By the end of 2019, it was likely that most people had encountered, or at least attempted, a virtual reality (VR) experience. Google Cardboard, for example, enabled users to view 360-degree images in an immersive environment. Additionally, more advanced VR headsets, such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, enabled users to not only take in the visuals, but to move around and explore virtual worlds.
Despite the varied opinions on its impact, virtual reality (VR) is undeniably a new form of computer interaction that has gradually become more commonplace over the last eight years. For instance, Ford utilised virtual reality in the design of its GT supercar, and Boston Children’s Hospital and numerous other organisations around the world have employed the technology as an effective pain management solution. While the future of virtual reality remains uncertain, it is clear that its potential applications are vast and varied.
This post aims to provide project managers with a comprehensive understanding of virtual reality (VR) technology, helping them to successfully manage VR projects and anticipate any potential issues that could arise during the course of the project. Drawing on our previous essay on artificial intelligence (AI), this post will equip project managers with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively lead and manage a VR project.
What Is Virtual Reality?
In order to gain an understanding of virtual reality, we must first explore the history of 3D technology. For over a century, creators have been striving to advance from the realm of two-dimensional material to that of three-dimensional content. This began with the invention of “3D” photographs in the late 1800s and continued on to 3D cinema in the mid-1900s. Nonetheless, it is important to note that virtual reality is much more than just traditional 3D entertainment – it is a completely new and immersive experience.
“Presence” The Leap of Faith
The primary distinction between 3D film and Virtual Reality (VR) lies in a concept termed “presence” by technologists in the VR industry. This refers to the feeling of complete immersion and being transported to another environment that a VR headset provides its user. In order for this sensation of “presence” to be achieved, the technology must be able to deceive several different components of the human visual system.
One of the most effective ways of determining the presence of courage is to ask an individual to take a virtual leap from a virtual one-hundred-story structure. While this may appear to be an intimidating prospect in a 3D movie, most people would be willing to take the risk without hesitation.
Despite the fact that virtual reality headsets are designed to create a convincing illusion, they can still elicit a strong emotional response from users. The range of vision, refresh rate, resolution, and other features of the headsets are crafted in such a way as to make the user believe they are somewhere else. As a result, many people may feel fear or panic when participating in seemingly innocuous activities, such as jumping off a virtual building ledge.
Those who are brave enough to take the plunge and step off the ledge into virtual reality often report a sensation similar to falling, with a strong feeling of dropping in their stomach. This is a testament to how effectively virtual reality is able to deceive the senses into believing that what is experienced is genuine. This heightened sense of “presence” is what sets virtual reality apart from other three-dimensional experiences.
Is the First Wave of Virtual Reality Happening Now?
The history of virtual reality dates back to 1968, when the first demonstration of the Sword of Damocles was held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) laboratory. At the time, virtual reality was predominantly used to test and refine military flight simulators and display technologies. In the mid-twentieth century, there were numerous attempts to make virtual reality a reality, however, most of these efforts were limited to basic demonstrations that required extensive space and were only accessible to the most well-funded research and development laboratories.
In the early 1990s, a great deal of excitement was generated around the concept of virtual reality. Several companies released their own headsets, such as the Virtuality 1000CS, which were incredibly expensive and difficult to use. Furthermore, a popular children’s TV program, VR Rangers, was aired, featuring stories of virtual reality warriors reminiscent of the Power Rangers.
Despite the promise of virtual reality (VR) systems in the early 1990s, the technology was unable to meet the demands of the market. Unfortunately, users of VR systems at that time frequently experienced adverse effects such as nausea and seasickness. Furthermore, the graphic capabilities of the games were limited, leading to a lack of interest in VR over the next 15 years.
The emergence of the Oculus Rift in 2010, which began with a Kickstarter campaign, marked a resurgence of virtual reality in the public consciousness. In the years prior, virtual reality had become somewhat of an obscurity, but the Oculus Rift campaign brought it back into the spotlight.
Are Virtual Reality Only for Games?
Most people are aware that virtual reality (VR) can be used for gaming, but it is important to note that this is only one small part of the VR industry. VR has been around since the late 1960s and has since been used for a huge variety of purposes, making it an incredibly valuable tool for many industries.
