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Virtual Reality
Introduction
            It has been given different descriptions and names; cyberspace, simulations with sensory experience, artificial environment, virtual worlds, and virtual reality (Patel & Cardinali, 1994). It is a reality generated by a computer (Patel & Cardinali, 1994). According to Dehrer (2011) it is a sensory experience which is simulated within computer software. In his paper, Stone (1995) refers to it as the data underlying computer graphics. Whatever the description, it is vivid that the concept of virtual reality is within and a reality in the society in which we live (Dehrer, 2011)-in fact it has been there even at the pre-computer era. With this technology, humans can interact more effectively with the computers. As Patel & Cardinali (1994) note, one can drive, swim, fly, walk and create the ideas in their thoughts within the virtual environment. Patel & Cardinali (1994) further state that virtual environment created in computers is an advanced illustration of illusions and realities of the human thought. Stone (1995) noted that virtual reality is a reality of human life. This research paper argues to justify Stone’s statement. Although it has been known as a virtual reality, this research paper will argue to justify that it is a reality of life; for today, tomorrow and generations to come. The argument will analyze the role of virtual reality in the actual environment of human life (realities), specifically its socio-economic impact on the modern society. Other research on this subject will be reviewed to provide a strong basis of argument. Prediction of the future implications of virtual reality based on the current trends in its application has also been included in this research.
Virtual Reality: A reality Human Life
            Recently, virtual reality has grown roots as a technological suite serving many organizations and companies for their needs of today and the future in areas such as communication, training and design: modeling and simulation (Stone, 1995). In his paper Stone (1995) predicted that by the end of the 20th century, virtual reality would become the technology of choice; and indeed it is (Dehrer, 2011). According to US Al Gore (1991), this technology is a promise for revolution in computer application of the modern world (as cited in Stone, 1995). As Dehrer (2011) noted, virtual reality is a very important tool for development and research in all the nations. The technology is seen by the developers as a novel way of assisting human beings in creativity and design. With this technology, more efficient means of development have been and will be realized by businesses (Patel & Cardinali, 1994). In the subsequent discussion, the application of virtual reality to real and practical development areas have been discussed.
Virtual Reality and development
            Virtual reality has been pursued in medical industry, particularly in surgery. In this application, surgeons and medical specialists are able to observe virtual surgery process on virtual patient (Patel & Cardinali, 1994). This is an essential practice especially for new surgery operations which have not been fully exploited. According to Stone (1995) and Patel & Cardinali (1994), the prototype simulated surgery process by NASA and the Medical School of Stanford, demonstrates all the surgery operations on a virtual patient. With this prototype, intricate surgical operations can be tested. As a result, efficiency in risk avoidance in new and rare operation for patients will be improved. It will also enable surgeon interns to learn the surgery processes more effectively (Patel & Cardinali, 1994). A research by Stanford and MIT universities developed a human virtual leg. In this virtual leg, surgeons can carry out their examinations, both physically and internally, at all angles of the joints. Imaging through magnetic resonance is another virtual technology which enables the physicians to examine at any angle all the parts of the human anatomy. A research by North Carolina University developed a technology in which the position of the fetus in the mother’s womb would be easily established by physicians. It is imperative to note at this point that all these virtual technologies have a direct relationship to the reality of the field. The processes presented in the virtual environment are applied by the surgeons. The virtual surgery depicts and lays down the processes to be used by the surgeon. In my opinion, virtual processes can be equated to the traditional manuals used by surgeons during operations. It is clear therefore that real surgery processes are results of virtual reality.
There has been wide application of virtual reality in engineering field, (Patel & Cardinali, 1994) especially in design. The ideas of the project or the design are represented in a 3-D space within a computer program (Stone, 1995). The disparately positioned design engineers are linked through networking systems so that they can work simultaneously on the same project (Patel & Cardinali, 1994). It is also possible for the designers to navigate or walk through different parts of the project in order to give their comments which can be seen or even heard by their counterparts. The basic virtual reality in engineering design is simulations within CAD systems. In these systems the designer can create a prototype (virtual) and simulate its operation within the actual simulated environment. Aircraft Industry applies advanced CAD systems to simulate all the aspects of an aircraft (Patel & Cardinali, 1994). As stone (1995) argues, virtual reality technology has enhanced the design of aircraft in terms of time and financial resources expended. Automatic Finite element analysis to establish the bearing loads can be carried out without necessarily having to apply the tedious and erroneous design equations. Boeing Aircraft Company has heavily invested in virtual technology in order to enhance its design and production; all airplane aspects have been incorporated into virtual technology including pilot techniques in flying, designer stresses and shear under which the machine can operate (Patel & Cardinali, 1994). V-22 aircraft and VS-X are some of the virtual aircraft models developed by Boeing Company. According to designers, virtual reality will result into ‘faultless finishes’ of the aircrafts. After each stage of design, performance checks of the part are carried out on the virtual reality. Rolls-Royce has demonstrated the importance of virtual technology in aero plane engine design (Stone, 1995). According to Rolls-Royce, virtual reality will eliminate the costly need of building tangible engine models during the design process. Figure 1 below shows a virtual aero engine by Roll-Royce. In this illustration, detailed vision of the lower region of the engine has been represented (Patel & Cardinali, 1994).
