Have you ever wanted to travel to the edge of the Universe or walk amongst the dinosaurs? Virtual and augmented reality can offer a glimpse of what such an experience would be like. Virtual reality (VR) is an artificial simulation designed to replicate reality, however the physical constraints of the real world do not apply in this digital world. VR is typically simulated using a special headset equipped with digital images, vibrations, and sounds that totally immerse the user in a virtual world. With augmented reality (AR), digital layering is used to supplement reality by blending the digital and real worlds into an enhanced reality. For example, a car windshield could be programmed to display GPS directions or glasses could display relevant information when a user looks at a store, piece of art, or even another person.
The applications of both technologies are incredibly diverse and offer enhanced education, training, and gaming experiences. Microsoft’s HoloLens can display emails, aid mechanics by overlaying a 3D image over the actual vehicle, and assist military staff by enhancing their view of events and objects on the battlefield. Additionally, Microsoft is working with NASA to create a virtual tour of Mars, titled ‘Destination: Mars’, which will use images from the Curiosity Mars rover to simulate the actual surface of the red planet. The HTC Vive offers a Netflix experience where a user can walk around in a virtual movie store and select a program to watch. Sony’s PlayStation VR, which is scheduled to launch in October 2016, will include 50 VR-compatible games that users can play and become totally immersed in a gaming experience.
At Inovum, we are currently working with augmented reality technology to create 3D representations of human organs for medical research and training. The application is being built in Unity using C#, and will allow a user to view, rotate, and change the size of a 3D organ such as a heart or brain. This could have huge medical implications as doctors and other medical professionals can study these organs in a completely new way, as well as give more detailed medical information to a patient or healthcare provider. Other medical uses include a surgeon performing an operation from a remote location or virtual therapy designed to heal psychological diseases like post-traumatic stress disorder.
Virtual and augmented reality have the potential to transform the way we live by enhancing the world around us and simulating digital realities that unlock the imagination of the human brain. This is a very exciting time for the fields of VR and AR, and Inovum is proud to be developing software that could have major positive global impacts in medicine and more.
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