At its inception, virtual reality (VR) was primarily developed as a means to improve the accuracy of flight simulators. In recent years, however, its use has been expanded to encompass a variety of industries. Some of the most noteworthy applications of VR technology include gaming, entertainment, health care, military training, architecture, and engineering. From providing immersive gaming experiences to aiding medical professionals in diagnosing and treating patients, the potential of VR has been harnessed across an array of disciplines.
HealthcareSurgical Theatre enables physicians to study a patient’s anatomy, detect tumours, and plan an operation.
NASANASA utilises virtual reality to prepare astronauts for spacewalks and to operate robotic arms.
MuseumsWhile many cultural organisations allow visitors to experience portions of their collections in virtual reality, the Kremer Museum was constructed fully in virtual reality by world-renowned architects.
AutomotiveThe Ford Vehicle Immersion Environment (FiVE) enables Ford staff to have a close-up look at a new vehicle and plan adjustments to it.
MilitaryThe United States Army employs virtual reality (VR) for different training situations as well as to treat PTSD in troops returning from conflict.
Real estateMany real estate organisations are adopting VR to exhibit some of their homes. Planner 5D has developed a drag-and-drop application to enable you to design your future house interior and walk around it using mobile VR.
ArchitectureEvery week, Gensler LA employees gather in a virtual facsimile of a building that their architects are presently designing.
Social networkingMany programs, such as VR Chat and Sinespace, enable individuals to connect and create in a virtual environment.
EducationClassVR allows for immersive instruction in the classroom.
SportsSTRIVR develops training regimens for sports teams, allowing athletes to perform additional training on their own time to replicate team methods.
Overview of the VR Market
There are already a few distinct kinds of VR devices on the market. They are best divided into two groups: mobile VR and desktop VR.
The term “mobile VR” refers to virtual reality that is designed to be experienced on mobile devices. The first generation of mobile VR headsets typically had a smartphone placed within the headset casing, whereas the latest generation of mobile VR headsets utilises independent technology and even has mobile CPUs built into the headset itself.
When compared to desktop virtual reality, mobile virtual reality offers users a more comfortable, yet more limited experience with simpler visuals. A major downside to mobile VR is the lack of “positional tracking” in most mobile VR headsets. This type of tracking not only tracks the user’s head movements, such as tilts and turns, but also the user’s position in the virtual space. Positional tracking is essential for a fully immersive experience and to reduce any potential discomfort the user may experience.
Google Cardboard, Google Daydream, Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Go, Oculus Quest, and HTC Focus are just some of the virtual reality devices available today. These devices offer an immersive experience, allowing users to explore a variety of digital worlds.
Desktop Virtual Reality (VR) is often referred to as Full VR, as it offers an immersive experience that includes features such as positional tracking for the head and both hand controllers. There is a vast selection of desktop VR systems available, with some offering additional attachments such as omnidirectional treadmills, full-room trackers, gloves, and various interfaces for controllers.
Desktop virtual reality (VR) headsets offer a unique, full-body immersive experience that cannot be found on any other device. This is primarily due to the power of the graphic processing units (GPUs) and central processing units (CPUs) within the desktop workstations to which these headsets are connected. Unlike mobile devices, desktop VR headsets are typically larger and require more powerful CPUs, which can raise the cost of a typical VR-capable PC to approximately $2,000.
A variety of virtual reality systems are available for purchase, including the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR. Additionally, Windows XR versions based on Intel chips are available in the form of Acer, Samsung, Asus, and HP VR systems.
Vr Project Managers Should Know What
There are key roles in the virtual reality development lifecycle
Experienced In Software Development, Game Engineering, And Computer Graphics
Naturally, it is essential to have a software developer to build the interaction features for the virtual reality (VR) software. It is important to note that not all software developers have the experience of working with 3D graphics or gaming engines. To make the development process easier and more efficient, most VR projects use either Unity 3D or Unreal Engine. Compared to developing a 3D engine from scratch, 3D game engines offer specific graphical and control capabilities that can reduce the development time and cost by up to 20 times. Currently, 90% of VR content is created in Unity 3D, making it straightforward to find and hire Unity developers.
