Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and 360° Video

ATSU encourages experimentation with the use of new video technologies.  There is a fair amount of overlap between the definitions and use of many of these technologies and equipment. Nonetheless, we have found it helpful to use the following categories:

Click on the links above to get more detailed descriptions on each of these technologies (and some of the common equipment used with them).  In addition, we encourage anyone interested in these technologies to join our online ATSU community to discuss potential projects and ideas.

ATSU Projects/Ideas in this area

  • Meet A.T. Still
  • Virtual Patient Experiences
  • Learning OMM techniques using VR/AR


Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality features a computer-simulated immersive environment.  VR uses head mounted displays with sensors to match the computer graphics and audio to the viewer movements.  When a viewer’s head turns, the graphics will react accordingly.  VR technology can create a convincing, interactive world for the user.

Google Cardboard

A low cost VR platform created by Google that uses cheap headsets, most of which are made from actual cardboard with two glass lenses.  Most are under $20 dollars and are available at many online and brick-and-mortar stores.  

The user inserts their smartphone loaded with the Google Cardboard Apps into the viewer.  Most medium-sized Android and iOS smartphones work well with Cardboard.   Smartphones larger than 6 inches may be too wide to fit the viewer.

Both free and paid VR apps are available on the Google Play store and the Apple iOS App store.  With the smartphone inserted,  the display of the app will follow the movements of the user.  A small button on top of the Cardboard viewer allows the user to “click” on items in the app to interact with the virtual world.

Google Cardboard is an initial experiment into smartphone-based VR.  Much of the content is rudimentary and not very interactive since the user input is limited to directional rotation and a single click.  Cardboard viewers can be used to view 360-degree videos which could be a benefit for immersive learning

New development on the Cardboard ecosystem has stopped because Google has released their new VR platform: Daydream

Google Daydream

Daydream is a new smartphone-based VR system which uses a fabric covered plastic headset to enclose the phone.  The Daydream View is $60 and currently on runs on a few “Daydream-ready” phones.  Check to see if your phone is compatible before purchasing one.

The user holds a controller which can be used for multiple kinds of interaction with the Daydream enabled apps and can allow the user to move around within the virtual world with the controller’s touchpad.

There is not much content since the Daydream is new, but the Daydream technology should allow for better VR resolution, smoother action and more interaction that its predecessor, Cardboard.  

Samsung Gear VR

The Samsung Gear VR is a mobile VR headset only compatible with a Samsung Galaxy device. The Galaxy device acts as the headset’s display and processor, while the Gear VR unit itself acts as the controller, which contains the high field of view, as well as a custom inertial measurement unit, or IMU, for rotational tracking, which connects to the smartphone via micro-USB. This IMU is more accurate and well calibrated than those used for Google Cardboard.

The Gear VR headset also includes a touchpad and back button on the side, as well as a proximity sensor to detect when the headset is on.[1] The touchpad and button allow for a standard minimum input capability for users to interact with the virtual environments, whereas Google Cardboard devices only feature a button.

Cost of this device is $60

Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift is a VR system that requires use of a gaming computer or laptop.

The system includes a tethered headset and and integrated 3D audio headphones.  In addition you are now able to purchase Oculus Touch hand controllers that allow your hands to interact in the VR environment. Since this system requires a high-end dedicated computer, the VR experience is generally higher quality than the cell phone based solutions.  

Cost of Oculus Rift headset with Touch controllers $800 (additional cost of computer required)

HTC Vive

The HTC Vive is also a hardware based VR system that requires a gaming level desktop or laptop computer.  It consists of a tethered VR headset with integrated sound, two hand controllers for interacting with the virtual environment, and two room sensors that assist the Vive in determining your position in the ‘virtual environment’.  Again this system requires a substantial computer to provide a smooth VR experience.

ATSU currently has a HTC Vive VR system on the Missouri campus*

(*see Academic Technologies for a personal demonstration)

cost for HTC Vive hardware $800 (additional cost of computer required )

Sony’s PlayStation VR

The Playstation VR is less expensive than its PC-powered Rivals. The VR system with controllers costs abotu $500 and connects to a Playstation game console ($300) You willl end up paying about $800 for everything you need to enjoy the PSVR.  Many people already have the Playstation system needed to run the PSVR, which is a big advantage.  .

Unfortunately, the PSVR’s lower price comes with tradeoffs.  For example, the headset’s visuals aren’t nearly as sharp as the Rift or Vive’s.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented Reality simulates computer generated objects and graphics into the real world.   An AR headset allows the user to still see their surroundings, while superimposing graphics over the user’s view of the real world.  The graphics react to the viewer’s head movement as if they were a physical object.

For medical education, AR technology can be used to project anatomical or radiological images onto the body of a student or patient.

Microsoft Hololens

Augmented Reality (AR) headset displays 3-Dimensional “holograms” in the real world.  The headset uses built in cameras to track the user’s environment and move the graphics to appear to be really there.  The cameras can also track the user’s hand movements as controllers that can interact with the AR objects.

The visual cues of seeing the real world tends to not cause the nausea and disorientation that some users suffer from VR systems.  

Currently, the Hololens is about $3000 for the whole system, but it is still only available to “Developers” and not the general public.

Google Glass

Google Glass was a head-worn glasses-style AR display that displayed information from a user’s smartphone onto a small screen in the user’s vision.   It was discontinued in January 2015, with some hints from google that an updated version may be released in the future

Magic Leap

Magic Leap is a US startup company that is working on a head-mounted virtual retinal display which superimposes 3D computer-generated imagery over real world objects, by projecting a digital light field into the user’s eye.

360° Video

Video shot with a spherical camera allowing 360 degree viewing of the subject matter.  360 video plays through like any other online video, but allows the user to choose where the camera is looking in the scene.  Viewers can watch 360 Video on any computer, or may choose to use a VR headset to become immersed in the 360 video.

Theta 360 camera ~ $350

Two Hemispherical lenses that can shoot still 360 Spherical images at  a 5376 x 2699 equirectangular resolution.   HD movie recording is supported at 1080p30 (16 Mbps). Internal 8GB memory.  The shooting is controlled by an android or iOS smartphone running the Theta S app

GoPro Omni ~ $5000—all-inclusive/MHDHX-006.html

6 GoPro cameras in a rig.  Video and photo is stitched with Kolor Autopano software.  8K video recording

Samsung Gear 360 4K ~ $230

Two Hemispherical lenses that can shoot still 360 Spherical images at  a 5472 x 2736 equirectangular resolution.   4K movie recording is supported at 4096 x 2048 (24fps). MicroSD  memory.  The shooting is controlled by an Samsung Galaxy S6 (or higher) smartphone