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Is VR Technology Ready As An Enabler?

2016 in tech world started with the event Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona.  Though tech enthusiasts joined MWC peering into mobile innovations, virtual reality (VR) did steal the show. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, during his keynote speech at the event, came up with the statement about VR as the future for his company.

Yes, the possibilities of VR are enormous and more individuals as well as businesses are going to adopt VR in the near future. This is evident with major players stepping in. By an expert’s estimation, the Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality market will reach $120 billion by 2020; in which areas of application include gaming, entertainment, healthcare, sports, education, research, training, construction, engineering and many more.

Sooner or later, as VR evolves, the need for related technology solutions in its wider domain will also arise. When VR is adopted as a solution provider for industrial needs, it will need to increase its own capabilities and processing power. There will be an inevitable desire for changes in the current architectural design of VR systems in order to fulfill extensive and futuristic use cases.

At present, standalone VR applications run smoothly on VR ready PCs. But, for complex and multiple VR applications, it demands more rendering and processing power. For instance, a remote interactive system is simulated and interfaced while a remote task is carried out in real time with VR. Simulating a remote environment and interacting with remote systems in real time through VR is a complex procedure. In this scenario, it requires multiple cameras and sensors at the other end from where the images and signals are fetched and simulated in virtual world. Implementing such simulation requires improvised infrastructure and increased VR capabilities. Industries often demand such kind of VR systems in order to fulfill future needs.

If we examine existing VR based applications and see how technology enables VR, we can understand how far VR enabled technology needs to advance. At present, the VR environment is completely computer generated (or pre-recorded video) which is the resultant of pre-programmed computer graphics based software. The set of inputs and outputs (interactions) are predefined or previously anticipated and are predictable. To support this, technology has come up with products and solutions. Head mounted display such as Oculus Rift enable 360 degree view of the environment generated by a VR application and gives the feel of total immersion. In VR ready PCs in which Oculus Rift or HTC Vive is used, the minimum CPU requirement is Intel i5 4590 or AMD FX 8350 with GPU GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290. In mobiles, the latest Qualcomm processor SnapDragon 820 supports VR. This indicates the need for better processing capabilities at the PC level to enable VR. Well, what happens if multiple users (or HMDs) are connected to VR PCs? Overloaded?  Overloading and slow rendering results in motion sickness, indicates that the processing power of VR supporting system is limited. With this limited capability, industrial needs cannot be fulfilled. Increasing the processor speed will be one solution.

But the limitation will again prevail when it comes to complex systems that make use of VR. Perhaps, it will be necessary to architect an alternate VR supporting PC that brings more power and efficiency. May be multi-layered multi-core processors will be needed instead of multi core processors. The technology is yet to meet its own ‘evolving’ demand.