Projection mapping is a technique that uses a normal projector to project interactive images onto a 3d surface, rather than a flat 2d one.
Despite many concepts and attempts by games companies such as Nintendo and Sega throughout the 20th century, VR has still not yet become a commercial success. This is largely due to the technological limitations of the time, VR tech was either too large and impractical or the graphics/ visual display were too primitive compared to a normal screen.
However in 2016 it seems we may be on the precipice of a Virtual Reality revolution. In the last year we have seen the release of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Playstation VR. Personally I am hesitant as to whether or not these products will have the commercial impact they hope to. It seems many people consider the oculus rift to be nothing more than an expensive gimmick and find that the novelty of VR suffers due to finding the technology more observational rather than interactive. The playstation VR avoids this issue by combining the headset with the "Playstation Move" controller, on their own the move controllers were not initially a hit for the Playstation 3. However, combined with the VR headset they contribute to a far more interactive and immersive experience. The HTC Vive also has handheld controller accessories and is the most advanced and expensive system. While the Vive is a better experience with more advanced technology and has intuitive motion controllers available, the price tag and PC system specs required to use one make owning one an unrealistic dream for many people. In addition, a Vive setup requires a lot of physical space and more technical knowledge than it's counterparts.
As well as the headsets and motion controllers, there are many concepts and products in development for more accessories to enhance the interactive potential of virtual reality. These include exercise bikes, motion sensing gloves, treadmills, and even a full suits that imitate touch within the game.
I believe that many consumers being unable to afford the tech or having space in their homes to set it up may result in a revival the popularity of video game arcades. Spaces where customers can pay to play with all of the technology that they may not be able to own for themselves.
Another interesting development in VR is that Hollywood studio Fox has been investing in virtual reality in what is believed to be an attempt to draw dwindling audiences back to theatres. However I do not believe there is much potential for VR reality cinema to become commercially mainstream. First of all, unlike 3d glasses which can be produced in large quantities very cheaply, VR headsets are expensive and buying so many as to fill a cinema is a large investment, and given the relative failure of 3D I believe many companies and studios will be hesitant to invest in this idea. Secondly, VR is better suited to the video game format, where the aim is for the user to explore and interact with the world. Whereas in films the user is expected to observe and interpret the events shown, directors have the power to make creative choices when choosing what to let the audience see and what not to. VR headsets may take this power away if the audience can turn their heads and look in any direction they choose. VR headsets might make a film audience feel more immersed by filling their vision and not allowing them to look away, it would never feel truly immersive unless the perceived environment is responsive and interactive to the user.
I believe the potential of VR as a group cinema experience only goes as far as a novelty attraction gimmick at museums and theme parks.
Theoretical uses for VR Tech
The hazard perception stage of driving theory has now moved on from a live action video and instead uses photo real CGI. The point of the hazard perception is to test a learners reaction time in response to a developing hazard. If learners were to wear a headset this experience would be more realistic, the camera could have a narrower field of view and force the learner to turn their head and physically look around to access the environment.
To take this theory one step further, if this virtual world were to be reproduced as an interactive game rather than a pre-rendered video the user could sit in a virtual car and use a steering wheel and peddles to demonstrate the appropriate physical response. This would allow learner drivers to be taught how to handle the car in an accident, without any real risk. e.g. how to break without skidding or how to recognise a burst tire and stop the car safely.
Use of Augmented Reality is often not as glamorous or exciting as VR, but has been around for longer and is far more common. Basic examples of day to day AR includes the "yellow line" on screen in football matches. This virtual marker which does not exist physically on the pitch can be viewed by fans watching on TV.