Over the past few years computers have become extremely advanced in
comparison to what we used only a decade ago. Computers of today can process
over two billion mathematical operations per second, whereas one of the first
computers created, ENIAC, could only do about two thousand per second. These
recent advancements have made possible the creation of virtual reality that
really does look like reality.
The first computers designed were made to do one thing: calculate.
Mathematical calculations would first have to be ‘translated’ into binary
code, and then the output would have to be ‘translated’ back into
time progressed, computers were soon designed to ‘translate’ automatically,
significantly reducing the workload on those using the computer.
In the mid 80’s when home computers became popular, programmers
realized there was a good market for video games. Early video games were almost
all two dimensional, because three-dimensional games required too much
processing power, but soon this was no longer the case. Computers were getting
fast enough to process three-dimensional objects. Over the next few years they
gained market share, and today over 90% of computer games use 3D scenes in some
way or another.
Today the methods used to transform enormous quantities of numbers into
three-dimensional world is very complex, but all use the same fundamental
basics. For example, I will explain to process used in the game on the left.
When the computer user runs the game, the computer reads information stored on
the hard-drive into the RAM (random access memory), so it can be accessed
faster. The entire ‘world’ (a city in this case), is stored in an enormous
database of numbers as coordinates, namely x, y, and z. The variable x is the
horizontal axis, y is vertical, and z is the depth. By linking coordinates,
polygons can be created that mimic objects. For example, six rectangular
polygons would create a cube. In the same database textures are linked to the
polygons to add surface realism. Textures are qualitative elements such as the
pavement on the road, windows on the side of the house, and bark on the tree. To
make the graphics even more realistic, other elements such as light sources,
fog, and sound are added for maximum reality. In other words, when you play the
game, you’re really looking at hundreds of triangles filled with surface
textures from different angles of game play.
Notice the differences in the visual quality of the game created in 1993,
and the one made in 2000. In 1993, most games did not include texture or
lighting affects, but only basic polygons filled with solid fills.
Truly computer gaming has advanced so far that your outside life can almost be forgotten. Some new games feel and look so real that the psychological affects they can have on those who play them is becoming a large issue. New video game releases like Grand Theft Auto 3 actually let you take a drive-by shooting on cops, and jump out of your car to beat up an old lady with a baseball bat. The simulation is so real that it’s been banned in many countries, while it popularity has soared in the United States. Playing it is almost like taking an active part in a movie.Computers are nearing perfection, where simulation meets reality. In the next few years, we should expect to see Virtual Reality continue to make unprecedented advances, continuing gaming into the third millennium.