Virtual Reality: From Batcave to Medical Therapy

Virtual Reality

With virtual reality development going well and the popularity constantly increasing, software and game developers are finding new uses for the technology. Warner Bros. has joined forces with DC Entertainment to recreate a virtual batcave for users to wander around and explore. Big gaming studios publishing triple-A titles, such as the GRID Autosport, are toying with the new experimental technology to see how it can further enhance the immersion. And outside of entertainment, the Oculus Rift also finds a good use teaching medical students complex surgical procedures from a first-person perspective. From bat caves to medical therapy, virtual reality is finding new uses every day.

The biggest benefit of using a virtual reality headset is the sensation of being in the space, rather than merely watching it via a flat screen. Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment are trying to capitalize on the new tech by creating a virtual batcave that the players will be able to explore and walk around in. The cave is modeled on the 1992 Batman: The Animated Series. The early screenshots seem to preserve the cartoonish but stylized graphics of the series, as the producer Bruce Timm is helping to guide the process. The OTOY visual effects company has also been hired to help with the endeavour. The project is already well underway and the release date is scheduled for later this winter, coming to the Oculus Rift and the Samsung Galaxy Gear. It is worth remembering that Netflix has also been toying around with the technology, hoping to bring a more immersive “virtual theater” experience for its viewers.

While the batcave is more of a 3-dimensional and explorable vignette, many game developers have already been bringing interactivity into the mix for quite some time. Codemasters is just the latest of the big publishers looking to integrate virtual reality into their titles, confirming that the support for Oculus Rift is coming to GRID Autosport very shortly. Their official blog reveals they have been tinkering with the technology for quite some time, getting to a point where it works really well with their popular racing franchise. An upcoming patch will add experimental support for both the DK1 and DK2 models of the Oculus Rift and use the Direct to HMD rendering mode. Getting the features to work may require modifying a few of the gaming files manually, but the tweaks should be no challenge for those already tech-savvy enough to be using the Rift. Needless to say, fans of the racing genre having something very exciting to look forward to in the coming weeks.

However, even though Oculus Rift has been primarily designed as a gaming and entertainment device, it is hardly limited to those areas. Virtual reality is going beyond batcaves and simulators, finding new uses in medicine and therapy as well. The MOVEO Foundation is funding a project to record and play back surgery procedures from the perspective of the head doctor, taking advantage of the full first-person 3D immersive capabilities of the device. The students who watch the procedure on the Rift will thus not only see how they are performed, but get a complete sense of the environment and depth perception lacking in traditional instructional videos. Similarly, some studies published in the Frontiers in Neuroscience journal also used virtual reality to aid the therapy of amputees and stroke victims, teaching them to use new prosthetic limbs. As it turns out, playing a VR game can help boost arm strength after a stroke. The Rift could also help alleviate PTSD symptoms, as another article in the journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking reported.

Needless to say, humanity might be getting close to another significant technological revolution. While all the iPads, controllers, screens and keyboards allow the users to merely interact with the virtual worlds, the new Oculus Rift and similar headsets are effectively letting them “step into” the new environment. Virtual Reality is growing and constantly finding new uses, from games and artistic immersive vignettes such as the batcave, all the way to teaching and medical therapy. However, given that the technology is still in an experimental phase and has not even been released yet, this is only the very beginning of exploring its potential.

By Jakub Kasztalski

Sources
IGN
Gamespot
Polygon
Live Science

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