Virtual Reality Experiences
Virtual reality (VR), being a hot issue during past two years, is the use of computer technology which simulates and creates a three-dimensional virtual world, promptly providing the users with visual and other sensory stimulations in order to make them feel as if they are experiencing the situation. When the users move the positions and the viewing angles, the computer will conduct complex calculations immediately in order to transmit the accurate and prompt 3D virtual world to generate the presence of the users.
My first experience of VR was in May 2016, with HTC Vive and Google’s Tilt Brush, in Taiwan. Tilt Brush is a room scale 3D painting application developed by Google and released in April 2016. It had changed the perspective of the art in the painting and drawing area, by which people could create still or dynamic art in a 3D space and also enjoy the artworks from different sides and angles. After I put on the headset, I felt like I was in an unlimited space, and I could also change the background of the virtual world. There was a controller in each of my hands. The one in my right hand was the brush, and the left one was like a palette, by which I could adjust the brush style, size and colour. There were plenty of brush styles, for instance, flames, stars, lightning, and rainbows. After choosing the space background, I started to draw a 3D rose in a glass bottle which came from my favourite story, The Little Prince. I also drew some planets and used the star-style brush to fill up the whole virtual space. After 10 minutes, my artwork was finished. I walked around and “through” my artwork, and was so relaxing and enjoyable in the shiny space I created. The best thing was that the VR device could record the whole process of creating art, which made art not only about the outcomes, but the processes, and increased the possibility of people interacting with art. I could repeat playing my artwork thousands of times from different sides and record the process with the view from my headset. Unfortunately, my artwork and process could not output as a film, a 3D project, or even a 2D picture. I could only re-watch through the VR device and could not share it directly to my social media which is the main purpose of my art. The second disadvantage was that I could not actually start my line at the actual point I want to start with because there was no function that could automatically help me to align. Thus, the drawings would look like a rough sketch. For instance, if one tried to draw a cube, it would likely to turn out with twelve lines which looked like a cube but they did not intersect at all. However, although there was no alignment function, it was still enough for the designers or artist to create a project in a rough style, and I suggest the VR technology would become more mature, and the functions would have improvements in the future. Not only experienced the Tilt Brush, I also played with a robot dog. That was a nice experience to me because I could feel that I was truly interacting with the puppy, and I suggest this kind of VR petting games could be very useful for the single person or the ageing people.
In February 2017, I visited Shanghai and experienced the VR technology of some China’s start-ups. They applied VR to games and interior design, which allowed the users to preview the house with the virtual furniture by positioning it to the virtual house with the controller.
The Samsung Gear VR immersive experience in Science Museum is the third time I tried VR. I sat on a chair and viewed the virtual space as an astronaut’s sight. However, I did not feel as real as the experiences in Taiwan and China because of the low-quality screen. Also, I suggest the user experience would enhance a lot if the VR experience in Science Museum could add some movements to the chairs, instead of only using the headset and the earphones.
Comparing with the three VR experiences I’ve been through, I like the Tilt Brush the most because it combined my interests with the new technology and also increased the accessibility for people to interact with the virtual world. The tilt brush could be used in the art area as well as the fashion design industry, which allows the designers to create 3D fashion illustrations in order to express the fashion design idea in a clearer way. Furthermore, it would be more useful for fashion designers if the Tilt Brush could select the textiles. China also has the strong VR technology skills and the innovative ideas of the application of the VR technology, which could see in their start-ups. Even a student start-up in the college could create a VR application with a medium to high level of quality. Although Samsung Gear VR seemed to be low in quality, the headset was the most light-weight one of the three, which I think would be a strong advantage because the technology products are probably to evaluate into light-weight products when getting matured. Examples of this are the evolution of smartphones, MP3s, and computers.
To conclude, each experience of the three has its advantages and disadvantages. For me, the best experience VR technology could bring to human life is the “interaction” of human beings and the virtual world. Not only the quality and the simulated reality are important, the comfort level when using the devices should also be counted into the design of VR. Being the drivers of the future, the innovative applications of VR and the other relating technologies, such as augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), cinematic reality (CR), and expanded reality, are the probable future in many industries, from art, interior design, fashion design, to game design and social media.