If you choose to build your virtual reality platform from scratch, or if your application requires a bespoke 3D engine, you will need a graphics specialist who is proficient in the use of low-level technologies such as OpenGL to create a new game engine for your project. Be aware that this approach will lead to a much higher expenditure of both time and money, and in some cases, performance benefits that may be derived from this method may be negligible compared to the cost of hiring a senior computer graphics expert if you decide not to use one of the already existing 3D engines. To put it simply, this is equivalent to constructing your own camera while shooting a film.
As a project manager for a virtual reality project, it is essential to have an understanding of the technology requirements and the impact that it can have on the financial outcome. It is important to note that not all software developers possess the same skillset, and so when recruiting for your VR project, it is essential to seek out individuals with experience in game development.
VR EXPERT/VR DESIGNER
Despite the relative simplicity of constructing basic virtual reality (VR) applications, the complexity increases exponentially as more features are added. This is mainly due to current processing power restrictions and the way visuals are managed by the computer. Furthermore, there are unique challenges associated with developing VR projects that are only exposed during the actual construction process. To ensure a successful outcome, it is recommended to engage a VR specialist who has previous experience in the development of VR applications.
Some of the challenges faced in the implementation of virtual reality (VR) technology are due to both technological constraints and user experience considerations. For instance, if a VR program is designed to simulate a perspective from a different height than that of the user, it is advisable to provide a bar chair instead of a regular chair to facilitate a more comfortable experience. This is because our brains use sensory cues, such as the feeling of our feet touching the ground, to accurately gauge our “true” perceived height. Therefore, if our feet are not in contact with the ground, we are more likely to be able to tolerate the sensation of being much higher in VR than we are in real life.
As an example, a competent virtual reality expert will suggest that if your experience includes teleportation, you should use a screen blanking effect of 300 milliseconds. This is because our brains are able to recognise this duration as a true blink of the eye, which typically lasts between 300-500 milliseconds. This will help to create a more seamless experience.
It is essential to invest in the services of a Virtual Reality (VR) expert consultant, even if it is only for a part-time capacity, in order to guarantee that our software and design projects are completed in an efficient and cost-effective manner. By having an experienced consultant on hand, we can be certain that the desired outcome is achieved in the most appropriate way, and that valuable resources such as time and money are not wasted.
ANIMATOR/SCENE DESIGNER/3D ARTIST
A 3D artist is often someone who creates real 3D stuff. A scene designer is someone who assembles all of the 3D components to make the setting. An animator is in charge of developing 3D models for animations and then generating such animations using various software tools.
It is possible for one individual to undertake all of the tasks associated with developing a bootstrapped virtual reality project. This is a common occurrence when resources are scarce. However, larger film or game production companies usually employ staff who are highly proficient in their fields to fulfill these roles.
As a project manager, it is essential to be aware of the value of 3D content creation for virtual reality (VR) projects. It is estimated that this process can make up to 80% of the total effort needed for the successful completion of a VR software. Therefore, it is crucial to factor in the associated costs when preparing the budget for the project. It is important to remember that 3D content creation is likely to be the largest expenditure for the project.
The key difficulties in VR project management are common
Creating 3D content might take longer than expected
Creating three-dimensional models is a challenging and time-consuming task, and producing animations for 3D objects is an even more complex endeavour. It is essential for any project manager to bear this in mind when determining the timeline for the project, as such tasks may require an extended amount of time and effort.
The creation of humanoid figures, such as robots, people, horses, virtual assistants, or any other complex biological creature, can be significantly more challenging and time consuming than the development of interactive elements consisting of simpler forms, such as buildings or menus. This is due to the fact that the modelling and animation of humanoid entities can require up to one hundred times more effort than the modelling and animation of the latter.
A modelling and animation project depicting virtual office employees at work may require up to 100 times more time and effort to complete in comparison to a demonstration of the exterior of an architectural structure.
When it comes to drawing, it is important to take into consideration animation and 3D modelling. When attempting to sketch something complex, such as people or animals, it is significantly more difficult to model them in 3D and animate them professionally. On the other hand, if something can be specified through code, such as a complex animation of abstract forms, it can be far more easily constructed and manipulated in 3D. Moreover, algorithms are more cost-effective than people. As a project manager, it is important to be proactive in guaranteeing that the project scope is realistic by establishing realistic content requirements.
