10 Killer Media Applications Enabled by 'Virtual Reality' Headsets

By Mike Elgan  |  Posted 2015-12-14 Print this article Print
VR Goggles

The paper should be more precise with language, but they (like so many others) called it "virtual reality."

6. Stereoscopic Video

VR goggles can easily show good old-fashioned 3D videos. That means movies created for 3D can be ported into apps for watching as intended, but in a personal viewing experience, rather than in a theater or on a big-screen 3D TV.

7. Immersive Stereoscopic Video

The piece de resistance for VR goggle content is immersive stereoscopic video. Platforms like Google's Jump or products like Nokia's Ozo will enable filmmakers and storytellers to create high-resolution, 360-degree immersive videos with 3D video and sound.

It's theoretically possible that immersive stereoscopic video will one day replace movies. In the meantime, they'll function as a high-end alternative to movies for specialty theaters and home entertainment systems.

8. Augmented Reality

After "virtual reality," the label "augmented reality" is misused the most. In general (and erroneous) reporting and conversation, anything that shows both "reality" (a clear view of what you would see in front of you without the goggles) and something-computer generated is called "augmented reality."

But that's wrong. Augmented reality is the appropriate label only when the computer-generated part refers to the real part.

If you're wearing a pair of VR goggles in Manhattan, and your app is showing you a dinosaur walking down 5th Avenue, that's not augmented reality. It's more accurately "mixed reality."

If, on the other hand, the app uses visual processing and GPS to identify and label in your field of view the 5th Avenue Apple Store, then that's augmented reality because reality is augmented with information.

Google Glass, which people correctly refer to as "smart glasses" rather than VR goggles, has augmented reality apps, such as NameTag, which performs real-time face recognition. But most Glass apps aren't augmented reality.

Still, Google Glass will return to the market next year and a burgeoning category of smart glasses will usher in a new age of augmented reality. And regular VR goggles, like those on Google's Cardboard platform, can do augmented reality, too.

9. Mixed Reality

Remember that Manhattan dinosaur experience I told you about? That's mixed reality, where virtual objects are superimposed on the real world, but only for the person wearing the goggles.

Microsoft's HoloLens is getting a lot of attention in the mixed reality space. Note that HoloLens is actually incapable of doing virtual reality.

The same goes for the products being developed by Google-backed super startup Magic Leap.

HoloLens and Magic Leap integrate virtual objects and action into real environments by mapping nearby spaces and surfaces in real time. So, for example, a projected virtual flying robot can not only appear to land on a table, but hide behind it as well.

10. Virtual Reality

And the tenth media you can experience with virtual reality goggles is—pause for effect—virtual reality!

By definition, virtual reality provides a completely computer-generated, 360-degree 3D immersive world where the environment, objects, creatures and people have nothing to do with what's happening in real life in front of you.

One probable leader in this space is Facebook's Oculus Rift platform, which is expected to ship in a few months.

Virtual reality is the high-end, computer-intensive console-gaming level of what you can do with goggles. But they won't just be used for gaming. Applications include industrial, training, medical, social and many others.

Why Words Matter

The press and public are sloppy about VR goggle media types because it's new to most of us. What's the difference?

As more of us start enjoying these powerful new media, we'll have to change our ways and start calling things by their correct names.

Specialties are emerging for content creation, and these specialists will insist on accuracy in labeling. For example, the world's greatest Immersive Stereoscopic Video content creators will bristle at their work being called "virtual reality." They'll tell us that they know nothing about virtual reality and have no interest in it either. Their equipment, software, techniques and markets will be completely different as well.

VR goggles (and we're going to need a better name for the goggles, too) are ushering in 10 brilliant media. These media types are well understood, and have perfectly good labels to go with them.

So don't be misled by sloppy language from journalists, bloggers and others—because mainstream use of VR goggles is virtually here.



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