The concept of computer simulated virtual reality has existed since the 1970’s but has not yet revolutionised how we interact with one another and the world around us in the way that science fiction works such as The Lawnmower Man predicted. In particular, previous attempts at bringing VR hardware to the masses have thus far fallen short of commercial success, with video gaming systems such as Nintendo’s Virtual Boy failing to sell in meaningful numbers.
Recent high profile forays into the world of VR technology by industry giants such as Facebook, with their recent purchase of VR hardware producer Oculus VR and Google’s project Glass, point to a shift towards augmented and virtual reality and have once again began to capture the public’s imagination. Perhaps now, with seemingly the required level of hardware power and software services available to include in consumer devices, it is time for VR to make a splash in the world of computing. If you are planning on studying for a Degree in Information Science, now would be a good time to look at the study options that include VR and how they could help you to secure a role in this exciting and burgeoning sector.
VR in Gaming
Video games have always been at the forefront of the potential uses of VR. Early gaming systems included Nintendo’s Virtual Boy and Virtual reality machines produced by the Virtuality Group. Unfortunately, Nintendo’s Virtual Boy suffered from underwhelming customer feedback due to the companies decision to opt for a monochrome display in order to keep costs down, ultimately limiting the level of immersion possible with the system.
The modern day wave of forthcoming VR headsets include the Occulus Rift VR headset, Sony’s Project Morpheus headset and an as yet unnamed headset by Samsung. All of these devices take advantage of high quality displays providing a wide field of view and the ability to track users head movements to create high levels of immersion, perfect for the video games of the future.
To enter the world of video game development with VR, a degree which focuses upon 3D graphics or the software engines that drive video games would be a great starting point. The University of Portsmouth’s BSc (Hons) Computing Animation allows you to focus on either the more artistic side or the more technical side of computer animation, ultimately giving you skills that could lead you to create the graphics of VR games of the future. The University of Derby offer their BA (Hons) Computer Games Modelling and Animation course, which is tailor made to help you learn the skills involved in producing 3D art for video games and the BSc (Hons) Computer Games Programming course in which you will learn the computing science and software techniques involved in producing video games. The University of Melbourne allow you to focus your Bachelor of Science major on Graphics and Interaction, where you will learn how 2D and 3D graphics affect human-computer interaction whilst Newcastle University offer the BSc (Hons) Computer Science (Game Engineering) degree where you will learn in detail about the software which drives video games.
Architecture with VR
Virtual Reality has also found a place in the more practical world of architecture, where the early Virtuality VR System Project Elysium was developed for IBM to allow builders and clients to review the way building projects would look using VR computer models.
Modern Virtual Reality hardware such as the Oculus Rift is experiencing rapid software development work for architecture and its potential to revolutionise the way architectural projects are displayed and experienced make studying VR with Architecture a very exciting field to explore. This video shows students at Drury University that have used Oculus Rift to view architectural designs.
Many Architecture courses exist incorporating VR such as the BSc Architecture with Virtual Reality at the University of Wales, the Architectural Design (Joint Honours) at the University of Derby, BSc (Hons) Architectural Technology at Sheffield Hallam University and of course the Architecture program at Drury University.
To find more architecture courses, trying using the course search tool above.
VR for Training
Virtual Reality allows people from different professions to prepare for their roles in an environment that is removed from potential dangers, and thus is becoming an important training tool for a range of areas.
Healthcare is one such area that is benefitting greatly from VR, as medical professionals such as surgeons or dentists are able to train for a variety of scenarios for the first time without the pressure involved in a live surgical procedure. There are many different study routes to get involved in virtual reality with health care, many computing science and computer graphics courses provide the necessary groundwork to move into this area.
The Electronic and Computer Engineering Masters/MSc at the University of Birmingham includes individual projects that encourage the development of 3D environments for surgical simulation. The Computer Graphics, Vision and Imaging MSc at University College London and the BSc (Hons) Immersive Technology at Glyndŵr University are further examples of courses that give a strong foundation into the use of virtual reality in health and training scenarios.
Specialised courses also exist for medical students and practising surgeons, such as at the Queen Mary University of London, which offers the Surgical Skills and Sciences MSc which allows students to learn and practise their surgical skills with a state-of-the-art virtual reality surgical simulation centre. Imperial College London offer their Surgical Technology MSc which aims to equip their students with knowledge of forthcoming computing technologies in surgery, and also to encourage future participation with the computing department to develop future techniques.
The Social Uses of Augmented Reality
Similar to Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality seeks to modify a user’s perception of reality, rather than replace it completely with an immersive simulated world.
Google’s project Glass, a wearable computing device with a head mounted display, has piqued the interest of the software development world by providing a potential mass market platform for Augmented Reality applications.
Although Google Glass has only been available for a short period of time, there is a already a wide range of applications available that show the potential uses of Augmented Reality devices, such as live captioning for hearing impaired users, speech prompts and slides for live speakers and driving aids.
Amazon have recently announced the Fire Phone smartphone which uses software known as Firefly and on-board cameras to track in real time any products that the phone can see, making it easy for users to purchase the products online. This functionality is also available for third party developers, so the potential for interesting future uses is there.
To get involved in this area of computing, we recommend looking at courses that focus upon mobile phone application design such as the BSc (Hons) Mobile Media Applications at the University of Portsmouth and the distance learning course BSc (Hons) Mobile Computing course at Anglia Ruskin University through RDI.
Use the course search tool at the top of the page to find more courses related to mobile application development.
To find out more about studying IT and Computing, have a look at our Computer Programming Degree Guide and our Web Development Degree Guide.
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