In the rapid development of technology one of the augmented reality forms already available in the digital landscape, “virtual reality” or “VR” is one of the most understood. Virtual reality technology allows the creation of “virtual” landscapes and environments which feel almost exactly the same as interacting with the real world.
Interest in virtual reality is currently growing at a considerable pace. Virtual reality promises a way to overcome physical distances and create shared spaces that are fundamentally secure and often more flexible than the real world.
Virtual Reality (VR) is becoming a cost-effective tool to experience active learning rather than a passive form of learning. VR creates a simulated environment which is similar to the real environment. It brings things in front of you as if you are standing just next to it.
What is Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality (VR) provides a computer-generated 3D environment (including both computer graphics and 360-degree video) that surrounds a user and responds to an individual’s actions in a natural way, usually through immersive head-mounted displays. Gesture recognition or handheld controllers provide hand and body tracking, and haptic (or touch-sensitive) feedback may be incorporated. Room-based systems provide a 3D experience while moving around large areas, or they can be used with multiple participants.
The definition of virtual reality comes, naturally, from the definitions for both ‘virtual’ and ‘reality’. The definition of ‘virtual’ is near and reality is what we experience as human beings. So the term ‘virtual reality’ basically means ‘near-reality’. This could, of course, mean anything but it usually refers to a specific type of reality emulation.
We know the world through our senses and perception systems. In school we all learned that we have five senses: taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing. These are however only our most obvious sense organs. The truth is that humans have many more senses than this, such as a sense of balance for example. These other sensory inputs, plus some special processing of sensory information by our brains ensures that we have a rich flow of information from the environment to our minds.
Everything that we know about our reality comes by way of our senses. In other words, our entire experience of reality is simply a combination of sensory information and our brains sense-making mechanisms for that information. It stands to reason then, that if you can present your senses with made-up information, your perception of reality would also change in response to it. You would be presented with a version of reality that isn’t really there, but from your perspective it would be perceived as real. Something we would refer to as a virtual reality.
So, in summary, virtual reality entails presenting our senses with a computer generated virtual environment that we can explore in some fashion.
History Of Virtual Reality
VR appears to be developed hand-in-hand with Augmented Reality technology.
|19th Century||360 degree Panoramic Paintings: filled the viewer’s field of vision creating immersive experiences.|
|1838||Stereoscopic photos and viewers: Charles Wheatstone showed viewing 2D images side by side with stereoscope added depth and immersion. Brain combines them into 3D. Found application in virtual tourism|
|1930s||The idea of Google-based VR world using holographics, smell, taste and touch; through Stanley G. Weinbaum’s short story titled Pymalion’s Spectables|
|1960s||First VR head-mounted display by Ivann Sutherland. It had specialized software and motion control and was used for training as a standard. The Sensorama by Morton Heilig was used to immerse the user in a riding bike experience on the streets of Brooklyn. The single-user entertainment console produced stereoscopic display, stereo sound, odor via odor emitters, had fans, and a vibrating chair.|
|1987||Jaron Lanier coined the word virtual reality. He was the founder of Visual Programming Lab (VPL).|
|1993||Sega VR headset announced at the Consumer Electronics Show. Meant for Sega Genesis console, it had an LCD screen, head tracking, and stereo sound. 4 games developed for it but never went beyond prototype.|
|1995||The first-ever portable console with true 3D graphics for gaming, the Nintendo Virtual Boy (VR-32). Lacked software support and uncomfortable to use. VR debuted in the public arena.|
|1999||Wachowiski siblings’ film The Matrix had characters living in simulated world depicting VR. VR entered mainstream as a result of the movie’s cultural impact.|
|21st Century||Boom of HD display and 3D graphics-capable smartphones make it possible for lightweight, practical and accessible VR. Consumer VR in the video game industry. Depth sensing cameras, motion controllers, and natural human interfaces enabled better human-computer interactions.|
|2014||Facebook bought Oculus VR, developed VR chat rooms.|
|2017||Multiple VR devices in commercial and non-commercial applications High-end P.C.-tethered headsets, smartphone VR, cardboards, WebVR, etc.|
|2019||Wireless high-end headsets|
How does Virtual Reality Work ?
