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The Many Realities and Their Uses
[ Issue 151 Page 9 ] Wednesday, March 29, 2017, 23:18:15 Wan Ju Kang Senior Staff Reporter soarhigh@kaist.ac.kr
▲ Military VR Training

The last decade witnessed the largest- scale proliferation and dissemination of VR and AR technology yet. The uncountably numerous applications marketed by advocates of the technology include everything from flight simulators and virtual porn to surgical training and architectural design. Given the variety of promising applications still under development or already in use, “disruptive” may even be an understatement of how VR/AR applications are transforming businesses and consumer behavior.

VR technology is used to simulate medial and military situations without compromising the immersive learning environment that trainees need to consolidate skills. VR enables today’s surgeons and pilots to better learn to handle life-threatening scenarios without actually putting lives at stake. With hydraulic lift and feedback systems, flight simulators are known to be indistinguishable with actual flights in many aspects, and reconstructed terrains in VR prepare military and police forces for operations in crowded and/or sensitive locations such as city centers or government facilities. As for medical training, an NIH study shows that repeated skills demonstrations and error reduction practice in VR training sessions improve surgeons’ performance in the operating room.

Combining its strength in creating an interactive environment with the intuitive appeal of 3D diagrams, AR is a promising means of visual aid in the classroom. Chemical bonds and orbitals, anatomical structures, and astronomical constellations are just a few of the many things whose 3D details could be laid out as AR in front of students for them to better absorb what flashcards and flat diagrams failed to deliver. Design students are also expected to benefit hugely from AR technology developments. Their mode of design evolved yet another step to AR-based design, which allows them to manipulate and edit designs with intuitive hand gestures in a full 3D view of the design, be it architectural, graphic, or prototyping.

As previously introduced, the entertainment industry is another sector that more than welcomes VR. Devices such as Playstation VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive are already on the market for the early majority of the gaming market. Filmmakers and musicians are looking to produce new forms of media content that are consumable in VR gear. In fact, Snapchat’s or SNOW’s digital photography filters that work as an overlay are technically an AR application, given the interaction between the real world and the virtual overlay. More sophisticated forms of VR/AR photography and VR/AR films have already been presented at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the Sundance Film Festival of last year. Pokémon GO is spearheading the AR gaming market with its great success, and the release of VR/AR variants of classic entertainers such as Minecraft and Lego has already been announced. Yet another application of VR is in the pornography industry. Dozens of “VR porn” have been produced by the industry leaders, and the VR pornographic material, in one Mashable writer’s words, was “undeniably immersive” that “The female pornstars working their moves felt [more] lifelike.” Pornographic material producers see VR/AR technology as the next growth engine for the industry, and news reports state that more will be heard from them very soon.

A very intuitive means of exploiting VR/AR technology is navigation, tourism, and sightseeing; with signposts and road signs as an overlay, no tourist would have to struggle with directions as much as they did before the emergence of VR/AR. First-time visits would be less troublesome, and discovering new bars or restaurants in a familiar district would be more of a pleasure and less of a hassle. In fact, one could even visit the place with virtual tours that some cities and hotels offer for a sneak peak of the tourist spot. In fact, the KAIST website has a virtual tour meant for visitors, who could “walk around” the campus virtually with 360-degree vision. Museums, exhibitions, and theme parks are some of the more viable candidates of VR applications that are underway. With no jet lag or soaring airfares, VR tours may just be the next tourist destination for those who value the ease of access to virtual tours more than the experience of being physically present at the tourist venue.

Regardless of how futuristic of a reality VR/AR is, there appears to be a growing tendency of disillusionment as researchers, producers, and consumers both realize the limitations of the technology and cease associating overly fantastic ideas with VR/AR. That is, a more thorough consideration of the legal, practical, and ethical issues is in due course in order for HMDs and AR glasses to establish themselves not only as the next big thing but also as the next must-have thing.

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