Reality Creeps into VR
Virtual and Augmented Reality professionals are increasingly finding their projects converging. Augmented Reality projects can overlay 3D data prepared for VR environments onto the viewed physical world. Virtual Reality specialists are discovering that their skills and tools can be applied to many more use cases when they use the real world as the source for models and as the scene for new experiences.
The convergence of AR and VR is the result of several trends. The first is the introduction of commercially ready RGB-D devices. The 3D models generated from RGB-D systems can provide 3D objects for VR. In “The Quest to put more reality into Virtual Reality,” an article published in the MIT Technology Review, Philip Rosendale, founder of Linden Labs and the visionary behind Second Life, describes how using the latest systems to “capture” reality can reduce time and costs that used to be required to recreate reality using 3D graphic tools. High Fidelity, Rosendale’s latest startup, is using depth cameras and advanced facial detection and tracking algorithms to simulate the expressions of people on the faces of their avatars.
Another trend that contributes to the bleed over between AR and VR is the re-use of digital assets. Models created for VR and simulation are increasingly useful for recognizing real world objects, especially low-texture objects such as those made from glass and steel. These materials are highly reflective so the surface properties can trick recognition and tracking algorithms. By using the contours and edges of the model as the unique signature and comparing them with the real world properties of an object, Augmented Reality recognition systems are more efficient, less likely to have errors and to need calibration.
Another reason that Virtual Reality professionals are increasingly interested in AR is the need for users to have assistive technologies when they are performing tasks in the physical world. With VR in a cave or using a Powerwall, users must stay in a small, confined area. Even with VR goggles, such as Oculus Rift, a user either sits or stands with limited mobility since cables connect the user to a computer and obstacles in the physical world are not dynamically introduced into the scene and can be dangerous.
By reusing procedures designed for simulation and training in Virtual Reality and adapting them to AR, the investments a company has made in high-quality digital assets have a potentially greater return. Conversely, new Augmented Reality projects may enter the test phase and reach performance objectives more quickly when their designers do not have to start from a “blank slate.”
Are you noticing these trends in your projects?
Join AREA members and others working at the convergence of AR and VR at the SAE AR/VR Symposium in Dearborn Michigan on November 18 and 19, 2014.