VR has GPU limitations
In order for virtual reality (VR) experiences to be rendered properly, it is essential that a graphics processing unit (GPU) be employed on the computer used for operation. Despite the increased power of modern computers, there is still a limit to the number of 3D objects that can be managed simultaneously. This is due to the fact that the visuals displayed in VR must be updated at a rate of at least 90 frames per second, which places a substantial burden on the computer’s processing power.
The HTC Vive, for instance, requires a processing load similar to that of three to four standard computer displays running concurrently. Many of our virtual reality programs are limited by the graphical processing capabilities of today’s smartphones.
It is worth noting that 3D games developed during the early 2000s provide an excellent starting point for understanding the fundamentals of realistic 3D graphics. While many of these games utilised certain shortcuts in order to achieve the most impressive visual effects, the same concept can still be applied to a number of current virtual reality experiences. Despite the technological advances of the last two decades, most virtual reality applications are still limited by the hardware capabilities of the devices on which they operate.
A Variety of Devices and Platforms
As previously discussed, there are numerous virtual reality (VR) platforms available. At the time of writing, there were at least thirty distinct VR devices available in both the desktop and mobile VR marketplaces. This demonstrates the ever-growing popularity of VR technology, which is becoming increasingly accessible for both personal and professional use.
This suggests that providing comprehensive support for your virtual reality (VR) software across all platforms would require a substantial amount of additional optimisation and redesign efforts. One of the most daunting tasks would be to facilitate the exchange of materials between mobile and desktop VR applications due to the distinct nature of their 3D images and animations.
The utilisation of a 3D game engine, such as Unity 3D or Unreal Engine, is highly advantageous as it enables an application to be deployed across multiple platforms with minimal effort. In point of fact, the majority of advanced desktop virtual reality (VR) systems are capable of exchanging builds easily; however, mobile VR may necessitate considerable modifications and the creation of new 3D assets for it to work correctly.
As a project manager, it is important to plan ahead and limit the scope of the project to the most well-known platforms. Doing so will make it easier to maintain the codebase and provide the highest level of user experience.
Health Risks and Side Effects
In spite of the fact that virtual reality technology has been around for a considerable amount of time, there is still a lack of clarity regarding potential health risks associated with its use. Numerous studies have been conducted to explore the potential for device-induced myopia and other potential hazards, yet no definitive evidence has been uncovered.
The vast majority of potential hazards associated with virtual reality (VR) stem from the real-world environment in which the user is situated. These risks include falls, trips, and inadvertent damage to the hardware. In an effort to mitigate these dangers, manufacturers are developing virtual safety barriers and warning systems.
At present, the majority of virtual reality headset manufacturers do not recommend that children use the devices. This is largely due to the potential for adverse reactions that some users experience. Nausea and motion sickness, which were common with early models, have since been largely eliminated; however, there is still a risk of developing these symptoms with certain applications, especially if they are not designed properly.
As a project manager, it is important to recognise that the key to designing immersive virtual reality (VR) experiences with minimal side effects lies in the interactions and movement mechanics. Although these topics are not discussed in this post, those who are interested in finding out more should consult the guide created by Facebook’s Oculus. This guide provides valuable information for constructing enjoyable VR experiences.
Seeing is certainly believing.
Since its introduction, virtual reality has developed significantly, and in its current form, it can be a very useful tool for organisations that use 3D material, carry out training activities, or wish to create an impactful experience by “transporting” their customers to a different environment.
Virtual Reality (VR) is a technology that is focused on people, their experiences, and their social interactions, rather than the technology itself. In order to be truly beneficial and valuable, current technological advancements must provide answers to the issues that people are facing. This is especially true for Virtual Reality projects and their applications in various industries, such as architecture and interior design, training and simulation, data visualisation, gaming, entertainment, and film and motion picture production. By taking advantage of the current advancements in VR, these industries are now able to reap the greatest benefits.
The development of virtual reality (VR) technology is largely dependent upon the complexity of 3D models and animations. Without an adequate understanding of such intricacies, this can be an arduous task. Furthermore, there are a number of other issues associated with VR development that can only be adequately addressed by consulting a specialist in the field. In some cases, the use of game engines can be beneficial in solving certain development problems; however, it is important to find experienced developers who understand how to utilise them.