Facebook’s Oculus Rift & Sony’s Project Morpheus: Virtual Reality for Positioning & Machine Control?

The spotlight was on the virtual reality industry last week with a couple of big announcements. First, Facebook announced its 2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR, the maker of a virtual reality gaming headset called Oculus Rift. That is an amazing value given that less than 2 years ago, Oculus VR was asking for startup cash via Kickstarter. 

The next announcement was no less significant. Sony revealed Project Morpheus, their plans for bringing virtual reality to, well,…. reality. What makes Sony’s play interesting is that this marks the first serious effort from a first-party platform holder. Project Morpheus could be the most attractive option yet for VR developers.

This is all great tech news, but I am not a gamer. Whats the relevance of virtual reality (VR) as well as augmented reality (AR) to positioning and machine control? 

I have written about augmented reality’s implications for the positioning industry as far back as 2009 and I’m sure I wasn't the first.   (http://blog.machinecontrolonline.com/?p=279) It always seemed natural to me to combine looking through the window of a machine with the guidance data I was seeing on the display of a control box. Heads Up Displays (HUD) are often part of these discussions. We are now seeing traction with BIM products being developed for Google Glass, Google’s Project Tango, GIS360 and even basic iPhone AR apps such as Theodolite. There are many more with more coming. 

Training Simulators
Advancements in VR and AR will impact the effectiveness of training simulators. These training simulators for heavy equipment operator training have been around many years. Their benefits are well documented. It is always less costly to make mistakes in the virtual world over the real world. The use of simulators advance training skills in a safe environment while keeping real machines in production making money. 

Simulators exist for many applications and machine types for mining, construction and material management. In recent years, simulators have expanded to 3D positioning systems. I have listed several links below that provide varying types of simulator systems. Of note, Tenstar AB offers position training through some of its partners offering additional value.

Virtual Reality Headsets
VR head sets such as Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus offer developer kits. The headsets offer a much more immersive experience than video displays alone. The opportunity to place several operators, training and working on the same site, looking left and right raise the level for valuable training. 

Visualization, whether 2D or 3D, virtual or augmented, is driving many technologies.The demands for faster and more accurate data acquisition is exploding. From LiDar scanning and drone based photogrammetry to Google’s Project Tango (smartphone based scanning), these measurement systems are gather billions of points (clouds) complimenting the visualization experience. The pace of change continues to accelerate.


Facebook acquired Oculus

Project Morpheus hands-on video published by Sony


John Deere


Immersive Technologies

Oculus Rift Aug 1, 2012 Kickstarter Campaign

Theodolite App for iOS


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