Virtual Reality now moving Towards Real-Life Scenarios

By Saurabh Durgapal

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Aesthetic improvements with AR

Vuzix M-100 looks like something straight out of science fiction. Focussed towards enterprise, commercial and medical applications, the device comes with direct onboard processing with a wearable monocular display. A camera in the device captures and displays AR.

HoloLens from Microsoft is the first self-contained holographic computer that enables you to engage with your digital content and interact with holograms in the world around you.

HoloLens has numerous sensors to capture your actions and the environment. Sensors map the area around you and design the simulation accordingly. The lenses employ a projection system to generate multi-dimensional images. The brain of the device is the holographic processing unit that processes data from sensors and transmits it for projection accordingly. You do not need a separate pair of headphones.

K-Glass is a high-performance and ultra-low-power head-mounted display with a built-in augmented reality processor. It focuses on replicating the brain, while assessing your surroundings using a visual attention modem, which helps in categorising relevant and irrelevant data just like the human brain. It aims at providing relevant information to you.

A cited example is of a person walking by a restaurant and looking through the glasses to check whether the menu is to his liking or not, so that he may decide whether to go in or not.

Meta 2 launched by Meta Vision in 2014, enables you to create holographic apps, tools and experiences. According to a tester, “Objects in the field-of-view behave like things in the real world.” Priced at US$ 949, the experience is nothing short of a fantasy. It allows fantasy objects to be lifted and placed in different locations just like moving furniture around the house. You can also experience walking around a globe and seeing it from different angles. Though there seem to be some issues with gesture recognition, this could very well lead the way to some truly interesting experiences in the future.

Laster SeeThru, however, takes a different approach. The headset does not have a camera to avoid issues regarding invasion of privacy. It works on its own series of location and GPS to get things done. The device is targeted at adventure sports and helps in navigation. Available for US$ 399, the device connects with your mobile device to allow contacts access from phone, localisation and navigation.

Pic 3: HoloLens from Microsoft

And then we have the rumours.

Known for their quality of service and beauty of design, Apple is also expected to enter the VR market. As per a report by Bloomberg, they have gone on to discuss the project with their hardware suppliers and have ordered near-eye displays for internal testing.

Rumours also indicate that an Apple AR headset would connect to an iPhone. These go on to suggest that secret teams are working on iGlasses, which should hit the market sometime by 2018. If the quality of the current products from Apple is any consideration, the AR or VR device is expected to be a premium product.

However, one thing that sticks out is that, with VR or AR, need for displaying HD content is on the rise. So how are graphic processors keeping up?

What makes virtuality tick

Current headsets provide an updated view of the world every 11.1 milliseconds. Their graphic card effectively generates a frame rate of about 90fps. This calls for improving the frame rate and keeping up with the high frame rate requirements. If the next frame is not ready in time, the perspective is adjusted based on the trajectory to cover up for the lag. Asynchronous Space Warp is a frame-rate smoothing technique that almost halves the CPU/GPU time required to produce nearly the same output from the same content. It enables users to run Oculus Rift headsets on lower specification hardware. Asynchronous Space Warp Vive is quite helpful with low-end GPUs that are incapable of generating frames at the required speed.

Pic 4: Meta 2 from Meta Vision

The currently top-of-the-line GPUs include Strix GTX 10 series processors and RX 480. Strix GTX based on Nvidia’s Maxwell architecture has undergone quite a few improvements. GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 are improvements over their earlier 9 series processors with improved VR performance. While the 9 series delivers decent experiences overall, the 10 series depends on time-warping for higher graphic demanding games. RX 480, based on the third-generation Graphics Core Next architecture from AMD, is another improvement over the earlier 390 series processors.

There has also been reduction in the requirements for VR. Last year saw the processing requirements of Rift reduce from Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD 290, Intel i5-4590 and 8GB RAM to i3-6100 CPU with GTX 960 GPU or AMD FX-4350 with Radeon RX 470. This has, however, been in large due to Asynchronous Space Warp.

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