• large-scale engineering objects or processes,
• product life-cycle optimization, and
• industry use.
• Migrate from industry use to mass-market consumer use. Medical, military, and manufacturing are key segments for a larger number of professional users. Retail (product presentation) and games are the first segments with a consumer focus. Addressing the small office-home office and mass consumer market with attractive plug-and-play solutions of general interest based on Internet technologies will lead VR into a mainstream application.
• Enter the communication and services sector. Although VR-style graphics and audio are becoming a substantial part of PCs (mainly for high-end games), VR-related products currently don't address the communication aspect. Today's bulk of interpersonal communication occurs through voice transmission (and even about 80 percent of the world population still has no private access to that).
A huge potential exists to expand existing narrowband voice communication to higher quality and additional modalities with the help of VR technology. We estimate the needed bandwidth for full-sense interpersonal communication at about 250 Mbits per second. With the advent of broadband access technologies like cable, satellite, and digital subscriber line (xDSL) and the proliferation of fiber-optic core networks, the required infrastructure will be in place within the next couple of years. (Mobile communication will achieve these rates shortly thereafter but will continue to lag behind wired networks in bandwidth.) Image and video transmission will be the next major communication application. This will occur not so much because you save travel overhead or for other claimed benefits, but rather because the service will be readily available at a marginal cost.
• Augmented reality integrates computer-generated and real-world information using a see-through display. Key augmented reality issues include integrating both kinds of information and accurately registering computer-generated images with the real world. (For more information see the Second Annual IEEE and ACM International Workshop on Augmented Reality Web site at http://hci.rsc.rockwell.com/iwar/99.)
• Wearable gear promises mobile information and communication at its best—unobtrusive, always available and connected, and easy to wear. Key expertise issues are miniaturization and wearability, effective power management, ad-hoc network building, mobile interaction, and distributed information management. (For more information see the International Symposium on Wearable Computers Web site at http://iswc.gatech.edu.)
Peter Astheimer is a project leader within the innovation field for information and communication at Siemens AG Corporate R&D in Munich, Germany. His job is to implement innovative business opportunities within Siemens in cooperation with strategic marketing and product departments of business units. He has many years of hands-on experience with VR from his time with the Fraunhofer Society. He received a PhD from the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany.
Lawrence Rosenblum is Director of Virtual Reality Systems and Research in the Information Technology Research Division of the Naval Research Laboratory and Program Officer for Visualization and Computer Graphics at the Office of Naval Research. His research interests include VR, augmented reality, scientific visualization, and human-computer interfaces.Rosenblum received a BA in mathematics from Queens College (CUNY) and MS and PhD degrees in math from the Ohio State University. He serves on the advisory board of IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics and the editorial boards of Virtual Reality and IEEE CG&A, where he edits the Projects in VR Department. He is a senior member of the IEEE and a member of the IEEE Computer Society, ACM, Siggraph, and American Geophysical Union.