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The future of virtual reality is a collective hallucination

Google Blocks Co: Builders of dreams

Google already has some tools at its disposal to change this. Autodraw for example, transforms scribblings into handsome drawings. The Paper to Pixel Recursive Super Resolution from the Google Brain Team demonstrates how artificial intelligence can beautify pictures with fine details. 

In the near future, our three-dimensional VR doodles can morph into detailed models. Thanks to machine learning, this will happen automatically and based on our individual preferences (which Google is already familiar with). This environment could be our new living room, or provide us with a virtual space to meet with friends and family. Facebook has demonstrated this already with its VR platform Spaces.

And in the same way that digital screens replaced paper, time spent in virtual reality will soon come to rival time spent in the real world. Google, Apple, Facebook and others will do everything they can to control this next great ecosystem. The company that builds the best and most customized platform for the user will triumph. This company controlling the ecosystem will also attract developers and media builders, and receive revenue through content.

pixel recursive super resolution
Using machine learning, the Pixel match creates a face (middle) that is astonishingly similar to the original (right). / © Google Brain

The future of VR: Hardware and software

In terms of hardware, VR is still in its infancy. For example, there’s room for improvement in sound quality. 3D scans of the head and ears of each user should allow for something called personalized Head Related Transfer Functions (HRTF), which makes realistic sound effects possible. Techniques like Foveated Rendering keep the required computing performance in check, and enable wireless and energy-efficient headsets. They also allow you to focus on areas in the VR environment using your eyes. 

At the moment, the most obvious flaw in VR is the resolution. The current version of Oculus Rift offers 1200 x 1080 pixels per eye. With a 90 degree field of vision, this means a pixel density of 15 pixels per degree. Chief scientist of Oculus Michael Abrash predicts that by 2021, we will reach a 140 degree field of vision and a pixel density of 30 pixels per degree – around 4000 x 4000 pixels per eye.

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