Welcome to the Age of Virtual Reality
Issue: Volume 41 Issue 2: (Edition 2 2018)

Welcome to the Age of Virtual Reality

Recently I re-visited Walt Disney World. It had been quite some time since my last visit. In fact, my son was 10 years old then, and this time we were back in Orlando for his college graduation. Some of the attractions throughout Walt Disney World have been updated, new ones added, and older ones replaced. One in particular stood out in that it addressed a certain technology gaining ground today: virtual reality.

While it is certainly not on par with Space Mountain in terms of the excitement factor, Magic Kingdom's Carousel of Progress attraction remains an interesting walk through history. For those unfamiliar with this show, it was created by Walt himself for the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair using the latest in Audio-Animatronics at the time. The theme essentially is how technology has improved our way of life through the 20th century and into today.

Of course, the final scene of the family interacting with current technology has been updated since it originally depicted "state of the art" in 1960. I am not sure how many times elements have been changed in the scene, but it seems to look a little different to me since the last time I saw it. Currently, the scene featured HDTV, voice-activated appliances, and virtual-reality video games and peripherals. Once the science-fiction technology of the future, virtual reality indeed is planting itself firmly within our life's daily reality.

In this issue, CGW features a special section on virtual reality. Our longtime readers know that we have been covering VR for decades, as we followed the technology from industrial and educational CAVES to today's gaming and other inventive applications. Here, we look at aspects of the technology and how content creators are using VR, as well as the various hurdles they face when working with and delivering VR content.

The centerpiece is a detailed feature on the effects of Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One film, about a dystopian world in the not-so-distant future, where the people experience a bright, exciting time through VR. In fact, a large chunk of the film takes place in an animated "VR" world littered with 1980s pop culture references.

However, what many movie-goers likely do not know is that Spielberg created the movie using VR. He would don VR goggles and walk around in the virtual environment to pre-plan the film.

Without question, Ready Player One takes the concept of virtual production to a whole new level.

Yet, with this surge in virtual-reality applications comes a struggle with the demands of this workflow, as digital artists figure out new methods of producing VR content. One company that is continually breaking new ground in VR and real-time content is Epic. In this section, the company details how it used a real-time workflow to craft its cinematic Fortnite game trailer. Indeed, developing for a VR game is far different than developing a video game for a console or PC. Slightly Mad Studios' Stephen Viljoen understands this, and in another article reveals his secrets for building a memorable immersive game. Further, we round out the special section with a piece addressing the ongoing struggle when it comes to converting CAD model data for use in VR applications.

Indeed, transitioning to VR workflows requires artists to rethink their processes and tweak their pipelines. But then again, technology evolutions are never without pain points. And it seems like this evolution is definitely worth the effort.