Affordable Virtual Reality?

A big part of my research for about a decade now has been exploring the development of immersive virtual landscapes, and how evolving technologies continue to make impressive strides toward creating compelling and believable virtual worlds. One of the issues that has always been at the forefront is the cost of virtual reality hardware, whether it was early attempts at head-mounted displays or immersive rooms, such as CAVE environments. These technologies can give you amazing simulations, but most users can’t afford to buy the hardware, let alone have the space to set up multi-walled immersive environments. Now, virtual reality technology is increasingly moving toward a consumer experience, with 3D TV’s, smartphone VR and augmented reality apps, and interface devices like Microsoft’s Kinect and even Sony’s Playstation VITA with Augmented Reality (AR) capabilities.

Here’s a cool project that I had to share as well. Earlier this month, USC researchers participating in the Off-the-Shelf Virtual Reality Workshop, held in conjunction with IEEE Virtual Reality 2012 and organized by the Mixed Reality lab at USC, debuted FOV2GO, a portable fold-out smartphone viewer for iPhone and Android (sadly no Windows Phone love) that turns the screen into a 3-D virtual reality system. The viewer is made of cardboard and is easily assembled to look like an old-school ViewMaster, and you insert your smartphone into the FOV2GO and look through the eyepieces for a stereo 3D effect. To create your own 3D virtual environments to explore, there are downloadable software tools that are part of the project as well. I’d really like to use the FOV2GO in my class, so I’ll have to find out if they’ll be available in larger numbers.

This short YouTube video illustrates the FOV2GO in action: