The “Low Cost VR” program emerged from the effort to generate PC-based, interactive, real-time applications with the help of game engines.
“Low Cost VR” is the term we use to describe PC-based, interactive, real-time applications that are making VR accessible to a broader group of users and, in doing so, refuting allegations that ivory-tower thinking prevails in the field of Virtual Reality. Possibilities include applications for a single user as well as multi-user environments. The option to collaborate via networks with other users to create a world and subsequently explore it is—like the entire low-cost sector—an upshot of the use of game engines. The R&D labs of the game industry, thanks to the enormous amounts of capital they have at their disposal, assure the highest possible standards. The military, for instance, has long since begun utilizing game industry products, at which point—at the very latest—it ceded its previous position as pioneer in software development.
The latest games give evidence of a trend towards providing a package including high-quality editors so that users can independently create worlds for their game. In addition, there’s the possibility of revising the game content or completely eliminating it in order to use the engines for other types of applications. Since the onset of this development, dynamic interplay of light and shadow, 3-D sound, interaction and reflections have also become feasible, so that these PC-based applications don’t seem so “clunky” in comparison to high-end systems like they used to do. Now that the latest graphic accelerator cards offer very high resolution, game editors can, for example, also be employed for architectural visualizations.
The first successful attempt to use game engines in this way was to visualize the renovation of Linz’s OK Center for Contemporary Art. Then—in 1997—a few compromises still had to be made, since the processing and graphic performance was not yet very advanced. The visualization of the design of “Expo 2000” was clear proof of the qualitative improvements resulting from the latest developmental steps.