Last week, Zenimax was awarded a $500 million judgment against Oculus. While the virtual reality industry may have been flying under the radar, after this recent court case many lawyers have started to take notice. For busy attorneys now delving into the VR industry – what is it?
VR is experienced through a “headset” that shows each eye a slightly different image. Just like a 3D IMAX movie, the user experiences the depth of an object. The concept is similar to “The View-Master,” except instead of a projector slide there is a computer screen with moving images.
The real magic for VR happens when the headset tracks your head position and changes the image accordingly. As opposed to showing you a flat 2d screen, you can look around your body as if you were actually there. Think of being inside a 360 video, like this one from YouTube.
At a fundamental level, a VR headset is little more than a computer screen with two fisheye lenses and a bunch of sensors. A mobile phone has sufficient computer power and sensors to create a VR experience.
Higher-end VR headsets—connected to a desktop computer—track the location of your hands and head within a larger play space, typically around 10 feet by 10 feet. A user can quite literally walk around in a virtual room with the image changing accordingly.
VR technology is currently being employed in two areas: video game entertainment and industry visualization. Here is a link to what a user sees when playing a VR videogame. In terms of industry uses, many car companies are beginning to use VR to design interior compartments. Why spend thousands of dollars to mockup an interior for a new car, only to want to move a component a couple of inches? VR technology has the ability to dramatically decrease costs in the design field.
VR may not have the same kind of massive market penetration as cell phones, but it is a technology that provides a new way to experience content separate and apart from movies or 2D screens. As the fledgling market begins to stabilize and mature, businesses and consumers are going to have legal questions that will need solving. An attorney would be well-suited to have a rudimentary knowledge of the technology and I encourage attorneys to purchase the cheap Google Cardboard and get a first-hand experience.