Siggraph: Can Virtual Reality Have a Successful Rollout?

Oculus Crescent Bay prototype - H 2014

This isn't the first time that virtual reality has received a lot public attention. But this time around, can the business conduct a successful rollout? And what is the potential of augmented reality? These are the questions that were debated on a panel held Monday at CG conference Siggraph.

At the Los Angeles Convention Center, speakers including Ronald Azuma of ?Intel Labs asserted that VR can succeed as consumer VR headsets such as Samsung's VR Gear and Oculus Rift are launched. “The technology is really good, and the price-performance ratio will be good enough this time," Azura said.

There's plenty of discussion of VR for entertainment, but Elizabeth Baron? of Ford Motor Company noted that there's additional uses, describing how the carmaker is using VR for manufacturing design. “It’s very collaborative,” she said, noting that it connects facilities in different cities and countries. “It brings people together. And we can see things in the proper context.”

But speakers such a Carolina Cruz-Neira of ?University of Arkansas at Little Rock warned that there's still a lot of development to be done, and past pitfalls to avoid. “Let’s do it really well this time,” she said, describing a few lessons learned. “I learned that hype hurts. There’s a lot of complexity [to VR], and [in the '90s] there was so much hype that we couldn’t meet the expectation of the public. I see that happening again.

"Also, creativity is still limited because you can get lost in the technology," she added. "We need to get that figured out. Also [in the '90s], tools were targeted at specific platforms. We need to be able to work cross-platform. We need to address this as a community.”

Looking further out, Azuma questioned if augmented reality, which combines the real with the virtual world, could overtake VR. “It augments your experience in the real world and is tied to the area of wearables. In the long term, maybe AR will be bigger than VR?”

?Jaron Lanier? of Microsoft Research described some of his company's recent research into how AR can help people to interact socially in a mixed reality environment.

With work continuing in these areas, Cruz-Neira warned, "I don't want to be a cyborg. I don't want cables and things on me. We need sensors that capture our action without putting things on us. There a lot of work to be done to give us freedom of motion.”

Lanier is optimistic about the potential of AR, and added, "It's inconceivable that we are going to get everything right. We'll also learn from our failures. There are still a lot of open questions."