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Virtual reality is a science where artificial environments are created with computer software and hardware that allows the user experience the real life situation on images he is viewing. Its application in computers mainly involves the use of five senses of sound and sight. The use of virtual reality is characterized with the use of particular gloves, earphones or goggles which enable reception of input from the computer system. This allows the control of five senses by the computer. The easiest form of virtual image is that of a 3-D image that can be viewed at the personal computer level by manipulating operations of the mouse or keyboard so that the image is able to move in certain direction or zoom in and out. However, the sensor devices can be used to monitor actions of the user so that responses are manipulated to suit the user preference and a new perspective is developed. Other improved methods that have been used include a wrap round display televisions and wearable computers, as well as other mechanisms that enable the user experience displays in 3-D. Main areas of use of the virtual reality are simulation of actual conditions to achieve purposes of training and education and creation of virtual environment for interactive narrations or plays (Benedickt, 1991).

There are a number of products that can be used to create the virtual reality in personal computers: they include Extreme 3-D, 3D Studio or TrueSpace. There are other methods that can be used to specify certain types of images and the manner in which they are displayed, such as the use of Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML). However, these devices are usually very expensive and they are mainly applied in research laboratories (Adams, 1996).

Virtual reality is also used to achieve purposes of the virtual communication by providing virtual conditions for the user with ideas, such as telepresence or telexistence by applying the use of such mechanisms as mouse or keyboard. The simulated surrounding displays characteristics of the actual environment, thereby creating the real-life environment, such as the simulation of a combat environment of a pilot (Barnes, 1996).

There are a number of challenges that have hindered the experience of virtual reality: they include high amount of processing power, low quality of resolution and communication bandwidth. There is optimism that these challenges will be overcome by modifying processors, resolution of images and techniques of data communication technologies which are less expensive to acquire (Adams, 1996).

Thesis Statement

Training purposes, such as those for weapons, require processes of learning that incorporate diagnostic technologies that allow the removal and replacement of skills. This ensures that complexities brought by modern systems are simplified by making operations of computers, sensors and displays easy. There are also a number of maintenance measures that are used, such as Test, Maintenance and Diagnostic equipment that are able to troubleshoot these arsenals. There are problems associated with this equipment regarding the manner in which cables need to be disconnected and any damages in connectors checked. Some techniques that have been used include the use of multimeters and check out boxes (Bradbury, 1951).

The use of the virtual reality has also been used in maintenance practices of using computer-based ones to maintain equipment to prevent the use of more expensive hands-on training. Virtual maintenance training has been observed to be a main requirement before the learner starts hands-on training. This training can be achieved by the use of 2D and 3D virtual conditions and presentations of Line Replaceable Units (LRUs), TMDS and displays to the learner. This article is a representation of lessons learnt when applying the use of 2D and 3D environments for purposes of training in the field of maintenance and web-based approaches application of this technology. It also discusses difficulties that have been encountered in the effort to implement the use of the virtual reality in education and training environments.

Background of the Study

The effort to locate the background of virtual reality is similar to tracing the source of a river (Woolley, 1992). The idea of virtual reality can be traced back to periods of science fiction that gave rise to ideas, such as computer graphics, simulation and human-computer interactions. One of the pioneers of virtual reality is Sutherland who created a virtual reality system that involved head mounted display that coordinates the process of making a 3-D display. There has also been increased interest in the impact on the society brought by new technologies, such as virtual reality; it has been found that development of virtual technology is likely to result into integration of life and technologies in a number of ways that are beneficial to human beings. Techniques have also been developed that assist the human preference, interpersonal interactions and recognition of objects. As more and more time is spent on virtual environment, there is likely to be increased popularity of virtual technology (Bradbury, 1951).

Virtual reality technology also has a high potential of applications for visitors in a museum, but the application has been interfered by the inability to present a quick learn actual use by many people at a given time. A number of constructions have been formatted, such that a shared display can be displayed to ensure more than one person views the 3-D image, but not able to display images that an actual virtual reality display can provide.

The use of VR in museums was witnessed in 1994 when there was a presentation by a museum in England showing a ‘walkthrough’ reconstruction of Dudley Castle.

Literature Review

A virtual environment is truly a digital environment where movements of the user are tracked, so that the surrounding is rendered or digitally composed and illustrated based on movements of the user. For instance, in a computer game, joystick motions of the user can be tracked and the character is enabled to move forward to display a new environment. This ensures the replacement of cues of real world environment with digital cues. While a person is using a digital environment, there is a possibility of losing psychological self and not experiencing the physical world. This condition is referred to as an immersion (Adams, 1996).

An example of a virtual environment may be a set up comprising of cameras, track optical sensors, location of the participant position in the room, an accelerometer that collects information about movements of the participant and a computer that relays the information. The computer determines the manner in which the room is rendered, as well as the manner in which the participant displays in the screen (Barnes, 1996).

The idea of virtual reality has been in existence for a number of decades, despite its emergence in the early 1990s. This emergence was firstly witnessed when Morton Heilig, a cinematographer came up with an idea that ensured senses of his audience was stimulated by ensuring they were focused on the story more than any other thing in their surroundings. His first contribution was the construction of a single user console in 1960 called the Sensorama that involved the use of stereoscopic information, fans, color producers speakers and moving chairs. His other contribution to virtual reality was the invention of the head mounted television display that could be used to watch television in 3-D (Bradbury, 1951).

The next contribution to the world of virtual reality was the development of HMD by the Philco Corporation engineers in 1961. This was a helmet that had a video screen and a tracking system that enabled engineers to link it with closed circuit camera system. The application of HMD was intended for dangerous situations by observing actual environments remotely and focusing the camera inclination by adjusting the head of the camera. A similar kind of HMD was used by Bell Laboratories for helicopter navigators by linking HMDs to infrared cameras which are from the part of helicopters. These cameras allow pilots to be able to see the field effectively while they are flying in the dark (Briggs, 1996).

Another contribution to the field of virtual reality is the idea of Ivan Sutherland in 1965. He envisioned ‘Ultimate Display’ that enabled the user to look into the virtual environment that was likely to appear as an actual environment that a person lived in. This idea is considered to be the guiding idea for all developments that have taken place in the field of the virtual reality. Main concepts in the idea of Sutherland was a virtual environment that would look like an actual environment to the user when observed through HMD and augmented by means of 3-D sound or a tactile substance. It also involved a computer that ensured maintenance of the real world in the right time. The other characteristic of this idea is that it could allow users to manipulate virtual objects in an intuitive manner (Baubien, 1996).

Another historical contribution to the field of virtual reality is building of HMD by Sutherland in 1966. This was mainly a computer system comprising of computer graphics to be displayed. However, HMD was mainly linked by means of cameras. A suspension mechanism was used to reinforce the HMD, due to its heaviness for the person using it to hold it comfortably. HMD had the capability to display images in stereo, and provide the idea of depth of view, and it had the ability to track movements of the head of the user to ensure there was a change of field of view based on the location of the user’s eyes (Bradbury, 1951).

There have been sudden changes in the history of virtual reality, despite the existence of components for over forty years. The following are the main changes that have taken place in the development of virtual reality.

  • 1987 Development of The Next Generation
  • 1989 A report of New York Times and Wall Street Journal on conference o computer graphics
  • 1990 Marketing of PowerGloves by Mattel, an expensive version of DataGlove
  • 1991 The publication of Howard Rheingold’s book ‘Virtual Reality’ attracting attention of the Senate of the US
  • 1992 Development of the movie ‘Lawnmower man’
  • 1993  Introduction of the program ‘Wild Palms’ on American Television and the release of Ghost Machines in the theatres
  • 1994 The opening of the movies ‘Strange Days’ and ‘Virtuosity’ in theatres

Research Methodology

A research was carried out to determine the possibility of implementation of RV in 30 companies in London. Respondents were mainly managers in those companies with experience of more than 10 years. They were aged 35 years and above. The main areas where the technology would be expected were communication, training and maintenance. The method of data collection was mainly by means of questionnaires that were distributed to respondents to fill with guide questions (Briggs, 1996).

The table below gives a summary of results of research:

Number of years before implementation of virtual reality

Number of companies

Less than 5

3

10

10

15

15

20

2

Discussion of Results

Results of the discussion indicate that most companies were not sure whether they would start implementing the use of virtual reality in managing operations of their company (Biocca, 1992). They were also not ready to start operating using virtual technologies, due to a number of disadvantages associated with it, such as high cost of equipment and training costs. They were also of the idea that this technology would be useful in training and education purposes once set up. However, they reported that the technology of the virtual reality could become more popular in the next 10 to 15 years. This is in agreement with findings of the study (Adams, 1996).

Conclusion

The improvement of virtual technology is regarded as one of the accomplishments of improved technology in the current world. However, the technology has not spread to a number of regions in the world, and it would take time before they are implemented in certain countries (Briggs, 1996).

The study shows that a number of objectives will be easy to achieve with the use of the virtual technology. For instance, education purposes will be easy to achieve, while maintaining complex structures will become an easy task. It will be possible for students to train at their own speed, while ensuring training is done at the fastest speed possible. It will also result in reduced costs of training and maintenance of complex facilities. However, organizations which need to invest in the technology will have to make enough capital allocations to install the technology into their systems (Barnes, 1996).

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