Virtual Reality in 50 Years

What will VR be like in 50 years . . . what comes AFTER virtual reality!?

These are some of the questions I asked Jean-Louis Dautin, the director of the VR technology center CLARTE, as part of our VR-interview series.

Jean-Louis is an industry veteran from the industrial-business side of the VR sector. Here’s what I asked him:

1. What’s CLARTE’s mission ?
2. Out of all the VR projects you’re working on, which one’s your favorite?
3. What types of advancements are needed to bump up VR to the next level?
4. What will VR be like in 50 years?
5. What comes after virtual reality?

Enjoy the interview . . .

Q1 : What’s CLARTE’s mission ?

A: CLARTE is a VR technology center that interfaces R&D and working with companies. Our mission is to pragmatically extract and package ideas from the research world to make them useful for corporations. The iteration of this is simple. For one, we help companies determine what are the concrete advantages to leveraging virtual reality, and, second, to help these companies apply VR technologies within the enterprise.

Q2: Out of all the VR projects you’re working on, which one’s your favorite?

A: We’re working on numerous VR projects heavily implicating industrials, especial industrials working in the transportation sector. The kinds of VR projects we’re focused on right now are projects focused on working collaboratively and ergonomics, and for these we’re using Virtools.

Why do we think these projects are important? For one, we esteem that working collaboratively can very quickly bring companies a return on investment. While this sector carries a lot of potential, today’s it’s not exploited very well, whether this be by video or audio conferencing systems. Yet there aren’t very many veritable VR applications that really permit collaboration through immersive, 3D-interactive, real-time technology. This is a point that we work on a lot, for example, with a project called Partage.

The second sector where we’re investing resources is ergonomics, in particular the ergonomics for industrial production posts. It’s not a secret that today in France and occidental Europe we’re faced with challenges to maintain industrial employment. It’s clear that we must increase and improve productivity. Improving productivity today consists of improving the quality of work stations with the objective to reduce the amount of sick leave by improving the quality of the working environment. For this we’re working with several automotive OEMs, notably PSA, on the conception of ergonomic work stations based exclusively on virtual reality prototyping.

Q3: What types of advancements are needed to bump up VR to the next level?

A: If you look at VR visualization technologies, for example display, image immersion, they’ve all pretty much reached maturity. What we’re missing today are true multi-sensorial technologies, implicating a real return of force, non-perturbing, highly intuitive and reactive. These systems exist and they’re being worked on in labs, but none are really exploitable for the industrial world. This is where our challenge lies. Don’t forget that VR is about creating professional-quality illusions. If you want an end-user to work with a virtual prototype the way he would a real prototype, in his head everything needs to process as if the virtual prototype were real. You need a perfect illusion, and a perfect illusion implicates multi-sensorial experiences.

Q4: What will VR look like in 50 years?

A: Virtual reality in 50 years is the illusion that is perfect in all senses, whereby we can do everything as if everything around us were real. That means physical sensorial feedback, impeccable audio-spatial feedback, even odors!

But in 50 years I think we’ll go far beyond working in the virtual world instead of the real world. We’ll definitely have pushed working collaboratively to the extreme. With Telepresence, when you’re working with 10 geographically dispersed locations you’ll really have the impression that the people from those different sites are physically working with you in the same room. And you’ll really get the benefits of working in the same room with the same relational quality without needing to focus on the enabling technology, for example, focusing on looking at a video camera verses your colleague whom you’re addressing, etc.

Also in 50 years you can imagine that the costs for providing this technology will be significantly reduced to make it available to everyone.

Q5: What comes after virtual reality?

A: After virtual reality? This is a great question! I’d say after virtual reality it’s simply reality. Above and beyond all the technologies we’ve been discussing, there’s the problem of the human factor, which is very important. Beyond Telepresence, working collaboratively, multi-sensorial immersion, etc., there will be numerous questions about the psychology of people working in these environments. The ‘after virtual reality’ will be an ‘after’ that takes into account the ensemble of these psychological challenges. We’re already working on them today, but certainly not sufficiently, and this is the last barrier before we can have complete virtual reality.

Merci Jean-Louis!

Do you agree? What do YOU think will come after virtual reality?



P.S. If you missed other interviews in this series, here’s the collection thus far:

P.P.S. I’ve covered two of CLARTE’s industrial projects in previous blog posts. If you like the sound of what they’re doing, you may enjoy: