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Real illusions and virtual reality

Social interaction in virtual reality Social interaction in virtual reality - © Middle VR - Sébastien Kuntz

For many years the preserve of large industrial companies, virtual reality applications are now becoming available to the wider public. However, there are still problems of perception that remain to be solved. To coincide with the IEEE VR 2015 conference, jointly organised by Inria, Sébastien Kuntz, founder of Middle VR, reflects on this step change.

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

Applications of virtual reality have demonstrated their value for over twenty years, but the high cost of this technology has limited the range of users to a few large industrial companies. In recent years, the cost of the necessary hardware has been significantly reduced, bringing the technology within the reach of a wider public. When Facebook acquired the  start-up company Oculus Rift in March 2014, this process received a further boost, encouraging a large number of developers to create a range of mass-market applications. This is a field in which France has developed considerable expertise over the years. Now is the time to reap the benefit.

What are the potential uses of this technology?

The primary use is to generate a 3D image of a new design such as a car or a piece of furniture so that any design problems can be identified and rectified well in advance of manufacture. This technology will also be useful to provide virtual meeting rooms for people working at different locations. Education, training, marketing … the potential applications are endless!

What are the obstacles that still have to be overcome?

Virtual reality tries to trick the brain into believing an illusion of being in a real world. This cannot be achieved solely by changing visual perception. Moving through a virtual world while remaining physically in one position is detected by the inner ear, and this can cause disorientation and nausea. Bringing virtual reality to a wider audience does not simply depend on advances in the hardware. It also requires a better understanding of the human factors involved.

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

Keywords: Sébastien Kuntz Industry Virtual reality Oculus Rift Consumer VR Middle VR