Is virtual reality really throwing out physics altogether?

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Clearly near the end of 2016, virtual reality is clearly no longer just the domain of science fiction, but a form of everyday hype we are encouraged to accept? Virtual reality games and movies are meant to use physics to create a fantasy world where gamers and movie-philes alike can interact with characters just like you would with your family at home. With the demands for quicker, better and cheaper VR technology, digital imagery grounded in physics doesn’t seem as much a priority anymore. Film CGI is a great example. Movies like Matrix Reloaded and Catwoman jumped the shark when it came to CGI animation. Instead of focusing on animation that blends seamlessly into the real-life action, critics have complained that directors have opted to abandon the laws of physics and use CGI. The innovation and ease of CGI can have characters perform unbelievable stunts that a real person could never actually do. In many cases, the audience shouldn’t know a character is CGI, but due to time restraints and a high-pressure deadlines- mistakes often happen. Think of the CGI daughter in Twilight’s Breaking Dawn among other bad CGI elements including the original Werewolves seen in the very first Twilight film.

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The crux of the problem is that abiding by the laws of physics isn’t always that easy. Much more time and effort is needed to develop a physics-based interaction system, so some developers will give their customers a “good enough” simulation instead of the full immersion experience they would expect. Instead we resort more towards the animated physics like games like Grand Theft Auto which depict a gravity and physics narrative that is nowhere near possible. There are some virtual gaming experiences on the market, however, that do live up to the hype of virtual reality- like PlayStation VR, HTC VIVE and the Oculus Rift. And start-ups like Midas Touch Games are devoting a lot of brainpower and money to developing software that truly mimics the real world. The developers modeled the input device and digital imagery on actual bones and skeletal structures. For example, in their dog demo, the user can actually pet the dog, stroking its ears and the dog will naturally respond like it’s being touched. With advances in virtual reality technology happening every day, maybe there is still hope that the laws of physics will not be completely thrown-out with the bathwater.

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Aside from VR games, the biggest risk to allowing virtual reality with no physical rules is now fairly common in most Hollywood films. You’ve seen many recent films that often contain more CGI elements than actual images that are filmed. In many cases you can see worlds that don’t exist with very limited reality thrown-in. We’ve seen VR animation at sporting events such as swimming and professional football used for tracking and scoring and this is also shown in live news broadcasts. Who’s to say that some news reports are actually VR tests shown on live TV to see how a population will react. Recently, a scandal within this years 2016 Trump VS Hillary presidential campaign raised awareness and skepticism when a campaign rally held in North Carolina for Hillary Clinton had shown several questionable elements that still have gone unanswered. These included mobile phone images that were filming the event- but didn’t show Hillary in any of the smartphone viewers even when she was within view. Strange electronic glitches of only her image also appear during her speech against a backdrop of the American flag also imply the use of a green screen purport that this footage was filmed separately. Although these are recent ‘live’ reports, one would have to think whether or not this is only time we may have seen incidents such as this, those who speak-out publicly are too often shunned by others. It seems we accept digital images when they are used for entertainment and live sports, but when television news uses digital trickery we assume it must be real and should not be questioned. When it comes to Virtual Reality, there are questions that go way beyond just physics until people start to notice how much VR has flooded the market.