Virtual Reality in The Hunger Games

Article topic: 
The Hunger Games

Introduction: briefly outline the Virtual Reality elements of the film, e.g. the beasts, the fire, and the deaths displayed in the sky. Address them all together, but:

a)    Rendering of graphics into the sky or onto some roof/material can be thought of as the simple problem. 

b)   Creating an interactive (possibly virtual) animal and fire are very hard problems.

c)    Creating an interactive real fire, is a rather trivial problem.

Anyway, three things to discuss:

1. Visualisation

a)    Rendering

i)     We need to visualise the graphical elements

ii)    Current rendering technology could essentially render a few elements of a scene at approximately cinematic quality

iii)  More complex for large scenes or certain effects, but definitely plausible.

iv)  How to display the graphics?

b)   Holograms

i)     Obvious contender for this. Featured a lot in cinema/TV: Rimmer, Star Trek Voyager Doctor, Holodecks, etc

ii)    To be viewable from all directions

iii)  More recently, used at music gigs to render dead singers - but really they’ve just been 2D projections

iv)  A hologram is a light field with accurately controlled wavelength, scattered off of an object, recorded, and later reconstructed.

v)    Research in displaying these in nonlinear optical materials, such as a gas in the atmosphere. Optical properties of the gas must be locally controllable.

c)    Augmented Reality (AR)

i)     Place virtual objects in the real world, compositing it for user.

ii)    Currently very popular idea using smartphone or a headset. Google glass is a sort of AR (more like hud). CastAR.

iii)  Unsolved problem, render with with low latency, and low persistence (motion blur).

iv)  Contact lenses are a possible progression. We can currently print circuits on them, although this is quite limited; currently print an LED. Google has a prototype for checking blood sugar levels for diabetes sufferers.

d)   Future

i)     Add things directly into the human visual system. i.e. project an image straight into your visual cortex. Maybe infeasible, though research exists that’s managed to render images from your visual cortex at a very low quality.

2. Feedback

a)    This is actually, sadly, much more complex, and there are relatively few options that I’m aware of.

b)   Haptic device

i)     These are fairly common and inexpensive. Essentially a robot arm that you hold the end of, but rather than it moving, you move it, and it provides resistance. Preferably with as many degrees of freedom as possible.

ii)    Would compliment VR and AR. However, this seems like a fairly poor solution for an open world scenario.

c)    Ultrasound array (emitters)

i)     This is a more exciting concept, but again, on this scale it would be highly complex.

ii)    Essentially, this is haptic feedback in mid-air. 

iii)  Waves of ultrasound displace the air, creating a pressure difference. 

iv)  By intersecting multiple waves, a pressure difference is created at a single point.

v)    Potentially vast arrays of these around the arena, with enough power and accuracy, could achieve the effect, though the current cutting edge of this is VR board games online!

d)   Future

i)     Simulate touch, pain, etc., directly into the motor and sensory cortex, you could simulate a lot of things

ii)    This leads to the following problem: If you're killed in the Matrix, you die here!

iii)  Unknown how your body would react, but presumably, if your body thought things were real, it would address them; that could be bad.

3. 3D Printing/Rapid Prototyping

a)    This actually steps a bit away from VR, but it’s an interesting alternative approach:

b)   Rather than an augmented, or virtual reality, why not print the dogs?

c)    Sounds a bit odd, but 3D printing is very popular. We can already:

i)     Print titanium bones

ii)    Print ears with living cells

iii)  A company is making progress printing livers

iv)  There’s work on a 3D stem cell printer

In summary

a)    So maybe we could use holograms for the scores

b)   Print the dogs

c)    And use augmented reality for the fire, burns, burnt clothing, and neural stimulation for pain

To conclude

a)    This sounds a little like Holodecks in Star Trek, where they:

i)     Use light projection for holograms

ii)    If you’re interacting with material, and taking it away, it’s replicated

iii)  And if you’re just interacting, but not taking away, put a forcefield around the hologram (I’m not sure we can quite do that yet...)

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