The virtual reality we have been referring to in this feature typically requires some form of a head-mounted display, a computer, smartphone or console that creates the 3D world and some form of input tracking, which could be hand tracking, voice or head.
As we mentioned, some of the VR devices contain a display, splitting the feed for each eye. In these cases, a cable (usually HDMI) will transfer the video from your PC or console to the screen(s) in front of your eyes. Other more affordable VR devices make use of your smartphone to display VR content.
There are also standalone, wireless devices that offer access to mid-level VR experiences without the need for an expensive smartphone or gaming PC to power them. These are actually becoming more and more impressive in recent years. It can run games that you will see on PC without noticeable quality degradation. Also run PCVR games if you connect it using a cable (USB-C) and the company is working to make this experience wireless as well.
That’s only part of the story though as there is plenty more that goes into creating the fully immersive experience many companies in this field are aiming for. For example, there are lenses for reshaping images into a stereoscopic 3D image, while 100 or 110-degree field of views are on board to ensure whichever way you look, the world created follows you. A high frame rate (minimum of 60fps) is also important to ensure the world reacts as it would in reality in order for the illusion to remain intact.
In terms of input tracking, there are several variations, all of which contribute to creating this fully-immersive world, whether that’s individually or in a combination of forms. Different devices use different components in order to achieve this, ranging from sensors and LEDs to wireless controllers.
The latest and greatest headphones have a lot of tracking integrated into the device itself, with various sensors used to track the movement of your body and controllers within the VR space.
Motion tracking is seen in a variety of forms, from smart gloves to touch gloves, headphone controllers. Each of these things works a little differently, but the idea is to make sure you feel like you are using your hands during your experience. We will not go into entrances and exits, but include a host of sensors as well as lasers emitted by base stations in some cases, all of which help detect the exact position of your head and hands.
How is virtual reality achieved ?
Although we talk about a few historical early forms of virtual reality elsewhere on the site, today virtual reality is usually implemented using computer technology. There are a range of systems that are used for this purpose, such as headsets, omni-directional treadmills and special gloves. These are used to actually stimulate our senses together in order to create the illusion of reality.
This is more difficult than it sounds, since our senses and brains are evolved to provide us with a finely synchronized and mediated experience. If anything is even a little off we can usually tell. This is where you’ll hear terms such as diving and realism enter the conversation. These issues that divide convincing or enjoyable virtual reality experiences from jarring or unpleasant ones are partly technical and partly conceptual. Virtual reality technology needs to take our physiology into account. For example, the human visual field does not look like a video frame. We have (more or less) 180 degrees of vision and although you are not always consciously aware of your peripheral vision, if it were gone you’d notice. Similarly when what your eyes and the vestibular system in your ears tell you are in conflict it can cause motion sickness. Which is what happens to some people on boats or when they read while in a car.
If an implementation of virtual reality manages to get the combination of hardware, software and sensory synchronicity just right it achieves something known as a sense of presence. Where the subject really feels like they are present in that environment.
Why have virtual reality?
This may seems like a lot of effort, and it is! What makes the development of virtual reality worthwhile? The potential entertainment value is clear. Immersive films and video games are good examples. The entertainment industry is after all a multi-billion dollar one and consumers are always keen on novelty. Virtual reality has many other, more serious, applications as well.
There are a wide variety of applications for virtual reality which include:
- The Arts
Virtual reality can lead to new and exciting discoveries in these areas which impact upon our day to day lives.
Wherever it is too dangerous, expensive or impractical to do something in reality, virtual reality is the answer. From trainee fighter pilots to medical applications trainee surgeons, virtual reality allows us to take virtual risks in order to gain real world experience. As the cost of virtual reality goes down and it becomes more mainstream you can expect more serious uses, such as education or productivity applications, to come to the fore. Virtual reality and its cousin augmented reality could substantively change the way we interface with our digital technologies. Continuing the trend of humanising our technology.
