Video games have always proved to be a great source of escapism for people looking for a reprieve from the hardships of everyday life. Entering the virtual environment can often bea relaxing and soothing distraction; players love to indulge fantasy scenarios and take on the role of a heroin attempting to save the world. As games, graphics and the entire experience gets richer and broader, developers are constantly striving to push barriers in terms of quality and realism buthow far are we from really being able to place ourselves in aindistinguishable world detached from our own reality?
Researchers in Michigan may have the answer. In the UM3D Lab of the Michigan University, where scientists carry out various research into motion capture, virtual reality and 3D-based modelling has enabled a special VR ‘matrix’ to be created. For years the university has been testing virtual reality in a special 10 x 10 foot tailor-made environment with varying levels of success. The room features projection walls which shift in perspective when someone undertakes a motion and a number of different theories have been tried and tested in order to create that previously illusive realm.
In an attempt to fast-track the results, scientists and researchers have upgraded the room in order to create an even more enhanced virtual reality experience. The project, known as MIDEN (Michigan Immersive Digital Experience Nexus),was engineered thanks to the use of the Unreal graphics engine, the gaming engine behind many successful titles such as ‘Gears or War’, ‘Mass Effect’ and many more popular games in between.
The testing room is now able to provide users with an incredibly detailed virtual experience; enabling testers to interact with objects and the landscapes around them in vivid, life-like detail. MIDEN’s unique system uses tracking balls, stereoscopic glasses and a game controller which allows usersto move freely through vast virtual areas in any direction as well as being able to use weapons, open and close doors and much more.
Many virtual reality devices are currently in production and next year is set to become very significant in terms of mainstream VR evolution. The scope in which virtual reality can be implemented goes much farther than simply gaming. From virtual casinos where online roulette is being bought to life, to surgeons and doctors acquiring the ability to run through intricate medical procedures in VR surroundings, it has the capacity to revolutionise many industries and the economic and social benefits could be huge.