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Virtual reality technology comes of age

March 30, 2012 | Hogan Keyser
EON_iCube.jpgTuesday, 27 Mar 2012 by Joan Voight for via ISPR -- Scuba diving among the sharks along Australia's Great Barrier Reef is a breathtakingly immersive experience. It's also dangerous and expensive.

But exploring a virtual ocean and coming nose to nose with a real-looking shark is a viable alternative. That, in a nutshell, has been the promise of virtual reality over the years -- it could put us in an artificial environment that feels entirely real, without getting our feet wet.

Movies like "The Matrix," "Lawnmower Man" and "Star Trek" gave us a taste of "VR." In the mid-1990s startups and investors jostled to bring virtual technology to the mass market; instead, VR tech became specialized, used mostly in corporate training, the military (flight simulators) and science education.

No more. The success of the 3-D movie "Avatar" and the popularity of super-realistic video games are bringing virtual reality and its cousin, augmented reality, to the entertainment forefront.

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