Greater virtual realism is always shown in television shows like "Star Trek: The Next Generation" as people who act out an alternate life as a farmer or solve mysteries in the 1800s, and that may happen, but long before that any technology like that will be used by young people to shoot each other.
It used to be that being a Disney Imagineer was the coolest job in Mouse Land but these days Research may be the way to go. They have 13 papers at SIGGRAPH this week and they deal with a lot of interesting stuff like volumetric lighting and the Gaussian quadrature for those photon Beams in "Tangled" but the session on "Surround Haptics: Sending Shivers Down Your Spine" has to be what everyone outside the field is interested in. Here's a preview of all their stuff this week:
Haptics is touch. 3-D motion capture helps make you feel like you are in a virtual reality but haptics is another level. We have it already, of course, with ibrating phones, force-feedback control knobs in cars like BMW’s iDrive and the Nintendo Wii but the next generation could be far better.
You may not just play a game in World War II, you may be in World War II. If you think people are upset about realism now, wait until teenagers can actually drive over a hooker in "Grand Theft Auto" and feel the tires going over her body.
The new work is based on electrovibration rather than mechanical actuators in common use today. Ivan Poupyrev, senior research scientist at Disney Research Pittsburgh, who invented and developed Surround Haptics with Ali Israr, said, "This technology has the capability of enhancing the perception of flying or falling, of shrinking or growing, of feeling bugs creeping on your skin. The possibilities are endless."
Phantom sensations created by actuators have been known for more than 50 years, he says, but its use has been limited by an incomplete understanding of control mechanisms. The DRP researchers developed their control algorithm by systematically measuring users' ability to feel physical actuators vs. virtual actuators and then developed control models that were validated by further psychophysical experiments.
More? They have a research paper available here, though their website is kind of a kludge so be patient. They are in the haptics business, not site design, so it may only work properly with two browsers.
Surround Haptics - Kill People Virtually With Even More Realism