VR has been a slow burn. The problem has been to create realism to the extent that the brain can stop nagging you that you’re not in a real environment and just adapt, and learn whatever’s being presented.
This year there are even more VR offerings than at last year’s event, with better resolution, lower latency, better and more intuitive sensors – the kind that might be useful for visualizing large sets of security threat data and discerning significant trends – so the slower-than-expected adoption of VR might be about to speed up.
Bolstering this potential is the deluge of Artificial Intelligence (AI) offerings this year, along with augmented reality implementations. So maybe we’re finally getting ready to see the promise of “VR everywhere”, helping us to do everything from training to security to the next killer app we haven’t even imagined yet.
Case in point: When sensors were just starting to come out, the headset would paint an environment to the eyes that suggested you were immersed in a virtual environment, but the next human instinct was to raise your hands to see how they reacted. Since there were no hand sensors, they wouldn’t be displayed in the environment, and the brain sort of checked back out of virtual reality.
” This is another hint to your brain that what you are experiencing in VR is not the the real world”
Also, there’s the display issue. Even if you have high-definition displays, they don’t emulate moving through a real environment. This is because you overlay a flat image onto a surface, but when you “pass by” that object, your peripheral vision doesn’t detect the other side of the image being displayed on the other side of the object. This is another hint to your brain that what you are experiencing in VR is not the the real world. Therefore the credibility of the synthesized reality is in doubt. To address this, some initiatives are underway that use special cameras to recreate scenes by capturing these missing visual elements and then make them available in the VR gear.
Then there’s latency. If you progress rapidly through an environment, the rendering process has to have very low latency to appear real. The good news is the devices this year at CES have far more computing power, faster access speed, and lower latency throughout, so even lower-priced pieces of the puzzle are available, driving the total cost of a more believable environment down to a price that makes it accessible to a wider audience.
One side effect of slower than expected uptake of VR is that virtual reality application developers have been slow to invest in creating content. In this sort of chicken-and-egg cycle, growth tends to be slow, not explosive.
“The credibility of the synthesized reality is disbelieving”
However, due to the strong strides this past year in AI cores that “know” or can infer more about your changing environment, the overall experience can seem far more real, and commoditization of that technology makes such improved VR experience increasingly affordable. AI has come a long way in recent years, especially around integrating it into other environments through hooking APIs and such.
Speaking of APIs, much of the modular technology involved in VR is getting far better at supplying more robust (and hopefully documented) APIs that are far easier to use for developing VR. Whether you’re integrating LiDAR into your project, or servos, or any of a host of other sensors, it’s very helpful to have great APIs to tie them all together, or at least get them all to speak the same language.
On the LiDAR front alone, we saw some impressive sensors developed that have dropped precipitously in cost over the past few years, putting them in reach of various builders seeking to emulate environments in new ways.
We hope VR continues to make strides, and not just because it’s fun to enter a “realistic” virtual environment — the entire security industry, and lots of others, could benefit immensely. Consider this: every day in the world of cybersecurity we process stunning amounts of threat data and we are working on better ways to visualize threats and infer trends in that data. It is hoped that better VR could prove to be a big help to the world of cybersecurity.
Author Cameron Camp, ESET