Just what is Virtual Reality? Virtual means near and reality is what we, as human begins, experience. Put the two words together and you have ‘near reality’. And yes, this could really mean anything, but when people mention virtual reality or talk about it, it’s often referring to a certain type of reality emulation.
We grow up learning about the world through our senses and even through perception. You learned about all of your five senses in school; taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing. While these are our most obvious senses, the truth is that we have more, not so obvious senses. Take balance; this is a ‘sense’ we have. Our minds are filled with information through our brain processing sensory information.
We use our senses to understand and comprehend our reality. To put it simply, our reality is created of a combination of sensory information and our brains making sense of all of it. Therefore, if you are feeding your senses with information that is made up, the perception of reality is going to change accordingly. You are in a reality that isn’t ‘really’ there, but through your sense and perception, it’s perceived as ‘real’. Hence, virtual reality.
To sum all of that up, when experiencing virtual reality, our senses are presented with an environment that is computer-generated but that we can still ‘explore’ to an extent.
The straight-forward way to define virtual reality is a 3D, computer-generated environment that is explorable and interactive. Who doesn’t love the thought of being able to step into another world or ‘reality’ and being immersed during the experience, performing different actions and interacting with objects? For the most part, there aren’t very many who wouldn’t enjoy such an experience.
How Do We Achieve Virtual Reality?
Right now, virtual reality is achieved using computer technology. There is a variety of individual systems that play a part in creating the virtual reality experience. Such as special gloves, headsets, controllers, etc. These systems or tools help incorporate our senses to create the ‘illusion’ of this ‘alternate, virtual’ reality.
Of course, it’s not as simple to achieve as it may sound. Our brains and senses are how we endure a mediated and synchronized experience. So, when this experience is ‘off’ by the slightest bit, we notice. Times like this, however, are when you begin hearing the words ‘realism’ and ‘immersiveness’. The problems that can make an enjoyable virtual reality experience an unpleasant one, are often conceptual and technical. Our physiology must be taken into account regarding the technology for virtual reality.
What do I mean by this? Well, for example, our visual field, as humans, is not a video frame or even close to it. Yes, you have peripheral vision, even if you’re not always aware of it, but you would definitely notice if it were gone.
Motion sickness – virtual reality users can experience this when their eyes and their ears’ vestibular system are in conflict. Same thing happens for some people that read while riding in a vehicle, or when they’re on a boat.
When the software, hardware and sensory synchronicity is implemented correctly, the user gets a feeling of being ‘present’ in the virtual reality environment.
So Why Create Virtual Reality?
Believe it or not, some people do have this question! And while it does require a lot of effort to create, the development of VR is worthwhile for many reasons. The entertainment value it holds is one of the primary reasons. Users enjoy the ‘real’ experience they get when playing VR video games or watching immersive films. And, the fact that the entertainment industry is a multi-billion dollar one also plays a role. Consumers are all about entertainment and look forward to the ‘new’ and emerging tech every year. There are other applications where virtual reality can be used, in a non-entertainment way. These include:
- The Arts
- And More!
What many don’t realize is just how beneficial virtual reality can be for our daily lives. It’s also a way for people to experience things without the risks that may be involved if it were done in actual reality. For instance, training to be a fighter pilot, or training to be a surgeon; virtual reality can significantly help us learn to gain real world experience in many aspects.
While virtual reality can be somewhat pricey, the more it becomes mainstream the lower the costs will become, making it easier for anyone and everyone to access this amazing technology. It would not be surprising at all to see it being used in productivity or education applications in the future.
Virtual Reality Systems Features
While you’ll find a variety of VR systems available, they all share certain characteristics; like the ability for you to view 3D images. What you see changes as you move about in the environment but the goal of VR is to create a seamless, enjoyable and realistic experience for the user.
Now, when problems happen that cause a delay in the user’s actions and the response of the VR system, the latency that occurs can really interrupt this ‘seamless’ experience. It also makes it harder for the user to really connect with the virtual environment, making it a less enjoyable experience. The goal for all VR is to deliver a memorable experience.
If you’re interested in stepping into an environment that takes you into a completely different world and immerses you, then you’ll want to experience virtual reality. It has many uses, some for fun and some for serious applications. As the technology becomes more mainstream and widespread, the costs will lessen and become more affordable for more people. There’s no doubt that we will start seeing more innovative uses for this technology in the years to come.