CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE BY JACQUES DELACOUR
SIGGRAPH 2017 circled around a common theme: advancements in virtual reality (VR) technology. With the introduction of its VR Theater, attendees were able to experience more coming out of the advancements in VR technology than ever before. For gaming technology and creatives, VR brings a new dimension of immersion and interaction for players and consumers, both of which are looking for ways to make obtrusive VR equipment fade into the background. Below are some of the biggest consumer and gaming trends and announcements from the conference:
- Consumer-focused companies are making VR and AR technologies less intrusive for users. They are becoming better adapted to human vision. Several headsets featured at SIGGRAPH, like VRgineers or StarVR, offer a larger field of view and better resolution for more visual comfort, and NVIDIA is developing varifocal displays to help users focus more naturally while wearing AR and VR headsets.
- To make the case for a more portable VR experience, HP presented its VR Backpack. This light, comfortable backpack, with hot-swappable batteries and an embedded powerful graphics card, lets users work, demonstrate or train people using VR in any space. It allows industries to experience virtual reality without cords or cables, and allows users to move in larger areas and interact in multi-user modes.
- Augmented reality (AR) is making waves in the consumer space as well. Consumers can immerse themselves in AR experiences that allow them to interact with brands. One top example was Disney’s Magic Bench, which allowed users to interact with CG characters.
However, VR and AR technology are not restricted to gaming, advertising, and brand interaction. SIGGRAPH 2017 also lifted the curtain on how these technologies are working with enterprises to make product design easier. As more companies enter the virtual world, that reality is becoming closer to our actual reality, with renderings grounded in physics and scientific measurements.
- At the enterprise level, VR is becoming an essential tool for engineers and designers. OPTIS is one company that uses VR to bridge the gap between designers and engineers with its new software product, Theia-RT 2017, which was demoed at the event. Attendees were able to change the lighting, color, and materials of a boat from Quintessence Yachts, which showed how designers could view a VR prototype of their product before sending the final plans to engineers.
- Interacting with the virtual world is becoming more intuitive thanks to more and more accurate tracking systems and even eye tracking software like Tobii Pro. The VR experience is becoming more fluid and the reaction of the virtual product more coherent and realistic with physics simulation integration. For enterprises, this trend will progressively lead to the replacement of expensive physical prototypes and a better understanding of the real world through virtual tests.
- The virtual world is getting closer to the real one as VR technology is combined with physics simulation software. OPTIS presented its OMS2 material scanners, which is capable of precisely reproducing the real appearance of any material in the virtual experience. This allows the user to anticipate how the material will look like under different shapes and different lighting environments and evaluate perceived quality of future products.
- AR also allows enterprises to superimpose a virtual world on top of the real one, offering virtual customization of a real product.
As virtual reality competes with actual reality, creatives and enterprises will need to incorporate science, as well as art, into all stages of VR development, a trend seen across the board at SIGGRAPH 2017.