Figure 1: Virtual Aero engine (Trent 800)
Retrieved from Stone (1999, p.15).
Through virtual technology, designers are able to express their thoughts in a clearer manner. During the pre-technological era; designers used sketches to show their design expressions. Virtual models created in computer programs enable engineers to carry out design analysis before actually building the prototype. This cuts cost and design time. The actual products of the design are manufactured based on the design in the virtual reality environment. It is therefore justifiable that virtual reality is a reality of the engineering products.
Military training has also embraced virtual reality technology (Patel & Cardinali, 1994). For over decades, US forces has invested in war simulations and as Patel & Cardinali (1994), note the State has continuously invested in virtual technology systems- In fact in 1994, a plan to spent more than five million US dollars in virtual reality was constituted. Training of Virginia defense soldiers used virtual environment of Persian Gulf. In the training, the soldiers were provided with the real Iraq situation and the tactics required for fighting (Patel & Cardinali, 1994). As Stone (1995) notes the illusion enable soldiers to increase their military skills and grow their techniques in the battlefield. According to Coker (2002), 90% of the soldiers in the Gulf war were trained on virtual reality in which the battlefields were simulated in computer software. Cocker (2002) further noted that simulation of war enhances training in the military. It is usually uneconomical for the government, especially during this recession time, to allocate funds for military training; funding is required for other critical purposes such as public health, safety education and infrastructure (Patel & Cardinali, 1994). Virtual reality will reduce the cost of training and life lost in the battlefields.
Scholars in the virtual technology and war (Cocker, 2002 & Patel & Cardinali, 1994) argue that telerobotics is the future of the military simulation application. It is argued that the computer controlled missiles used by Apache pilots to operate machine guns are the realities of the future. Development of robots for fighting is also underway. According to Patel & Cardinali (1994), the loss of lives of soldiers in wars will be something of the past in the future. Virtual reality will make war safer and clean (Patel & Cardinali, 1994). But what will then be the essence of war? As Stone (1995) stated some nations have undergone artificial wars through simulations; through virtual environment virtual cities of the enemy nation are destroyed. Although this may seem like just a normal video game, it impacts horror to people. Horror is important for a war-free world (Stone, 1995); war horrors enable people to embrace peace. Virtual reality in simulated wars has therefore led to peace among the nations; the realities of war in the virtual environment discourage people to engage in war as they might experience these realities in the practical world.
Entertainment is another area in which virtual technology has been practically used. Avatar movie is one of the latest examples of the future of the entertainment industry. The characters in this movie are virtual humans and the environment of action has been simulated to represent the real world. Video games which have addicted many people especially children are technologies of the virtual reality. Interestingly, most of the virtual reality entertainment has been appreciated in the 21st century. In fact some governments such as Japan have supported the virtual reality entertainment industry (Patel & Cardinali, 1994).
The scientific field has not been left out in this novel technology. It is through virtual reality technology that molecular and atomic theories have been conceptualized (Patel & Cardinali, 1994). North Carolina University developed ‘docking’ molecular techniques which have been used by scientists to evaluate bonding properties of chemicals (Patel & Cardinali, 1994). Through this technology, scientists are able to feel the possible molecular combinations and come up with new identities of molecules. Tests from technology of virtual laser have provided scientists with data which have enabled them to predict that virtual technology is the future for treatment of cancerous cells; surgeons will be able to treat the particular cell without destroying the healthy cells. Scientists are also optimistic that molecular docking will be used in the near future to develop disease combating chemicals or pharmaceuticals.
Virtual reality has also been used in marketing sector. Virtual reality has for more than ten years been used in Japan housing market (Patel & Cardinali, 1994). Electric Works developed a simulation in virtual reality to enable potential house buyers to explore the nature of their prospective houses in a virtual environment. The simulator allows the buyers to view all the compartments of the building. They can also walk through the house and carry out arrangements as it is in a real house. With this technology, the customer has a chance to decide on several factors of the design of the house; such as the position of the water taps, bedrooms and so on. It enhances the customer to have a real feel of how the prospective home is likely to be. The customer can make their orders more confidently. Although, this happens in virtual world, the real decisions of the customer to make an acceptance of the offer are based on this ‘unreal’ world. It is therefore true that virtual reality affects human decisions.
