Virtual Reality (VR) is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment. Unlike traditional user interfaces, VR places the user inside an experience. Instead of viewing a screen in front of them, users are immersed and able to interact with 3D worlds.
The simplest form of virtual reality is a 3-D image that can be explored interactively at a personal computer, usually by manipulating keys or the mouse so that the content of the image moves in some direction or zooms in or out.
By simulating as many senses as possible, such as vision, hearing, touch, even smell, the computer is transformed into a gatekeeper to this artificial world.
Where Did VR Come From?
VR as we know it today has been kicking around for decades. To give you an idea, the first head-mounted display wasn't an Oculus Rift, even though this is the device that arguably drove the VR renaissance, it was a device called Headsight that was created in the 1960s.
But there were non-digital predecessors, all the way from 360-degree paintings that had the same aim: to take your experience to another place. VR is the wise guy in tech and not just because it is old.
The technology has been used for all sorts of things over its 200 years from science and medicine to training pilots and helping architects present their latest skyscraper, allowing people to experience walking through it before a brick has been laid.
How VR Works?
The primary subject of virtual reality is simulating the vision. Every headset aims to perfect their approach to creating an immersive 3D environment. Each VR headset puts up a screen in front of eyes thus, eliminating any interaction with the real world.
Two autofocus lenses are generally placed between the screen and the eyes that adjust based on individual eye movement and positioning. The visuals on the screen are rendered either by using a mobile phone or HDMI cable connected to a PC.
To create a truly immersive virtual reality there are certain prerequisites – a frame rate of minimum 60fps, an equally competent refresh rate and minimum 100-degree field of view (FOV) (though 180 degrees is ideal).
The frame rate is the rate at which the GPU can process the images per second, screen refresh rate is the pace of the display to render images, and FOV is the extent to which the display can support eye and head movement.
If either of these doesn’t work as per the standards the user can experience latency i.e. too much time gap between their actions and the response from the screen.
We need the response to be less than 20 milliseconds to trick the brain which is achieved by combining all the above factors in the right proportion. Another issue that needs to be catered here is to prevent tearing (cybersickness) resulting due to the inconsistency between the frame rate and refresh rate.
Among the major headsets available today, Vive and Rift both have 110-degree FOVs, Google Cardboard has 90, the GearVR has 96 and the new Google Daydream offers up to 120 degrees.
Other Elements Of The VR Technology
- The Impact of Sound
Sound effects, when synced with the visuals, can create very engaging effects. By using a headphone and 3D sound effects the user’s belief in the virtual environment can be reassured.
While crafting sound effects due care needs to be taken about the consistency between the graphics and the sound. If you start playing horror music in the background of a fairy tale movie it will just put the user off.
- Eye and Head Tracking
Eye and head tracking can be ensured using laser pointers, led lights or mobile sensors.
In mobile, we use the accelerometer to detect three-dimensional movement, gyroscope for angular movement and magnetometer to identify the position relative to the Earth. If we need to achieve a very high accuracy then cameras and sensors can be installed in the room where you would use the headset.
4 Types Of Virtual Reality
Virtual reality app development has been of major concern these recent times as we have had various people setting up or establishing a VR app development company. There are different types of virtual reality technology and they include:
1. Non-Immersive Reality
Non-immersive VR is a type of the virtual reality technology that provides users with a computer-generated environment without a feeling of being immersed in the virtual world.
The main characteristic of a non-immersive VR system is that users can keep control over physical surrounding while being aware of what’s going on around them: sounds, visuals, and haptics.
Non-immersive virtual reality systems rely on a computer or video game console, display, and input devices like keyboards, mice, and controllers.
Unlike semi-immersive VR based on hard simulators also known as cockpits, gaming non-immersive VR systems also can use racing wheels, pedals, and speed shifters to provide users with an enhanced gaming experience.
2. Fully Immersive Reality
Fully-immersive virtual reality is a digital technology that allows users to experience artificial environments as the real world. In other words, users perceive virtual computer-generated surrounding using visuals, auditory, and haptics.
The main destination of this technology is to make it impossible for users to recognize they’re in a simulation rather than a real-world environment.
Users are completely isolated from the physical surrounding. They can’t properly navigate or interact with real objects. Instead, by wearing a head-mounted display (HMD) and using wireless controllers, users can explore digital 3D environments and interact with computer-generated content.
3. Collaborative VR
Collaborative VR allows people based in different locations to interact and collaborate with each other in the same space – virtually. Teams from different parts of the world can share ideas and experiences and work together in real time in a shared virtual 3D workspace.
Seeing the same, feeling the same, being able discuss in the same virtual environment enhances teamwork, produces direct cost savings and improves productivity.
Collaborative virtual environments facilitate training in geographically dispersed organisations. Specialists can provide remote coaching to employees in distant locations. Highly paid experts don’t have to waste their time travelling around the world. Communication flaws can be avoided.
WebVR is an open specification that makes it possible to experience VR in your browser. The goal is to make it easier for everyone to get into VR experiences, no matter what device you have.
Some Scientists have discovered ways to use virtual reality over the internet using the Virtual Reality Markup Language (VRML).
How To Experience WebVR?
You need two things to experience WebVR: a headset and a compatible browser. Select your headset below to find out which browsers work best for you.
If you don't have a headset:
The easiest way to get started is with a basic headset like Google Cardboard. Just drop your phone in, and you’re ready to go.
For the best performance and most features, you can use a VR headset connected to a computer, like Oculus Rift or HTC VIVE. Those will allow for higher framerates, higher resolutions, and even let you walk around in VR.
Or, on some sites, you can just use your computer or phone without a headset. You won’t be able to see in 3D or interact as fully in most VR worlds, but you can still look around in 360 degrees.
Fully Immersive VS Non-Immersive VR
The main difference between immersive and non-immersive virtual reality is in the 3D content delivery method.
Fully immersive VR
- Provides computer-generated surroundings via head-mounted displays (HMDs)
- VR headsets have two displays that generate digital content on each user’s eye separately. It ensures a binocular image perceived as a real-world environment.
- HMDs have built-in head tracking systems that can determine the orientation of the user’s head to ensure the interactivity of a virtual world.
- Provides a digital image perceived in three dimensions that include height, width, and depth.
- Uses a single display to provide computer-generated content.
- Transmits the same image for both user’s eyes.
- Therefore, users perceive this image only in two dimensions: height and width.
Equipment Used For VR
When setting up a virtual reality one would need to connect sensors which will be used to monitor the person’s movements. The Virtual reality devices always come with two monitors, touch/body perceptions, and a sound system. Other hardware equipment used in virtual reality are:
- Immersive rooms
- Data Gloves
- Handheld VR controller
The Difference Between VR, AR and MR
- Virtual Reality(VR) – Immerses users in a fully artificial digital environment.
- Augmented Reality(AR) – Overlays virtual objects on the real-world environment.
- Mixed Reality(MR) – Not just overlays but anchors virtual objects to the real world.
Have a look at this helpful infographic: