Definition of virtual reality
Virtual Reality is an expression that designates devices that allow the digital simulation of an environment by machine (computer). Depending on the technology used, it allows the user to experience a virtual world through his or her different senses: most often sight, but also touch, hearing and smell.
Virtual reality therefore allows a person to experience immersion and sensory-motor activity in an artificial world. To ensure total immersion, the user uses a virtual reality headset. This uses the principle of stereoscopic 3D display to place the viewer in a machine-generated virtual world.
Virtual reality: a not so recent history
When we talk about virtual reality today, we immediately think of VR headsets which are becoming more and more popular in a wide range of sectors: video games, real estate, industry, events, etc. As we have seen, virtual reality actually includes all technologies that immerse a user in an artificial environment, regardless of the direction involved.
The first virtual reality machine is attributed to Morton Hellig and his "Sensorama" machine. This device dating from 1956 allows the user to experience effects involving several senses (touch, smell, hearing, etc.). Several similar devices were later developed but remained purely experimental.
It was not until the early 1990s that the first virtual reality headsets as we know them today appeared. It was NASA that gave the first impetus to the creation of VR headsets thanks to research programmes that led to a multitude of advances in this field. Interaction was then done through a haptic system (by touch).
Several "general public" headsets followed, notably in the field of video games, but they were mainly commercial failures. Their prohibitive prices, the low quality delivered and their discomfort were the reason for this generation of headsets. The public was not satisfied and the truly immersive headset was still a fantasy.
Occulus Rift: a technological revolution in VR
In 2009, Palmer Luckey, a young American with a passion for electronics, embarked on a project for a virtual reality headset, of which he would produce several prototypes. While sharing his progress on the internet, he met John Carmack, the president of id Software, the studio behind some of the biggest video game titles. This will allow the project to become widely known and to attract some of the biggest names in the sector. At the same time, Palmer launched a Kickstarter financing project whose goal was reached in less than 24 hours.
Following the success of this campaign, Palmer Luckey decided to create his own structure named Oculus VR which will lead to the commercialization of the famous VR headset that we know today: The Occulus Rift. He later sold this company to Facebook for several billion dollars.
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Virtual reality: a professional tool
Virtual reality, and more precisely VR headsets, were initially developed with the aim of profoundly improving the video game experience through a 360° total immersion. The technology was a direct follow-up to the missed opportunity in the 90s and promised to become a must-have entertainment tool. The main technological locks had been broken.
But the price of headsets and hardware, the technical obstacles (space requirements, limited movement) and the limited range of games on offer finally led to other avenues of development. It is now the professional world that is adopting these immersive headsets. The maturity of this technology, combined with the advent of experiential marketing, has propelled VR into various professional sectors, which we will now look at.
Virtual reality in real estate
Virtual reality in real estate has gradually been democratised, particularly through immersive and non-immersive virtual visits . This makes it possible to immerse oneself in a real estate project, thus greatly improving the clients' ability to project.
360° Tours, interactions and the stunning realism of 3D are attracting more and more real estate professionals. There are two types of tools:
Immersive real estate tours
Let's be clear, tools using VR headsets in real estate For the time being, they are reserved for certain high-end projects that are promoted, particularly in sales bubbles. Whether it's a visit to an office or a luxury home, it's usually a high quality device that complements an application. 3D modelling, virtual films, 360° captures and interface creation, this is a tool in its own right that will enhance and script the visits. Moreover, immersion is a real experience, often unknown, which is lived by the viewer. He comes out bluffed, immersed and therefore reassured about his intention to buy.
Virtual property tours
The virtual tours "non-immersive" are not left out either. 3D models, 360° touchscreen and tablet applications are added to the tools used by sales teams. They allow to understand, visit and interact with a real estate project before and during construction. It complements the sale on plan and allows customers to really see what they are considering buying in its context (green spaces, nearby shops, transport).
These tools combine several technologies in one application. They can also be integrated into a website to let visitors discover and learn about the project for themselves.
virtual reality in industry
The industry has also taken up virtual reality. Visit a production line, a factory or a model of a future factory construction.
Immersive industrial virtual tours
Thanks to VRit is now possible to visit a line production line and transport partners and/or customers into a factory.
Nowadays, safety or hygiene standards no longer prevent a physical visit. More rarely, some companies use VR for transparency purposes towards the consumer. As we have seen in the news, health scandals and the opacity of transformation processes have tarnished the reputation of several companies.
Some of them have therefore played on transparency by using this virtual visit technology and now offer this system. Requiring little or no interactivity, these solutions are mainly available on so-called "mobile" headsets such as the Samsung Gear VR or the Oculus GO.
Training through virtual reality
Other uses in industry include training and maintenance assistance tools. They make it possible to integrate industrial processes into a virtual reality tool and to teach them to the trainee before intervening on site. Manipulation, scripted tutorials, VR headsets enable real immersive and interactive experiences to be created. The entire workstation is modelled in realistic 3D and immerses the trainee. In addition, situations that are impossible to simulate in real life can be integrated into the scenario: incidents, anomalies, risks, etc.
In terms of equipment, the training courses are almost exclusively carried out on "sedentary" VR headsets such as the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift. Available with controllers, they allow direct interaction with the virtual environment in a way that is faithful to reality. The fact that the VR training can be repeated as often as desired is also a significant advantage in the learning phase.
Industrial virtual tours
Just as in real estate, factories can also be visited using virtual tour tools. Thanks to an 3D model It is now possible to visualise the entire building before it is built, or even without having to travel. It is the ideal tool for a realistic and practical presentation to employees and investors thanks to features such as the addition of 360° views in the form of points of interest or the integration of layer breakdown, technicality or flow management.
VR moves into museums
MuseumsMuseums, castles and places of cultural interest, many are starting to use virtual reality immersive technology in order to offer other ways of visiting or discovering inaccessible places. Proposed mainly in the form of applications, these have the advantage of integrating scripted content: films, points of interest, 3D reconstructions, etc. These virtual tours give a second level of understanding to visitors by providing additional elements. They can also be a real attraction for children in the case of a game, or playful content for example.
Virtual reality in the event industry
Another sector impacted by the VR: the event industry. Indeed, it has become obvious to many brands that virtual reality should be used to promote an event. More and more product and service presentations are being made through virtual reality. This allows, for example, to present a product that is not necessarily present on site and leaves more creative room for the staging. This is a real added value that makes a real impression by offering a new experience.
Live event broadcasting is also affected by VR:
- In the field of sports, it is now possible to watch certain matches live at 360° from home.
- Some salons offer 360° views.
- It is also possible to follow some of the shows live.
- Open house events
This new type of entertainment is now a reality thanks to the development of 360° capture devices. These are strategically placed to offer the best possible panorama to the viewer and make him/her experience the event from the inside, as if he/she were there, and this from his/her living room, his/her office.
In this context, the Fox channel, for example, offers access to a virtual suite entirely in 3D, giving unique views of the matches.
Immerse yourself in 360°: what VR headsets are on the market?
Since the appearance of the Occulus, many VR headsets have made their appearance. Here we will review them and give details of their range, on-board technology and uses:
The Occulus Rift: first VR headset "It is a new generation of consumer headset. It is a computer-connected, wired headset with a good quality display. Controllers are also available to interact with the virtual environment displayed in the headset. It requires the installation of several sensors to track the wearer in a room.
The HTC Vive: a direct competitor of theOcculuson HTC live is also a wired headset (soon to be available as a non-wireless one) connected to a PC. It also has controllers and requires the installation of two sensors to track the user in space. Its range of action is, however, greater than that of the Occulus, but the HTC requires a slightly more powerful configuration than its rival.
The Samsung Gear VR: autonomous and connected to the Samsung smartphone, it is obviously less powerful than the two models presented above. However, it is much less bulky and still delivers a good immersive experience. It also offers interaction through small controllers.
The Oculus GO: The latest from Oculus, this headset is positioned in the same segment as the Samsung Gear VR. Unlike its Korean counterpart, the Oculus GO does not require a smartphone to operate. The brand's goal is to offer a fully autonomous headset at a very affordable price. A remote control tracked by the headset is also available to easily navigate the menus.
The Google CardboardIt is the cheapest headset on the market (only a few euros) as it is made of cardboard and can be folded yourself. It offers a first glimpse of what VR is all about and can be used by sliding your smartphone directly into the headset. It is perfect for simple 360° playback. You have to hold it yourself on your head.
The Playstation VROnly available on the Playstation game console, it is primarily dedicated to certain video games available on the dedicated store.
As you will have noticed, the offer is vast and proposes particularly different solutions, for as many application purposes.
Professionals have therefore seized on these technologies and real high-performance tools are emerging. Real estate, industry, museography and events, we are at the dawn of a profound change in the uses of VR headsets. New applications are emerging little by little, using the best of each technology.
Each year that passes sees the emergence of new uses for virtual reality. The tailor-made production of these tools allows us to constantly push back the technological and creative limits. The user is therefore the main driver for our teams to always deliver innovative and relevant tools.
The second technological battle horse, virtual reality is often put in competition with the augmented reality especially by the giants of Silicon Valley.