What Hardware and Software Virtual Reality Uses?
VR Headsets is a head-mounted device, such as goggles. A VR headset is a visual screen or display. Headsets often include state-of-the-art sound, eye or head motion-tracking sensors or cameras.
There are three main types of headsets:
- PC-Based VR Headsets: PC headsets tend to be the highest-priced devices because they offer the most immersive experiences. These headsets are usually cable-tethered from the headset and powered by external hardware. The dedicated display, built-in motion sensors and an external camera tracker offer high-quality sound and image and head tracking for greater realism.
- Standalone VR Headsets: All-in-one or standalone VR headsets are wireless, integrated pieces of hardware, such as tablets or phones. Wireless VR headsets are not always standalone. Some systems transmit information wirelessly from consoles or PCs in proximity, and others use wired packs carried in a pocket or clipped to clothing.
- Mobile Headsets: These shell devices use lenses that cover a smartphone. The lenses separate the screen to create a stereoscopic image that transforms a smartphone into a VR device. Mobile headsets are relatively inexpensive. Wires are not needed because the phone does the processing. Phones don’t offer the best visual experiences and are underpowered by game console- or PC-based VR. They provide no positional tracking. The generated environment displays from a single point, and it is not possible to look around objects in a scene.
VR Accessories are hardware products that facilitate VR technology. New devices are always in development to improve the immersive experience. Today’s accessories include the 3D mouse, optical trackers, wired gloves, motion controllers, bodysuits, treadmills, and even smelling devices.
These are some of the accessories used today in VR:
- 3D Mouse: A 3D mouse is a control and pointing device designed for movement in virtual 3D spaces. 3D mice employ several methods to control 3D movement and 2D pointing, including accelerometers, multi-axis sensors, IR sensors and lights.
- Optical Trackers: Visual devices monitors the user’s position. The most common method for VR systems is to use one or multiple fixed video cameras to follow the tracked object or person.
- Wired Gloves: This type of device, worn on the hands, is also known as cyber gloves or data gloves. Various sensor technologies capture physical movement data. Like an inertial or magnetic tracking device, a motion tracker attaches to capture the glove’s rotation and global position data. The glove software interprets movement. High-end versions provide haptic feedback or tactile stimulation, allowing a wired glove to be an output device.
- Motion Controllers: These accessories allow users to act in mixed reality. Controllers allow for fine-grained interaction with digital objects because they have a precise position in space.
- Omnidirectional Treadmills (ODTs): This accessory machine gives users the ability to move in any direction physically. ODTs allow users to move freely for a fully immersive experience in VR environments.
- Smelling Devices: Smell devices are one of the newer accessories in the VR world. Vaqso, a Tokyo-based company, offers a headset attachment that emits odors to convey the size and shape of a candy bar. The fan-equipped device holds several different smells that can change intensity based on the screen action.
Developers use various software to build VR. They include VR software development kits, visualization software, content management, game engines, social platforms, and training simulators.
- VR Content Management Systems Software: Companies use this workplace tool to collect, store and analyze VR content in a centralized location.
- VR Game Engine Software: Developers use the tools to create a VR video game experience.
- VR Software Development Kit (SDK): SDKs offer a base to design, build and test VR experiences.
- VR Social Platforms Software: Users collaborate from remote locations in VR with these tools.
- VR Training Simulator Software: This software works for almost any industry for employee training in immersive environments.
- VR Visualization Software: Users experience aggregated data in a virtual environment. to fully understand what data means.
