Virtual Reality: Yesterday’s Sci-fi, Today’s Technology

Since the ability to record moving images first came to be in the late 1800’s, technology has changed drastically. From black & white and silent, to the special effects we have today, video is not the same.

What’s the one thing that never really changed? The way we watch video. Sure, it’s evolved from film strip to on-the-go with our smartphones, but we still sit and stare at a moving image contained within the sharp four edges of whatever screen we’re looking at…. until now.

Ever heard of virtual reality (VR)? Not the online games popular in the mid 2000’s where you got to experience an alternative life through your desktop browser, but rather the stuff of the late 80’s and early 90’s sci-fi videos. Wearable headsets that will virtually transport you to a different time and place. A place you can explore and interact with as if you were really there.

Something that seems about as space-agey as the flying cars the Jetsons told us to expect in this decade. Except this one came true.

A few short years ago a teen from California decided to make the impossible a reality. Viola – Oculus Rift, the leader in VR technology, was born. Despite its initial intended application to be that of gaming, it quickly expanded. Samsung released a mid-range headset and Google gave us Google Cardboard (a foldup device that works with a smartphone). With the recent addition of “360 video” to Facebook and YouTube, it’s clear that this fad is here to stay.

The potentials for it are truly limitless, and its applications are becoming more and more practical. Lebanon Valley College (where I attend) has already developed a VR walking tour of campus which prospective students can check out at the admissions building or LVC’s college fair booth. As this technology becomes more and more commonplace, they’ll be able to visit campus without ever leaving home.

VR is quickly changing what the term “video” means. As it grows in popularity, so will its applications.

Just the other day I picked up a Google Cardboard lying around my department’s studio at school and decided to take a break from my project. So I put in my iPhone, plugged in my headphones and went on a walking tour of the Italian Cathedrals. Then I hung out at a gorilla sanctuary in the african jungle… all without ever leaving my chair.

 

-Molly Gertenbach, Harrisburg intern

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