BACK TO BASICS, AGAIN

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The future is Time Travel.

Well...maybe not in most of our lifetimes, but as a civilization we truly are progressing forward at a pace exponentially greater than in the past few decades. Technology is moving at such a rapid pace nowadays, that even by the time this article is complete it’s already becoming obsolete as far as being an informational resource. Now that we have explained, in simple terms, what AR, MR and VR are all about, let's dive into VR a bit further. You will recall a reference to the Back to the Future amusement ride at Universal Studios in Florida in our last article. In a crazy roundabout way, this was my first real immersive experience. While it was not super-advanced from a technological standpoint, it did a great job of being able to evoke emotions from riders through it’s different types of sense-inducing characteristics. The motion of the car, working in tandem with the graphics on the screen, the sound from the speakers and even the feel of the seats, all combined to make it a memorable experience.

Nowadays, the term ‘immersive’ is a buzzword that gets thrown around more than any of us would like to admit. However, out of the three types of ‘reality’ experiences we’ve looked at, Virtual Reality gets us closest to what immersive really can be. But, which category of VR are we speaking about? Wait, what, there is more than one category? Yes, when speaking about VR there are multiple experiences, interaction capabilities and devices, which all immerse the user in one way or another. Keeping with our simplified explanation theme, we’ll group these into two categories. Category 1, we’ll call Fully immersive VR, and Category 2, we’ll call Mobile immersive VR.

The Fully immersive type of VR spans well beyond just the piece of hardware used to drive these experiences, but let’s start there. At this time, the most popular pieces of hardware, or HMDs (Head Mounted Displays) capable of fully immersing users, with the highest resolution specs, are the HTC Vive/Vive Pro, and the Oculus Rift, with lesser popular pieces being Sony Playstation VR, and new to the market Samsung Odyssey / Windows Mixed Reality. For the sake of this article, we’ll be focusing on Vive/Vive Pro and Oculus, as Playstation VR and Samsung Odyssey still feel like a generation or two behind, compared to the two top runners. Both the Vive/Vive Pro and Oculus are still developing advancements for the resolution of their headset units. However, it’s a fine line to push due to the fact that as the higher resolution and refresh rates of these devices grow, so does the need for computing power to run them properly.

This is one main difference between fully immersive VR versus Mobile VR. Mobile VR essentially use smartphones as the computer to run their experience, but because of this limits what types of graphics and interactions can be built into the application. Fully immersive VR utilizes a fully built 3D virtual environment, with full size and scale, allowing the VR developers to build in much more customization and interaction to be used with the hardwares controllers and other elements. This type of VR is perfect for environments, games, or other items that are not existent in the real world, to help the user put themselves in that space. Other notable items required for these fully immersive types, are base stations, higher spec computer with monitor, controllers and the knowledge of how to build out these experiences on the software-side of things.

Mobile Immersive VR is a much more streamlined type of VR, which is more cost effective for entry, accessible to more consumers, but also has many limitations in comparison to the other fully immersive type of VR already discussed. The cheapest, and most well known options here are Google Cardboard, Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR. Google cardboard is essentially a simple device holder, equipped with some fresnel lenses, which allows the user to place their smartphone within a slot in the cardboard apparatus and play a VR application. With most types of Mobile VR, the main uses are 360 Video, video walkthroughs, or very simple types of built 3D environments which do not require much more than one element of interaction.

Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR both still utilize a users smartphone and are at the higher end of the Mobile VR spectrum, but again, both have limitations and are mainly used for 360 Video, video walkthroughs and simple 3D environments. The latest version of these devices come with a controller which do help with furthering interactions from the user, but still lack a bit of that immersive and exploratory nature. Mobile VR is based more around 2D objects and leans towards what the builders of the application want to show you, versus fully immersive experiences which really allow users to explore what’s around the next corner.

Of course there are further complexities in VR, as well as additional types of hardware, such as VR compatible gaming treadmills, and haptic gloves, but as some simple, tangible information on how to start thinking about VR, we hope this article does the trick.

As for the future of VR, it is still progressing rapidly. Recently, in the beginning of this year, when HTC announced the Vive Pro, it was also announced that wireless capability for the headset is slated for sometime this year, as well as updates to the base-stations, while adding an additional 2 for wireless tracking. There are also a myriad of companies producing their own VR headsets, now even boasting 8k resolution (PimaxVR), standalone headsets (Lenovo Mirage Solo), and true eye tracking devices. While all of this is exciting and stirs our imagination for the future of where the Architecture and Building industry can go, at Sensuus we do not think of ourselves as a VR-specific company. We position ourselves as an Architecture Vision studio which utilizes the best tools available at the time to support these visions. Having said that, at this current time, we do feel that VR, specifically fully immersive VR, is the best package out there to portray these visions.

If you have questions, would like to learn more, or share your thoughts, please reach out to us at info@sensuus.com. We look forward to hearing from you!