that's exactly what it felt like I did. 

My screenshot of BattleZone. The big green circle located in the lower-center of the screen was your radar. From the player's perspective (in this case, my perspective), the tank was huge! I had to look around constantly, while also maintaining defensive fire, because I was basically always being shot at. That radar helped you locate enemies by coloring them as red dots; the center of the green circle being the player.

My screenshot of BattleZone. The big green circle located in the lower-center of the screen was your radar. From the player's perspective (in this case, my perspective), the tank was huge! I had to look around constantly, while also maintaining defensive fire, because I was basically always being shot at. That radar helped you locate enemies by coloring them as red dots; the center of the green circle being the player.

It was very immersive, and very fun to play. Way better than I had invisioned it being! It felt way more real than imaginable. With the feeling of reality being not-so virtual, it was an even scarier feat to play the PlayStation VR game "VR Worlds." Particularly speaking, a game with the cute little title of "Ocean Descent." Ocean Descent takes you down, well, the ocean. You are in that cage thing that scuba divers use to protect themselves from any hostile, underwater wildlife. Initially, you are just enjoying the view. Fish swim around in their schools, a multitude of colors quickly swishing by. The reefs and rocks all look natural and beautiful. You get lower and lower, and it starts getting darker and darker. Eventually, you reach this sunken ship… and are subsequently harrassed by a big shark. 

This is the shark attacking me. I won't lie, it made me jump when it first tried to pounce. The game let you look almost all around you as it circled the cage. When it swam below me, I found myself lifting my feet up, as if it would grab them and tried to yank me through.

This is the shark attacking me. I won't lie, it made me jump when it first tried to pounce. The game let you look almost all around you as it circled the cage. When it swam below me, I found myself lifting my feet up, as if it would grab them and tried to yank me through.

That was fairly horrifying, not going to lie. The games I played were so immersive, I would instinctively react by jumping, or trying to move my limbs out of the way. This game was almost like a ride at a theme park; it was almost hands on with its interactivity. The shark eventually (albeit slowly) breaks the cage open with its razor-sharp teeth, and it ends with it coming at you. A cold ending with morbid implications, but a fun and funny experience nonetheless. 

My final game experience was with a game called "Eve.Valkyrie." This game was sort of like "BattleZone," but a lot harder. It was a space dogfighting game; I took control of spacefighter plane, and got directly involved with a dogfight happening just outside the atmosphere of some sort of planet. That game was exciting as it was hard. It involved a lot more in-depth and complicated controls, and aiming with the missiles required looking around for an enemy to lock-on to. That one's going to take some getting used to. 

All in all, no matter what was being played, or what was being watched, I had the same reaction: a smile. It was so much fun. Everything I wanted it to be and more. It's almost hard to believe that something like this even exists. I look forward to everything VR related in the future, because no matter what, it'll provide a new perspective and immersion in fantastic worlds. Literally living a dream.

Although the smile is a bit dorky, I am genuinely happy right here. Not just because I was having fun, but because I was thinking about just how immersive this was for me. This experience was something that Past Dylan would dream of, and now it's real. Pretty amazing, the advances we make in technology... it evolves faster than we do.

Although the smile is a bit dorky, I am genuinely happy right here. Not just because I was having fun, but because I was thinking about just how immersive this was for me. This experience was something that Past Dylan would dream of, and now it's real. Pretty amazing, the advances we make in technology… it evolves faster than we do.