Escapist Podcast - Science and Tech: 017: The Solar Death Ray and the Future of the Oculus Rift

017: The Solar Death Ray and the Future of the Oculus Rift

In this episode of The Escapist's Science and Tech podcast, host CJ Miozzi and Escapist writers talk about a thermal power plant that is frying birds mid-air, as well as the Oculus Rift: will it become a household item, and will competition kill the VR experience?

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The solar roadways never seemed practical to me. When I first heard of it I started poking holes in it due to logistical issues. Like so many things, the concept sounds great but the practical application of it is not as good as advertise or just not practically feasible. For example some technologies require the use of rare minerals which don't exist in large enough amounts to be implemented on a large scale, things that require platinum for example.

Roads are repetitively cheap when all it takes is some ground up stone, aka concrete. But all of the materials needed to make a solar panel could quickly get expensive. How much copper are other materials used to make electronics are used per square foot of these roadways. Last I read there was over 60,000 square miles of paved road in the US alone. So how many tonnes of copper and other materials is that going to require to make these solar roads? This would likely cause prices to rise in other industries that use these materials as well thus further raising the cost of the solar roads.

The Virtual Lasertag is nothing new. I recall when I was younger VR was the "Next big thing", which is why all this talk of Oculus and VR sounds outdated because the only thing that has improved is the graphics and price. Many of the problems that existed back then are still preset.

You basically got into a circle platform, similar to the omnidirectional treadmill. Then placed on a head set and had a handle controller. You used buttons to move and where you aimed your hand physically is where it aimed the gun. This was one of the many gimmicks that started showing up in local arcades as they tried to stay relevant when the console market was driving them under.

The real Lasertag setups though managed to stay relevant for much longer. Heck last year our manager had an office outing by going to a local arcade that had lasertag and go karts. Yet it's been over a decade since I've seen any of those crappy arcade VR headset games.

I see VR on par with the 3D in movies. Sure it can be cool but after a while it's just meh, since there is nothing really new other than it looks slightly better. Plus like 3D the VR requires someone to have good vision. Some people can't watch 3D because it makes them ill. I know several people who get a headache from trying to watch the 3D movies, their tolerance varies though as one guy gets dizzy after just 10-15 minutes and another gets a headache towards the end of the movie, after about an hour and half of watching.

So if you expect this format to become the norm you can't have it making people feel bad after a bit of watching. The thing is the 3D is often not perfect and it creates optical artifacts which your mind can't process. The best example of this is in the old fun house mirrors. A lot of them would cause distortions that made it hard for your eyes to focus on and thus give you a headache if you stared at them to long because your eyes are trying to focus. The most notable of these was the Bowl shaped mirror. It created this weird void look to it when you stuck your hand into was really easy to bump the back of because you couldn't clearly tell where the back was.

Your eyes naturally try to focus on things closer and further away as you look at them. Yet VR and 3D have everything at the same clarity regardless of distance. This is one of the dead giveaways in CGI and leads to something looking fake. Most people are not conscious of this though and it's just a feeling they get, so they can't say why it looks fake other than it does, because the subconscious mind does most of the work on pretty much everything.

So as your eye looks around, as it views things that are suppose to be closer or further away it naturally tries to adjust it's focus. But then your mind quickly realizes the item is already in focus so it adjust back. This puts strain on the eye which can lead to headaches and dizziness. Kind of like if you try wearing someone else prescription glasses you'll likely get a headache after a while since your eyes are working overtime to try and adjust to the new reality they find themselves in.


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