Application Of Virtual Reality
|1||Gaming||It was and still is the most traditional application of VR. Used to play immersion games.|
|2||Workplace collaboration||Employees can collaborate on assignments remotely with the feeling of presence. Beneficial for demo tasks where visuals are critical to understanding and completion of tasks.|
|3||Pain management||VR visuals help distract patient’s brains to confuse pain pathways and from suffering. For soothing patients.|
|4||Training and learning||VR is good for demo and demonstration for instance demo of surgical procedures. Training without exposing the lives of patients or trainees to danger.|
|5||Treatment of PTSD||Post-experience trauma is a common disorder among combat soldiers and also other people who undergo petrifying experiences. Using VR to re-liven experiences can help medical experts understand patients’ conditions and device ways of solving the problems.|
|6||Autism management||VR helps boost patients’ brain activity and imaging to help them deal with autism, a condition that impairs reasoning, interaction, and social skills. VR is used to introduce patients and their parents to different social scenarios and training them on how to respond.|
|7||Managing and treating social disorders||VR is applied in the monitoring of anxiety symptoms such as breathing patterns. Doctors can give anxiety medication based on those outcomes.|
|8||Therapy for paraplegics||VR is used to provide paraplegics to experiences the thrills of different environments outside their confinements, without having them travel to experience the thrills. For instance, it has been applied to help paraplegics regain control of their limbs.|
|9||Leisure||VR is widely applied in tours and tourism industry such as virtual exploration of travel destinations to help travelers make choices before doing the actual visits.|
|10||Brainstorming, forecasting,||Businesses can test new creative ideas before launching them, discuss them with partners and collaborators. VR can be used to experience and test new designs and models.VR is very useful in testing car models and designs, with all car manufacturers having these systems.|
|11||Military training||VR helps simulate different situations for training soldiers on how to respond in different situations. Training without putting them in danger while saving costs.|
|12||Advertising||VR immersive ads are very effective in and as part of an overall marketing campaign.|
Exploring Opportunities in VR
It’s hard to predict exactly where the future of virtual reality might take us – particularly since the industry has begun moving at such a rapid pace.
Ultimately, Virtual Reality today is quickly gaining attention as a powerful tool not just for entertainment, but for enterprise purposes too. Beyond games and interactive entertainment, virtual reality tools are showing their potential for things like PTSD treatment, pain relief, education, and design.
What’s more, countless companies believe these tools will be a critical investment in the future of collaboration post-pandemic.
While we might not be at the stage where everyone has their own “virtual world” to explore quite yet, investment in virtual reality is certainly evolving. As we look to the future, every company seems to have their own distinct vision of what virtual reality could become.
If vendors learn how to create truly engaging VR experiences with the right level of comfort, without draining company budgets, we really could see a future where the “metaverse” is the new landscape for work and creativity.
Features of virtual reality systems
There are many different types of virtual reality systems but they all share the same characteristics such as the ability to allow the person to view three-dimensional images. These images appear life-sized to the person.
Plus they change as the person moves around their environment which corresponds with the change in their field of vision. The aim is for a seamless join between the person’s head and eye movements and the appropriate response, e.g. change in perception. This ensures that the virtual environment is both realistic and enjoyable.
A virtual environment should provide the appropriate responses – in real time- as the person explores their surroundings. The problems arise when there is a delay between the person’s actions and system response or latency which then disrupts their experience. The person becomes aware that they are in an artificial environment and adjusts their behavior accordingly which results in a stilted, mechanical form of interaction.
List Of Top Virtual Reality Headsets
Below is the list of best VR headsets For PC, PS, Xbox, etc:
- HTC Vive Pro
- Valve Index
- Oculus Quest
- The HTC Vive
- Samsung Odyssey+
- PlayStation VR
- Microsoft HoloLens
- Samsung Gear VR
- Oculus Rift S
- Homido VR headset
This in-depth virtual reality tutorial introduces the idea of Virtual Reality, commonly known in short as VR. We dived deeper into how it works, including the details of producing 3D visuals inside computer and phone environments. These computer processing methods include the latest ones such as AI, which, in VR, processes graphics and images based on a trained machine memory based on big data.
We also learned how the headset lenses work together with the eye using light that comes to and from the eye to produce these virtual graphical illusions.
In this virtual reality tutorial, we have also considered the factors that influence the quality of experiences of VR by the user, and how they can be improved. We then delved into the applications of VR, among them were gaming and training.
Finally, this virtual reality tutorial looked at the components of a virtual reality system, including the headset and all of its components, the GPU, and other auxiliary devices.