The head-mounted display, which provides an immersive experience in the virtual space, finally gained popularity in 2016. Since the development, competition of various companies (which began at around the same time) in 2010, with overwhelming efforts have realized the high performance, low price and weight reduction.
Especially 900,000 devices having competent performance with the price of less than 100,000JPY were provided to the world in less than half a year and it achieved widespread popularity. Many entertainment facilities have been remodeling and using many high-end head-mounted displays.
Immersive experience into virtual space by head-mounted display
With a VR head-mounted display, user’s field of view is completely covered with a virtual space, and a movement of the user’s neck triggers the rendering of the virtual space with extreme accuracy corresponding to the motion. The sensation of immersion, or in other words, the feeling of the reproduced reality is very strong.
In the virtual space, when our feet collapse or if an opponent approaches, many people react defensively and take protective actions like in the real world. Besides visual sensation, the devices reproducing tactile sensation are still being developed. There are still various challenges to be overcome, such as combining visual effects with tools to enhance sensory experiences(* 1).
While VR completely replaces the field of view with virtual reality, in AR or MR the real world is mixed with virtual reality, and these technologies are evolving rapidly. In an AR head-mounted display, the goggles are transparent, letting the user see the real world, and virtual space is pasted on real-world space to create a blended world.
Nonetheless, AR head-mounted displays are currently being sold only for developers. The big constraint is that the virtual reality display range is still narrow, and it is only mixed with the real world in a specific area in the field of view.
Still, the AR head-mounted display, which superimposes virtual reality with extreme precision on the human field of vision, attracts attention from many developers. The developers have discovered the possibility of a new UI, connecting people and the system.
The head-mounted display still has a room for improvement. Currently, it needs to be connected with a powerful computer as a "main body" via a thick cable and this in turn makes the action range of user limited and uncomfortable.
At the entertainment facilities, we have found out a solution that allows users to move around with the "main body" by carrying a backpack-sized PC on their back. However, there is another solution proposed that can be an alternative to the former, instead a high-performance computing and power saving smartphone processor is built into the head mounted display. Furthermore, if computers become powerful enough to convert the real world in front of our eyes to virtual reality, it will be easy to imagine that the technology of VR and AR can be merged.
There is also a proposal for AR that enables collaboration without head-mounted displays by pasting a virtual space in the physical space and heightens further interaction (* 2). The pursuit of a virtual world channel which can realize interactions beyond the display by new devices is accelerating.
There will be a day when people can touch the virtual reality on a daily basis. An interface called VROS that provides an integrated UI by combining various virtual spaces created by computer will emerge.
However, the essence of the current fast-moving evolution of VR or AR would be the new exploration into the unknown world of human senses. The rapid diffusion of devices, increase in the number of developers, and the enormous user feedback will accelerate the accumulation of in-depth knowledge of various human senses. This knowledge is not limited to just touching substances, they are completely different from the unreal floating feelings or the reality given by the experience of VR.
It has been observed that the size of an object identified by human eyesight has been assumed to change depending on the person’s attentiveness. This is also considered as a significant challenge for 3D content producers as they struggle to determine what size to display objects to make humans feel "right" and engage in the virtual space.
We also have a report that the action of catching a flying ball presented in VR is different and faster compared to the one seen by human eyesight in real world (* 3). These findings will be used to develop more natural interfaces and help improve the relationship between systems and people.
"NTT DATA Technology Foresight" special site: https://www.nttdata.com/global/en/foresight