Chair for Computer Aided Medical Procedures & Augmented Reality
Lehrstuhl für Informatikanwendungen in der Medizin & Augmented Reality

E. Badique, M. Cavazza, G. Klinker, G. Mair, T. Sweeney, D. Thalmann, N. Thalmann
Entertainment Applications of Virtual Environments
Chapter 55 in the Handbook of Virtual Environments -- Design, Implementation, and Applications. Human Factors and Ergonomics Series, 2002, pp. 1143-1166. (bib)

"If you want to know where the rest of us will be in 12 months, look to the gaming communityÓ, (Berry C., 1997) Virtual Reality (VR) as we know it today originated in the 1970Õs with simple computer-based flight simulators which continued to be developed through the 1980Õs and 1990Õs. This form of VR was overtaken by the emergence of VR video games into the entertainment market, both in amusement arcades and at home on video games consoles. But virtual reality for entertainment is nothing new. At the Paris Fair in 1900, three high-tech virtual reality experiences were presented to the public. The Trans-Siberian Railway Panorama enlivened existing dioramas and panoramas by introducing motion and treated the visitor to a 45 minutes experience reenacting a 14-day rail journey between Moscow and Peking. A number of horizontal belts and painted screens driven at high speed gave the illusion of travelling while being comfortably seated in a train coach. The Mareorama added a motion platform to simulate a cruise from Nice to Constantinople and the Cineorama Air-Balloon Panorama presented for the first time a full-surround movie shot from a balloon rising over Paris. Fifty years later, the Scopitone, the Experience Theater, the Sensorama Simulator and the Telesphere Mask offered remarkably visionary ways to transport people through alternative realities, either in large groups or individually (Dodsworth, C., 1998). Today, virtual environments are at the core of most successful games and other entertainment platforms. This text does not seek to establish an exhaustive list of technologies, systems and applications available. This area is moving much too fast for this to be realistic. Besides, most of the technologies relevant to games and entertainment applications in general have been covered in previous chapters. Instead, it will survey the major entertainment areas in which virtual environments are an essential element and attempt to provide some guidance on what the future may bring. This will include games, whether they are stand-alone or networked, and online communities created around games. They increasingly offer various services reaching much beyond pure entertainment such as new inter-personal communication forms and online electronic transactions. It will also include game characters and avatars pointing the way to artificial life and populated persistent worlds. High-end systems such as location-based entertainment centers and digital theme parks are also addressed, offering some of the most exciting virtual experiences to date. The strong historical links between military simulation and entertainment is examined and important issues such as violence and pornography in entertainment are briefly discussed. A final section attempts to guide the reader through future prospects for entertainment applications based on virtual environments. What is the future of content? What are the trends in interactivity? How will theme parks and LBEs evolve? What about distributed games? What can research in augmented reality and telepresence offer to entertainment? When will we be able to immerse ourselves fully in highly compelling shared virtual environments to play, to experience an impossible ride or simply to communicate with other in a completely new way? Because they are developed in a very demanding and competitive environment, games have always been at the forefront of the technology wave. Games and entertainment systems are a major driving force for the development of VR-based systems and their applications in other sectors. This chapter aims at explaining why.
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