'Open Source' Virtual Reality (VR) Solutions

“In my day, we didn't have virtual reality.  If a one-eyed razorback barbarian warrior was chasing you with an ax, you just had to hope you could outrun him.”  – Anonymous

Virtual reality (VR) is a multi-disciplinary field of computing technology, that emerged from research on three-dimensional interactive graphics and pilot/vehicle simulations in the 1960's and 1970's.  Back then, VR helmets were too heavy and cumbersome, computers were too slow, and touch/feedback systems were still in their infancy. However, technology has changed dramatically over the past 40 years. Computers are thousands of times faster and today's VR  systems deliver a greater sense of feedback and immersion to their users. Researchers better understand crucial human factors and the development and use of virtual reality systems have really taken off. See http://spaceresearch.nasa.gov/general_info/21jun_vr_lite.html


Virtual Reality (VR) - A three dimensional (3-D) technology which allows a user to navigate around and interact with a computer-simulated environment. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality

Key Technologies in VR Systems

Holomers are three dimensional holographic digital images of a person. There are modeling and robotic technologies currently available that can feed into a “holomer,” creating a virtual representation of an individual for use in sophisticated VR systems.

Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE) is a projection-based VR system. The illusion of immersion is created by projecting stereoscopic computer graphics into a cube composed of display-screens that completely surround the viewer. A sound system is often included to provide audio feedback to the system user.

Haptics refers to the sense of touch. Haptics technology can be used to interface computer devices with the user through the sense of touch. It is frequently employed in sophisticated virtual reality systems.

Selected VR Resources

The following are links to selected VR resources, e.g. organizations, software, tools, and projects.

VR Organizations
EuroVR Association
International Society for Haptics
VR Resources

VR in Healthcare
BreakAway Healthcare
MOTEK Medical
Project Touch
Simendo Trainers
Virtually Better

VR News & Journals
Virtual Reality News
Virtual Reality Journal

Open Source VR
VR Juggler

The VR market continues to grow. According to EON Reality, the virtual reality market is projected to grow to more than $4 billion by 2012. A recent Kalorama report, stated that the U.S. market for VR applications in healthcare reached approximately $670 million in sales in 2010. The numbers are expected to continue to climb as new VR solutions are developed for use in other industries, e.g. defense, transportation, education.

Are you or your organization using an Virtual Reality (VR) solution?  Have you tried using an 'open source' VR system? Tell us about your experience.