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Issue No.06 - November/December (1999 vol.19)
pp: 16-27
ABSTRACT
<p>As is usual with infant technologies, the realization of the early dreams for VR and harnessing it to real work has taken longer than the wild hype predicted, but it is now happening. I assess the current state of the art, addressing the perennial questions of technology and applications. By 1994, one could honestly say that VR "almost works." Many workers at many centers could doe quite exciting demos.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the enabling technologies had limitations that seriously impeded building VR systems for any real work except entertainment and vehicle simulators. Some of the worst problems were end-to-end system latencies, low-resolution head-mounted displays, limited tracker range and accuracy, and costs. The technologies have made great strides. Today one can get satisfying VR experiences with commercial off-the-shelf equipment. Moreover, technical advances have been accompanied by dropping costs, so it is both technically and economically feasible to do significant application. VR really works. That is not to say that all the technological problems and limitations have been solved. VR technology today "barely works." Nevertheless, coming over the mountain pass from "almost works" to "barely works" is a major transition for the discipline.</p> <p>I have sought out applications that are now in daily productive use, in order to find out exactly what is real. Separating these from prototype systems and feasibility demos is not always easy. People doing daily production applications have been forthcoming about lessons learned and surprises encountered. As one would expect, the initial production applications are those offering high value over alternate approaches. These applications fall into a few classes. I estimate that there are about a hundred installations in daily productive use worldwide.</p>
CITATION
Frederick P. Brooks, "What's Real About Virtual Reality?", IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, vol.19, no. 6, pp. 16-27, November/December 1999, doi:10.1109/38.799723
REFERENCES
1. I.E. Sutherland, "The Ultimate Display," invited lecture, IFIP Congress 65. An abstract appears in Information Processing 1965: Proc. IFIP Congress 65, Vol. 2, W.A. Kalenich, ed., Spartan Books, Washington, D.C., and Macmillan, New York, pp. 506-508. A similar, but quite complete, paper is Sutherland's "Computer Displays," Scientific American, Vol. 222, No. 6, June, 1970, pp. 57-81.
2. F.P. Brooks, "Is There Any Real Virtue in Virtual Reality?," public lecture cosponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the British Computer Society, London, Nov.30 1994; http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0201325578/ michaelzydahttp://www.cs.unc.edu ~brooks.
3. S. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, Ch. 1, in The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Vol. 7, J. Engell and W.J. Bate, eds., Routledge&Kegan Paul, London, and Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1983.
4. N.I. Durlach and A.S. Mavor, eds., Virtual Reality—Scientific and Technological Challenges, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 1995.
5. G. Burdea and P. Coiffet, Virtual Reality Technology, John Wiley&Sons, New York, 1994.
6. R. Holloway, Registration Errors in Augmented Reality Systems, PhD dissertation, Dept. of Computer Science, Univ. North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1995.
7. M.R. Falvo et al., "Bending and Buckling of Carbon Nanotubes under Large Strain," Nature, Vol. 389, Oct. 1997, pp. 582-584.
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