Virtual Reality

There is an assumption that virtual reality is a recent arrival on the technological scene, but in reality, it goes back further than you may think. Virtual Reality was brought to media and public attentions in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. We can relate this to pioneering computer scientist Jaron Lanier who coined the term ‘virtual reality’ in 1987. The growth in popularity of virtual reality was matched by a growth in public expectations which then over hyped the abilities of what the equipment at the time could provide. This led to dissatisfaction with virtual reality in general and a scaling back of much of the research into it.

We know the world through our senses and perception systems. Humans have many more senses than just the five taught to us as children, such as a sense of balance for example. These other inputs, plus the processing of sensory information by our brains ensures that we have a rich flow of information from the environment to our minds. The logical progression of this then, is that if you can present your senses with made-up information, your perception of reality would also change in response to it. You would be presented with a version of reality that isn’t really there, but from your perspective it would be perceived as real. This would be referred to as a Virtual Reality.

There are a range of systems that are used to simulate reality, such as headsets, omni-directional treadmills and special gloves. For our project we are going to be using the Occulus head set and surround sound Head phones to immerse our viewers. The technology is used to actually stimulate our senses together in order to create the illusion of reality.This is more difficult than it sounds, since our senses and brains are evolved to provide us with a finely synchronised and mediated experience. If anything is even a little off we can usually tell. This is where you’ll hear terms such as immersiveness  and realism enter the conversation.

There are many different types of virtual reality systems but they all share the same characteristics such as the ability to allow the person to view three-dimensional images. These images appear life-sized to the person. Plus they change as the person moves around their environment which corresponds with the change in their field of vision. The aim is for a seamless join between the person’s head and eye movements and the appropriate response, e.g. change in perception. This ensures that the virtual environment is both realistic and enjoyable.

I’ve been doing some research into why we’re using virtual reality and how it works. As a team we felt that keeping this experience of PTSD as immersive as possible would really allow our audience to empathize with our character, the WWI Veteran who is witnessing the beginnings of WWII. By using the Oculus headset we can literally show the audience this character point of view and I think that going to be one of the most important parts of this experience and what feelings it will evoke from our audience.

I used this website to get a brief overview of how our VR would actually work as I am the only member of the team to have not previously used an oculus headset before this project.

One of the reasons we chose to do this project in particular is that Post-Traumatic- Stress-Disorder (PTSD) affects millions across the globe, it may develop from a terrifying ordeal involving physical harm or threat. Most PTSD sufferers repeatedly relive the trauma in their thoughts during the day and in nightmares when they sleep, usually through flashbacks. Evidence and research has shown it is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated.It is estimated that around 70% of people in the UK who suffer from this, do not seek out professional help. So we decided we wanted to spread the awareness to others,by allowing the users to experience what a PTSD sufferer may experience aided by Virtual Reality.

Why in Virtual Reality and not another medium?

We believe that no other medium could leave a lasting impression on the viewer more so than Virtual Reality.VR allows us to create real world situations that can be mimicked and intensified to devastatingly intense effects. These highly imaginative universes can be created for a player to traverse through extraordinary and lifelike simulations. Virtual Reality headsets, melded with headphones allows the users to physically move within the 3D space and become immersed in an entirely new dimension not seen before.

Sound is quickly becoming one of the more intense areas we are looking at and the sound database I’ve been creating for us keeps coming up short in some areas, because of this I have begun to explore foley sound a lot more. I can see how in certain areas such as the characters breathing, we as a team are going to have to record our own sounds. We may need to do this in other areas such as the clacking of the tube lines to get the sound to match the visuals more accurately.


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