I think this is the fifth blog post I talk about VR. I just can't help it. It is just such a passionate subject. I was walking in MediaMarkt store here in Eindhoven, and saw all the new virtual reality headsets being sold, so it inspired me to write this blog post.
The thing is, to quote Jay Borenstein from Stanford CS department: “If you believe that VR is coming… that it’s going to be transformative, that it’s going to be ubiquitous, and very significant for the way that society interacts with one another, then it’s exciting to be at the very early stages.” And yes, I believe in this, I am more than excited to be at the very early stages.
As you may all know, Facebook, Google, Sony and a lot of big companies are working on it. What you might not know is that there are a lot of small start-ups as well, so many VR headsets that are not as famous as the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. I talk more about this in my post about the Game Developers Conference 2017 that happened in San Francisco, California.
Today, I will not be talking about the technology behind VR, but rather how to get into that world. Why don't I apply all these strategies? I am trying my best to do so, by working on VR with a PhD student, writing these posts and making my own research on this subject, but I am also extremely busy with studies and graduate applications as well as sports.
Science fiction writers and futurists dreamt up VR decades ago, and hackers have been attempting to build it ever since. Today, the technology is rapidly advancing with the promise to shift modern computing into a new paradigm, not unlike smartphones did one decade ago.
Some people are skeptical about whether VR will stick around, because the technology is still very much plagued by issues like high cost, unwieldiness, and simulator sickness. But I strongly believe that this will be resolved with time, and investments.
Is VR a new technology?
To quote Jeremy Bailenson from the Stanford VHIL (with whom I had the opportunity to exchange some e-mails with): “VR is not a new technology. It just became accessible.”
And that is true, the technology was being developed since the 1960s. Only recently have developments in VR become more visible to the public eye. CPU/GPUs have reached a point where they can provide high-fidelity, immersive experiences for reasonable prices. Smartphones have enabled mobile VR as cheaper and more accessible options that don’t require you to be tethered to high-end computer. As more people have an opportunity to try VR, it’s becoming increasingly clear how the technology might reach consumers in a big way.
VR Gaming is cool, but there is more to that
I mean, when you first think about VR, it is about driving cars in video games, destroying robots and infiltrating military camps. Those things are really fun, but there is a lot more than that.. and that is what makes VR so interesting.
But VR will also enable immersive concerts, reinvented museums, and live, court-side sporting events. With VR, videoconferencing will improve, with better eye contact and the inclusion of nuanced, non-verbal cues. The cost of training will plummet without the need for human trainers in industries like construction or manufacturing. At the same time, the efficacy of repeatable, hands-on training will increase. Academics will conduct social psychology research with more reproducibility, diverse sample sizes, and day-to-day realism without the need for human confederates. VR will provide a scalable way to introduce true experiential learning into education.
Let's lay down some of the technical fields of VR
My point here is that any experience in one of these fields will you get into the VR world.
But there are also non-technical fields
It is possible to create content.. RIGHT NOW
Download a game engine, like Unity or Unreal Engine, and start hacking. I have the chance to have extended Unity experience, and hope you also do! Otherwise, it is never too late to start learning!
Usually, the game engines are very intuitive and it is not too hard to learn the basics, mastering them is something else.
Some useful links that can help you:
Some Computer Vision and Imaging resources:
My advice..START SMALL
This is very similar to Game Development, everyone wants to build the next Call of Duty as a first project. Check my project, it was a simple space shooter 2D, and it was a great learning point!
Try to embody the perspective of a beginner: be willing to learn and absorb. Don’t start something because you feel like you have to. Now is a great time to learn, experiment, fail and become part of an amazing community.
Another advice..TALK TO PEOPLE
I honestly believe that this is my main strength, I always go talk to professionals. Don't be shy. During GDC 2017 in California, I talked to senior software engineers from Oculus, Facebook, Google, Unity and senior programmers from Treyarch, Psynox, Infinity Ward etc.. Because you don't lose anything by doing so, all you do is learn.
The process of building a beautiful experience requires the work of not only engineers, but artists, designers, and storytellers as well (game developers will understand this). Ask for feedback in online forums. Join clubs. Work at a VR company. The world of VR is still very small, and that’s really special for someone looking to make a big dent in the field.
Here is a Facebook VR group you can join as well :)
A bright future is coming, let's make sure to contribute to it!
Ahmed Ahres, 19.