Virtual Reality
for New Age
Prototyping

Virtual reality is primarily used in gaming but is starting to be used for everything from training and healthcare to UX development. The acceptance VR has gained in gaming has helped bring the cost down and improved the technology to the point where it is now useful in a variety of industries. VR immerses you in the virtual world, allows a creation to come life immediately, allows interaction with that creation, all with very little gap in the perceptual narrative. 

While many companies were playing with hypermedia and virtual reality systems in the 1980’s, Jason Lanier is the pioneer really credited with the creating the term “virtual reality” and created devices like the Data Glove, Eye Phone, and Audio Sphere. These early devices were clunky, hard to use, and very expensive. Even as late as 2012, when Oculus Rift debuted a prototype of their glasses with a resolution of 640 x 480, each pixel represented objects the size of a brick several inches long. While this was clunky by comparison to today’s commercially available Oculus Rift glasses, it nevertheless was enough to transport the wearer’s brain to an alternate reality, immersing them into the simulation. Due to the physiological structure of the human brain, vision and sound are 90 percent of all the input we get from our world.

The technology has come a long way in just a few years, yet most non-gamers don’t know what it is or how it works.

 

 

"Not only does this technology open new opportunities for training, learning and education but it also opens up new opportunities for product testing and interaction design."

Due to the physiological structure of the human brain, vision and sound are 90 percent of all the input we get from our world. The human brain adapts to the new conditions quickly and then the brain starts to explore this world like a newborn child – you are learning faster because everything seems new and interesting to you.

In new product development we usually need to build prototypes that look and feel as real as possible. Building a prototype is an expensive endeavor, especially when it comes to big units, complex shapes, and special materials. If you also want to test the user interaction with the design it becomes prohibitively expensive to prototype something like a combine harvester or a forklift truck.

VR is already being used to streamline product and interaction design testing and make extensive testing more affordable. With a VR test, the test may be pushed out to more respondents easily prior earlier in the development process. The respondents don’t have to be in a test facility and their movements and reactions may be tracked real time.

It’s time to take advantage of this rapidly growing technique that both saves development costs and increases the quality of the design and user experience.

 

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