Effects of Virtual reality to realities
            According to Aardema (2010), virtual reality is a real technology of the real world as its effects to social behavior are profound like any other technology. Virtual reality has led to Dissociative Disorders, abbreviated as DPD (Aardema, 2010). In fact according to Aardema (2010) this condition sums up all the physiological effects of virtual reality. It is characterized by unreality of an individual towards the environment in which he or she thrives. It is also characterized by detachment in which the ‘patient’ becomes isolated from the realities of the real world. It has a range of symptoms: from day to day cognitive processes to full-fledged chronic conditions (Aardema, 2010). These conditions lead to unhealthy social behavior. Some people daydream on the animation movies they watched last night. Others are so engrossed to virtual world such that they have become unreal in nature; they have unrealistic dreams. At chronic level, DPD patients become anti-social and threat to the real world. Psychologists have noted that the current increase in violent behaviors among the youth is actually due to the unreal mentalities which have been imparted to them by the virtual reality movies.
It is feared that with the simplification of some engineering and manufacturing processes, the human contribution in these fields is at the threat of extinction. As mentioned earlier, computer systems are widely used by design engineers to determine the performance of the various components of the design. As a result the number of designers in a particular design has lowered. In deep examination of this situation, unemployment in the engineering field will rise and reduce in computer related technologies. The result would be an economic drawback in the world.
As Patel & Cardinali (1994) note, the travel industry income is likely to reduce in future. The cost of computer hardware and software has greatly decreased and as Patel & Cardinali (1994) forecasted, every home owns or can possess a computer. This paper further forecasts that the declining cost of software will see virtual technology, which is currently used in transport industry, installed in almost every home. The virtual reality technology has made it possible for virtual explorations of different parts of the world. Exploration is what makes humans pay for transport (Patel & Cardinali, 1994) and as a result the number of travelers will reduce. As Patel & Cardinali (1994) note, virtual travelling would reduce the travelling risks associated with real travelling. Hence low incomes will be realized in the transport industry.
Virtual reality, as noted earlier, has resulted into overall reduction of government’s and organizations’ spending in personnel training. In medical field, interns are able to observe, feel and experience the surgery processes through virtual reality. In military training, soldiers can be trained on the techniques required for the specific battlefields from simulated environment. Pilot’s training is currently done on virtual reality systems in which the operational tools of the plane and the flying environment are simulated in virtual reality software. Process engineers are trained in a computer simulated process in which all the stages of the process have been incorporated. Maintenance specialists’ training is done in computer simulation in which all the components of the machine or the systems are represented as they are in the real workshop.
Future Implications of Virtual Reality
            As per this research, virtual reality holds the key to the revolution of the world- the order of doing things in the world is going to change significantly. Marketing is one of the sectors which will experience a major overhaul. Customers will be able to feel, touch and experience assets before they are even built. In fact customers will be the designers of their own orders through manipulation of the assets in the virtual reality systems! With the growing virtual reality technology, there will be no real wars; the world will experience simulated wars- therefore war victory will depend on the ‘smartest virtual developers’. If at all there will be any war, real people will not be involved, nations will depend on telerobotics and computer controlled humans for defense of their territories. Virtual technology growth will render some professional schools useless! Why should surgeon schools be funded when all the surgery processes can be illustrated in virtual reality systems in theaters? Finally, only few of us will realize their careers at Hollywood and ‘other woods’; all will be taken up by the virtual actors.
Conclusion
            It has been established that virtual reality has a direct casual link with human life realities, whether it impacts positively or negatively, it is a reality within the advancement of ‘human technology’. However, this reality has not been emphasized by many researchers. Quantitative and qualitative studies on correlation of virtual reality technology and ‘reality’ of human life should be carried out. This will give a clear picture of the place of this technology in the society.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
References
 Aardema, F.(2010). Virtual Reality Induces Dissociation and Lowers Sense of Presence in           Objective Reality, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 13 (4),             429-435.
Cocker, C. (2002). Waging War Without Warriors: the Changing culture of military conflict.         Retrieved on February 19, 2011 from          http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=nXSlxAXwDnwC&pg=PA175&dq=vir            tual+reality+and+war&hl=en&ei=5JVfTf3mJNG18QOl6rXaCw&sa=X&oi=book_res            ult&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CDsQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=virtual%20reality%       20and%20war&f=false
Dehrer, G. (2011). VISIONs: Imagineers in Search of the Future. The Futurist, 36-43.
Patel, H & Cardinali, R. (1994). Virtual Reality Technology in Business. Management                   Decision, 32 (7), 5-12
Stone, J.R. (1995). The reality of virtual reality. World Class Design to Manufacture, 2 (4),            11–17