34 SPECIAL REPORT: VR/AR
New kinds of technology VR, AR and mixed reality content demand a variety of content creation software and display equipment. To continue this special report, Steve Montgomery reports on how these technologies are evolving
omputer gaming is by far the largest market for virtual and augmented reality technology, as games enthusiasts seize the opportunity to add greater realism and immersion to their hobby. Sales of the most common form of immersive device, the VR headset, have already reached 10 million units per year and are climbing rapidly. The technology is fully established and seems to be here to stay. Its mass market appeal attracted the attention of industry giants and today companies like Samsung, Google, Microsoft, Sony and HTC are actively developing and promoting headsets
and displays and working closely with content creators to develop applications that now cover a wide spectrum of domestic, leisure, commercial and educational sectors. Several types of headset are available. The simplest is the cardboard enclosure designed to house a user’s smartphone; this is the type used in the UK by BT Sport to show last year’s Champions League Final to viewers at home. Slightly more robust and upmarket versions, including Samsung Gear and Google Daydream, perform the same job, but more stylishly. Then there are dedicated goggles containing integrated displays, like the popular HTC Vive
and Oculus Rift that connect by an ‘umbilical’ wiring loom to a local computer. At the top of the range are fully ﬂedged (and very expensive) wearable headsets that include an inbuilt computer as well, for example the Microsoft Hololens and Daqri industrial headsets.
Headset functions All types of headset perform the same basic function: they detect movement of the viewer’s head or physical location within an active area and send that data to a high-power computer for re-rendering of images fed to single or dual screens in front of the user’s eyes.
AV integration in a networked world