A quick explanation of Virtual Reeality (VR) by HowStuffWorks
“A virtual reality system is an interactive technology setup (software, hardware, peripheral devices, and other items) that acts as a human-to-computer interface and immerses its user in a computer-generated three-dimensional environment.” (Meinhold 2013)
Addressed as one of the technology trends for 2018, Virtual Reality (VR) is on its way to becoming integrated into every possible field—from medical to education to business, you name it. Yet as prevalent as it appears, VR can be quite an elusive concept for newcomers; however, it can essentially be recognised through these five criteria: believability, interactivity, whether it is computer-generated, explorability, and immersion.
Initially created to improve flight simulators and for astronaut training, the early VR technologies was then modified by NASA in their remarkably successful attempt in the 1980s to create the first VR system which consisted of a host computer, a graphics computer, a noncontact user position-tracking system, and VIVED (Virtual Visual Environment Display helmet) (Meinhold 2013)
NASA’s video on their 1980’s Virtual Reality system
Although there is not any clear-cut classification, VR can generally fall under one or more of these categories: fully immersive, non-immersive, collaborative, web-based. It can be in the form of 360° images and videos, panoramic photography, 360° illustrations/artworks etc. and can either be viewed simply through desktops or using headsets like the one on the left.
One side note: VR is often mistakenly used interchangeably with AR—Augmented Reality; however, they are two different concepts, as explained below by two Reddit users:
Most VR systems stimulate users’ senses of sight, hearing, touch—smell is rarely employed, and taste has been excluded so far as existing technology has yet to achieve that level of simulation (Meinhold 2013). Thanks to this impressive range of influence, VR technology is commonly used in documenting nature and cultural locations, mostly by capturing 360° images and videos, and it is praised by Goldsmith (2011, p. 123) for its capabilities to give viewers an atmospheric and realistic impression of natural sites. One such astounding example is a project named The World at Night, an international collaborative photography exhibit by astronomical photographers worldwide, bridging cultural and natural landscapes together with celestial sights—it is a stunning collection of photographs, including 360° spherical images, time-lapse, and time-exposure pictures (Goldsmith 2011, pp. 125-126).
In the medical field, VR is believed to be life-changing—Osso VR, a surgical simulation platform, is now training residents and assisting seasoned surgeons warm up for procedures in a realistic virtual environment (Kugler 2017, p. 16). It is also transforming workplaces other than hospitals, with companies like AltspaceVR providing software enabling employees to connect with others in a shared digital environment and brainstorm like they are in the same room (Kugler 2017, p. 17), making conference calls less of a pain for many.
The above images showcase a VR replication of the fabric used to make traditional Tibetan clothing, and they are from a project in fashion design education in China. This model allows for full demonstration of the characteristics of the material, giving students a closer look into what they cannot learn from simply looking at museum collections, as minute details such as edging effects and tiny metal buttons on the outfits are also recreated in graphic design software (e.g. 3ds Max) (Chen et al. 2018, pp. 51-53).
The one key application of VR that grasped my attention and led to my choice of it as my research topic, however, is the use of VR in immersive storytelling, which grants the power over to the readers/viewers to freely navigate the now non-linear storylines (Sullivan 2018). My project, therefore, would be to build an illustrated account of my own exploration of VR and related ethical issues and of my process of self-learning to create 360° illustrations. This digital artefact would come in the form of a story made up of annotated 360° illustrations on my blog The Specs.
My style of illustration
An issue that cropped up while I was looking into this idea is that there is apparently some controversy over whether 360° illustrations count as VR products—this will be examined more thoroughly as I progress. Regarding the methods, I have mainly consulted two sets of instructions on creating panoramic VR artworks in Photoshop here and here. To my utmost joy and relief, WordPress now lets its users embed 360° content into posts, so I will follow these guides to put up the work on my blog as a complete post.
My exciting journey to learn all this and the pain, frustration, agony, (hopefully) enjoyment, and triumphs that come its way will be documented right here on The Specs, accessible here or via clicking on UOW>BCM325 on the menu bar. Happy exploring!
Chen, G, Fenfen, M, Yan J, and Ruipu, L 2018, ‘Virtual reality interactive teaching for Chinese traditional Tibetan clothing’, Art, Design & Communication In Higher Education, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 51-59.
Goldsmith, J 2011, ‘Documenting natural and cultural places with 360° spherical images, panoramic and timelapse digital photography’, Rock Art Research, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 123-127.
Joshi, Y 2016, ‘360° Panoramic Painting (Process)’, Yog Joshi Art, weblog, 2 September, viewed 21 March 2018, <http://www.yogjoshi.com/360-panoramic-painting/>.
Kugler, L 2017, ‘Why Virtual Reality Will Transform a Workplace Near You’, Communications of the ACM, vol. 60, no. 8, pp. 15-17.
Lai 2016, ‘4 Steps to create a 360 VR illustration / painting in Photoshop (with pictures)’, Behind90, website, 25 December, viewed 20 March 2018, <http://studiobehind90.com/2016/12/25/how-to-create-360-panorama-painting-in-photoshop/>.
Meinhold, R 2013, ‘Virtual Reality’, Salem Press Encyclopedia of Science.
Sullivan, T 2018, ‘VR gets real: Immersive storytelling in journalism’, PC Magazine, p. 103.