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New frontiers in virtual reality

Immersive Reality © Passion for Innovation iV Lab, Dassault Systèmes - David Nahon

Combining augmented reality and virtual reality, virtual immersion offers an approach based on the user’s perception of a digital universe. David Nahon, director of the Dassault Systèmes Passion for Innovation Immersive Virtuality (iV) Lab, gives us his point of view to coincide with the IEEE VR 2015 conference, jointly organised by Inria.

Why are we beginning to talk about 'consumer VR*’?

For many years, virtual reality remained a niche market. When we built a CAVE immersive environment at Dassault Systèmes head office in 2008, the total cost was 1.3 million euros. When zSpace launched a personal table-top system costing just 4000 US dollars, it changed the game. The trend has continued with headsets such as that available from Oculus Rift now costing no more than a few hundred euros. We have demonstrated the possibilities offered by these systems to our customers, and they have been impressed. There is now a mass-market commercial future for virtual reality systems.

What are the potential uses of this technology?

The first sector to make widespread use of the technology will almost certainly be computer gaming. But for me, the prime target for virtual reality remains education. These headsets, combining movement with view, provide a sensory experience that triggers a response in the deepest areas of the brain. This helps learners to remember the information that they have received.

What are the obstacles that still have to be overcome?

The priority is to enhance the social dimension of the experience. The headset user is cut off from the outside world, but it is essential for the teacher to be able to interact with the pupils. We have therefore designed a virtual universe into which we re-inject images of the people surrounding the user using a Kinect. Making use of augmented reality in this way eliminates the boundary between the real and the virtual.

* Consumer VR: Virtual reality applications for the general public.

Keywords: ZSpace Immersive Virtuality Lab David Nahon Dassault Systèmes Consumer VR Virtual reality Industry