Illustration of two scientists examining a robot head. The title says: VR and deep learning.
Published On: January 27th, 2021|By |Categories: Virtual Reality|

Virtual reality is not the only rapidly developing innovative technology of the 21st century. While we’re immersed in VR and finding new ways we can utilize this groundbreaking tech, something else is looming on the horizon: artificial intelligence. In fact, the worldwide AI market revenue is expected to grow from $34.87 billion in 2021 to $126 billion in 2025. Yes, it’s that impressive.

With this parallel advancement of augmented and virtual reality and artificial intelligence, it was only a matter of time before the two revolutionary technologies started merging.

So, how exactly can VR and AI work together? How about VR and ML? And where does deep learning fit into all of that?

Let’s start from the beginning – by establishing the core differences between artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning.

What is the difference between AI, ML, and DL?

Artificial intelligence is the opposite of natural intelligence. Natural intelligence is displayed by humans and animals, and it includes consciousness and emotions. In contrast, artificial intelligence is displayed by machines (think Terminator). In 2021, the applications of AI are too numerous to count. You can find AI in autonomous vehicles, video games, healthcare (medical diagnoses), online advertising, predicting flight delays, image and facial recognition, search engines (for example, Google Search is powered by AI), and more.

Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence. In simple terms, machine learning enables the machine (computer) to learn based on experience. Machines learn through practicing tasks or being exposed to large data sets. Then they make predictions and decisions from what they learned without explicitly being programmed to do so. You will most commonly find machine learning in computer vision and email filtering.

Lastly, deep learning is a subset of machine learning. It is also known as deep neural network or deep neural learning, and it imitates the function of the human brain. The essence of deep learning is multilayered neural networks that learn from vast amounts of data. It is called deep because the neural networks in the machine can have anywhere between 10 to 100 layers.

Geoffrey Hinton, a leading computer scientist at Google, said: “Deep Learning is an algorithm which has no theoretical limitations of what it can learn; the more data you give and the more computational time you provide, the better it is.”

The image summarizes the difference between AI, ML, and DL.

Does VR use AI?

Virtual reality on its own does not utilize artificial intelligence. They are two independent technologies that can function separately from each other.

However, the potential of combining VR and AI is limitless.

At its core, artificial intelligence processes data – monstrous amounts of data. Machine learning, in particular, requires large samples of data to understand a problem and solve it. Virtual reality, while not necessarily data-driven, is an amazingly immersive visualization tool. When merged, VR and AI represent a powerful solution that visually represents neural networks in a way that offers critical insights into data. Observations of data in an immersive, interactive VR environment helps validate the integrity of a data model and identify any edge cases that may occur.

Here are some examples of how VR can utilize AI:

  • Content Creation: Content in VR represents several things – environments, characters, graphical objects, textures. Creating content in VR takes a lot of time and effort and is usually done by 2D and 3D artists in various types of software.

    Using AI (machine learning, specifically) for content creation can dramatically lessen the workload. Machine learning algorithms could allow a relatively small team to develop rich environments that can even be personalized for every player. Imagine Minecraft, but powered by AI. AI would lead to automatically generated content or procedural content generation as it is known in the industry.

  • Interaction Design: VR is all about interacting with the virtual the same way you would interact with the real world. You walk around, grab objects, open doors, shoot guns, throw things, catch them, etc. Coding such complex body movements is incredibly difficult and takes a long time.

    AI helps in designing interactions by moving instead of coding. If you give examples of the movement you want to be integrated into VR, through machine learning that movement can easily be replicated without much coding on the developer’s part.

  • Virtual Humans: A combination of all of the above culminates in creating virtual humans that can move and talk and possibly even emote just like real humans. Machine and deep learning make interactions between humans and virtual people more genuine, more real, and they can drive the behavior of virtual characters. We’re light-years away from The Matrix, but… AI and ML are invaluable options in making VR feel more authentic.

What is the future of deep learning and VR?

Most of the deep learning technology in VR is focused on environment and content creation, reconstructing real locations in virtual reality, and enhancing interactions between human players (VR users) and virtual characters.

We expect the future of VR and deep learning to continue in the same direction.

Virtual characters will offer more intelligent responses, possibly even going as far as becoming “life coaches” or “financial coaches” or any other form of guide through purchase decisions.

Intelligent contactless interaction will gain more attention. Contactless interaction focuses on the gaze, gesture, or body pose signals. Thanks to deep learning, VR characters will recognize these gazes and gestures and offer more complex interactions.

VR environments will become so lifelike that users may not be able to tell them apart from the real thing. The limitations of VR hardware (the heaviness of the VR headset and the presence of VR controllers) will be the only thing separating the virtual from the reality.

Will VR become a household technology? Will VR and AI together become so big that people will start opting out of the real world in favor of the virtual?

We wouldn’t go that far yet.

VR has yet to become the next big thing in the consumer’s minds. While VR tech is rapidly growing and is permeating the enterprise world, it still hasn’t reached the massive popularity of other electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets.

And as for a world where humans plug into virtual scenarios and completely neglect their real lives… AI certainly offers a lot of potential for that future. However, at the beginning of 2021, this is only a (cool) trope in science fiction stories that will likely stay that way for years to come.

Do you have a cool VR and AI project you’d like to develop? Contact us to get a free quote. We’d love to work together in making your software come to life!

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