Special Issue on Element Technology for VR
Professor, Dept. of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Hosei University, 3-7-2, Kajino-cho, Koganei-shi, Tokyo, 184, Japan
The most common means for sending and receiving information is language. It is often difficult, however, to represent information in linguistic symbols or determine what the communicator really means. It is natural to feel more comfortable with information received directly through sensory organs such as the eyes or skin. Conventionally, most then coded information was received via media. When television appeared in the latter half of the 20th century. Non coded information was first distributed to individual households. Critics warned that the Japanese would be made a nation of fools by the now technology. Certainly, releasing the human brain from coding work may cause it to lose some acuity, but however, no remarkable side effects of television have been found. Virtual reality (VR) encourages non coded information to be directly used. VR technology has drawn increased attention for several years, but only its convenience has been emphasized, and not its side effects. The only exception is the Sony head-mount game display, whose use is prohibited by small children. Since this product is the only one that has the possibility of becoming popular in the general household, considerations have been given to possible side effects. Taking the above into account, VR technology is still in its infancy, unlike television when it appeared, and there is no sign VR will spread to individual households. Conversely, VR technology has sufficient room to grow until its side effect can be discussed seriously. VR technology is very attractive. Many cannot imagine a life without television. In the same way, they will not be able to imagine life without VR in the future. In any case, VR technology should be developed positively and fully, and any side effects resolved sa a matter of course. The five human senses are visual, aural, olfactory, taste, and tactile. For the visual sense, almost all two-dimensional problems have been solved, and for the aural sense, almost all problems, including stereos, have been solved. The olfactory and taste senses are still not solved and it is difficult to reproduce them from the viewpoint of engineering. The three-dimensional visual sense and olfactory sense can possibly developed as VR technology. Including this olfactory sense, the following are categorized into VR technology: sensing the posture and position of the body and the inner force sense that feels response. The stereoscopic visual sense is reported along with the reproduction technique of the tactile and inner force senses in this special issue. The stereoscopic visual sense is proposed in many different ways. A typical example includes the head-mounted display that reproduces independent images in both eyes. Another way involves glasses with a liquid crystal shutter to mask the left and right eyes alternately and present ulternate images independent of the display. Yet anothor system uses a polarizing lens. A specially treated display surface is provided or holography is used to enable even the naked eye to see stereoscopic images. The reproduction features of the inner force and tactile senses are mechanical. They contain actuators to generate the required force or uses changes in the surface structure. Any one of these features is large and has the disad vantage of restricting movements. VR element technology is making progress on a daily basis and will provide satisfactory performance in the near future. Realistic applications must be established to promote and disseminate VR element technology. The most important application is to remote control of robots or providing so-called telepresence. Robot will often be used for non routine outdoor tasks. In this case, an operator is needed to operate the robot. The telepresence technique is used to change a task in an unfavorable or dangergerous outdoor environment to one indoors in a favorable environment. With the progress of this systematization and applied technique, its convenience will be recognized, leading to further growth of this field. When this field makes sufficient progress, possible side effects will be an issue, mostly likely in the near future.