In the first blog in this series we talked about the need to consider (even if briefly) your organisation’s ambition around VR.
We looked at how there’s a huge spectrum of options available, each complementary to the other, but no one that’s the outright winner in all scenarios. We finished by picking up on the idea that, whatever the option, a successful VR set-up is about marrying a number of technological dimensions together in a way that allows your intended users to work naturally in a manner that best fits their context, immediate requirements and expectations. In order to explore that in a little more depth, this blog will look at the technology behind every successful VR deployment.
This means that if you’ve just bought yourself a HMD off the shelf, you’ve got your hands on two of those four components. If I may use my favourite car analogy, it’s like having the body work and chassis/wheels without the engine and with the risk that you’ve not picked the right combination to take you up some unpaved roads in winter which is a key requirement you happen to have. This is back to the roadmap topic of the first blog again.
In fact, it goes farther than that. It’s not just about making sure you’ve chosen the right body shape, sufficient suspension travel, transmission ratios etc., it’s also about the experience of driving and the ability of that car to take you places. The same is true of an effective VR system and while it becomes more important the larger the system you’re considering, you still need to bear it in mind if you’re considering a basic PC/HMD type set up. In this case, you’re more able to compensate and adjust if you get it wrong, but better again to have thought about the user experience and objectives up front.
Taking each component in-turn, let me explain the role they play and what questions you should be asking yourself when selecting them.
The Software/Engine, drives the graphics, takes input from the input devices and tracking, and also provides the platform or environment for you to develop your 3D scene.
When choosing the software, you should ask yourself:
The tracking system determines your position in the 3D world, and usually uses a tracking sensor camera that records your movement. With HMDs, such as the Vive or the Oculus, these tracking sensors are supplied as part of the headset bundle, but that is not the case with all headsets. If you are using a 3D screen, Activewall or “Cave”, like our own ActiveCube, then you need to have a method of tracking the user’s position as part of the system.
When choosing the tracking, you should ask yourself:
The viewing System is the hardware that allows you to see the 3D scene in stereo. HMDs are obviously one option. Larger scale facilities such as ActiveWalls, 3D Screens and “CAVEs”, like the Virtalis ActiveCube, all deploy stereo projection and when combined with a user wearing 3D glasses, a 3D image appears in front of you.
When choosing the viewing system, you should ask yourself:
The 3D data or 3D scene is what you see and what you interact with, so what is in the scene and what you can pick and interact with is important. If you use the “create and publish” model used by many real-time engines, then you have to remember to code into your application everything you are going to need to do in the 3D scene, much the same way as a game developer codes into the game all the functionality he wants you to have. The interactive approach used by VR software such as Visionary Render, means that you are constantly in a menu-driven, interactive 3D scene, so your options are not limited – much the same way as your CAD software works.
Some other points to consider when you build your 3D scene are:
Like I said, it is a lot to consider. But it is entirely possible to quickly iterate toward a roadmap which will allow your organisation to plot an effective route forward. At Virtalis we have been advising organisations of all scales on this very topic for thirty years, which is why we feel confident in offering the following advice, which is essentially the TL;DR of this and the previous blog: VR has proven itself to be an extremely effective industrial tool. To make sure it works for your organisation now and in the future, just take a moment to think about what you wish to get from it and who you wish to use it.
We, of course, would love to help you plot that course and help you on that journey.
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