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Virtual Reality

             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 understandable terms.

Chopper Mayhem:

Made by Sean Weeks for Computer Science

As 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.

Driver by GT interactive: produced in the year 2000

            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.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 5: produced in the year 1993

            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.


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