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Virtual Reality Tech Allows for ‘Armchair’ Travel
By Brad Frischkorn

The rapid evolution of virtual reality (VR) technology means that you soon won’t even need to pack your bags when traveling abroad.

Such is the vision of engineers at UEI Solutions, a Tokyo-based technology startup. Founded in 2015, the company specializes in designing smartphone applications and game software, as well as adapting cutting-edge VR techniques to ‘modernize’ business methods.

The company drew enthusiastic crowds to its display at the 4th Production Expo held in June at Odaiba, where it showed off its VRider 3D apparatus, a goggle-mounted kit that immerses the viewer ‘inside’ a selected virtual world. Volunteers were taken on personalized tours of Tokyo streets, through shopping areas, as into a range of nature scenes, while a large video monitor showed onlookers what the participants were experiencing in real time.

With a 360 degree field of view, viewers were able to turn, advance and explore the surroundings in any direction, as well as to approach objects. Meanwhile, guides manipulated the environment by adding rain, snow, animals, and other characters to enhance the drama.

The visual clarity of the entire three-minute experience was impressive, compelling most of the participants to utter “Sugoi!” (lit. “Wow!”) when finished.

“We’ve had to simplify the visuals of the VR display so that volunteers wouldn’t freak out too much,” says UEI business manager Shiya Shoji. “Today we are showing familiar environments at relatively low resolution levels. The technical possibilities are far greater, and much more realistic.”

Two of the keys to the VRider revolve around the use of multiple digital cameras to pre-record the target environment; the more cameras, the more angles that can be captured. Secondly, picture quality is dramatically affected by pixel density. UEI’s system can handle up to 8K picture density, currently the industry’s commercial limit. Also known as Super Hi-Vision, 8K video, at 7680 x 4320 pixels per frame, boasts 16 times the resolution of standard HD, and four times that of 4K, or Ultra HD.

“Over the last six months, 360-degree videos have become A Thing,” says Mark Pesce, contributor to The Register, a tech evaluation site in a June review of the latest VR gadgets. He notes that in recent months, Google has added support in YouTube, after which Facebook has followed. “Now we see a cavalcade of announcements from device manufacturers, all wanting a slice of the next revolution in photography.”

Two of the keys to the VRider revolve around the use of multiple digital cameras to pre-record the target environment; the more cameras, the more angles that can be captured. Secondly, picture quality is dramatically affected by pixel density. UEI’s system can handle up to 8K picture density, currently the industry’s commercial limit. Also known as Super Hi-Vision, 8K video, at 7680 x 4320 pixels per frame, boasts 16 times the resolution of standard HD, and four times that of 4K, or Ultra HD.

“Over the last six months, 360-degree videos have become A Thing,” says Mark Pesce, contributor to The Register, a tech evaluation site in a June review of the latest VR gadgets. He notes that in recent months, Google has added support in YouTube, after which Facebook has followed. “Now we see a cavalcade of announcements from device manufacturers, all wanting a slice of the next revolution in photography.”

If the difference between HD and UHD (4K) in immersive video is, as he puts it “the difference between night and day,” then 8K represents another quantum leap. Indeed, viewers experiencing prototype 8K demos have complained of motion sickness due to the highly realistic visual impact.

UEI’s hardware uses an elastic transcoder to tie up all the camera angles for the show, based on content that clients provide. As such, the applications are countless, says Mr. Shoji. “We’re still early in application development, but a lot of interest has been shown by travel agencies and real estate brokers – along with the expected excitement from game developers. People will be able to see most of the places they would likely visit if they took a trip abroad, or tour virtually every aspect of a new home before buying it or even stepping foot on the property.”

VR tech-based devices are already used in higher-end applications in aerospace, defense, and medical industries. But in Japan even karaoke companies are asking if there is a way to make singing a more interactive 3D experience, says Mr. Shoji. Virtual reality applications for cell phones, or “VR apps” for short, are quickly making their way into the mainstream, and will soon become a reality, according to Virtual Reality Society, and industry news source.

Few are discounting the market’s potential, or its growth rate. All told, the virtual reality market – including all hardware and software across all device types -- is estimated to grow from $1.37 billion in 2015 to $33.90 billion by 2022, a compound annual growth rate of over 57%, according to industry researcher Markets and Markets.

Read more:

http://www.uei-s.co.jp

http://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality-applications/

http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/reality-applications-market-458.html?gclid=CNKk0fGczM4CFVckvQodYyUJPA

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/06/02/8k_video_gives_virtual_reality_the_full_picture_for_mainstream_use/


VRider demonstration

"People will be able to see most of the places they would likely visit if they took a trip abroad, or tour virtually every aspect of a new home before buying it or even stepping foot on the property.” -- Shinya Shoji

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