What is Virtual Reality? Here is your ultimate guide

Virtual Reality is the technology through which the user feels ported to a digitally created world. The computer generated world and the experiences are designed to simulate the physical presence of the user in such worlds. The idea of virtual reality [VR] is to block out the sensory inputs[eyes and ears] from seeing and hearing the real world and use simulated visual and audio cues via head mounted displays [HMD] and audio headsets respectively to experience the virtual world. This makes the user to be immersed in the virtual world and lets him interact with it as if he is already there. The impressiveness of the VR experience is further established with support of gyroscope and  sensors to track head, hand and body movements.

The term “virtual reality” was first used in a science fiction context in The Judas Mandala, a 1982 novel by Damien Broderick

Difference between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are two sides of the coin.  Augmented Reality simulates artificial objects in the real environment; Virtual Reality creates an artificial environment to inhabit. A virtual reality headset will typically use one or two screens that are held close to your face and viewed through lenses. It then uses various sensors in order to track the user’s head and potentially their body as they move through space. Using this information, it renders the appropriate images to create the illusion that the user is navigating a completely foreign environment.Augmented reality on the other hand will usually use either glasses or a pass-through camera so that the user can see the real world around them in real time. Digital elements will then either be projected onto the glass, or will be shown on the screen on top of the camera feed.

History of virtual reality

Image result for Pygmalion's Spectacles Every technological leap begins with a vision. Once a fictional idea, now a reality! In 1935, Stanley G. Weinbaum in his short story “Pygmalion’s Spectacles” described a goggle-based virtual reality system with holographic recording of fictional experiences, including smell and touch. In 1962, Morton Heilig built Sensorama, a prototype of his portable “Experience Theatre” which engages with multiple senses [vision, sound, smell and touch]. In 1968, Ivan Sutherland, created “The Sworld of Damocles, what was widely considered as the first head mounted display. In 1991, Sega announced the Sega VR headset which used LCD screens in the visor, stereo headphones, and inertial sensors that allowed the system to track and react to the movements of the user’s head. In the same year, Virtuality launched and went on to become the first mass-produced, networked, multiplayer VR entertainment system. It was released in many countries, including a dedicated VR arcade at Embarcadero Center in San Francisco. Costing up to $73,000- $200,000 per multi-pod Virtuality system, they featured headsets and exoskeleton gloves that gave one of the first “immersive” VR experiences.

history of virtual reality vr

From “Good to Have” to “Must to Have”

Every disruptive technology, if going in the right direction, will go thru the phase of transition from just being considered a “Good To Have” feature to a “Must to Have” sensation. This is the phase where the real use and benefits of the technology is measured thereby leading to a real world problem solving solution. Virtual Reality is has proved to be a “Must To Have” in areas of training, simulations, healthcare, industries, defense, manufacturing design and entertainment. The verticals are expanding on a day to day basis and the benefits out of VR is growing exponentially. The price of VR gears have come down and the users and companies around VR are growing in sizable number day by day thereby revolutionizing the way the visual content is consumed.

Factors impacting a VR experience
  • what is virtual reality
    Star VR heaset with FOV 210 deg

    FOV [Field Of View] : FOV is an important factors that provides user with a realistic perspection of the digital environment. The bigger the FOV number, better the width of content that can be seen. The high end VR headsets have a 100 to 110 deg FOV. There are devices in production that offers a FOV > 150 deg. For example, StarVR has the highest ever announced FOV of 210 deg.

  • FPS [Frame Rate] : Frames per second refers to how many frame of digital content is rendered in the VR headset. A regular movie at a theater runs at 24 fps. High end VR headsets like Oculus Rift is designed to run the experiences at 90 fps. This means more realistic experience. In coming years this number will keep going up for more immersive experience.
  • Latency: Latency refers to the time delay between content generation and content rendering on the VR display. The value is generally measured in milliseconds(ms). The lower the latency better the immersiveness. For a good experience the latency has to be lesser than 20ms.
  • Audio: Audio plays a important role in VR experience as it makes the user stay immersed in the experience. The binaural sound adds reality to the virtual experience. There are several new technologies that are helping make the audio experience much more realistic inorder to make the VR much better. With simply the audio , VR user can judge what is happening in the 3 Dimensional virtual world.
  • Tracking:  Head, motion and eye tracking are other factors that define the level of immersiveness of the VR experience. Head tracking is inevitable for a good VR experience and has become a default parameter. Motion tracking is becoming more common in more VR headsets. Eye tracking is in its amateur phase. With eye tracking depth of field could be implemented flawlessly which is not possible in a typical VR experience at this period of time.

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Applications of Virtual Reality

As expected game industry is one of the major consumer of Virtual Reality. From low end google cardboard based VR headsets to console based VR systems like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, gaming industry is dominating the share of applications available. People are fascinated and finding how useful VR is well beyond gaming.

  • Virtual Reality in Training and simulations: VR is quite widely used for training in several verticals esp. military, avionics, industrial and education. VR has made the training more efficient, cost effective, compact, measurable and interactive. It has been proven that the reception of training content by the trainee is quite high when the training experience is immersive. Since the training program is programatically tracked, the analytics generated scores the trainee more accurately and this could be used in providing more customized retraining sessions.
  • Virtual Reality in healthcare: Healthcare is one of those sectors which is enjoying the benefits of the VR technology and reaping the maximum. Virtual reality is used more widely for pain management, behavorial therapy, staff/doctor training, diagnosis and rehabilitation in the health sector. Several companies are investing billions of dollars on VR to improvise healthcare.
  • Virtual Reality in Real estate: Well this industry needs not much explanation as it is quite obvious how the industry is befitted by the technology. VR is used for visualizing the interiors and exteriors . Vr is also used for designing the interiors and feeling the aesthitics close to real without even laying a brick. This technology is definitely a boon for architects, builders and buyers.
  • Virtual Reality in Research, Design and Defense: VR has been used in defense and research for several years even before it hit the mass. VR is a boon for product development as developers can visualize the final product as they design.
  • Virtual Reality as a communication platform: Virtual Reality chat is becoming more popular. Virtual party rooms and virtual hangouts are the new trends amongst younger generation. This is actually opening a new way of communication and socializing. Virtual business meeting rooms are also being practiced where people from across the world can collaboratively take part in meetings together.
Side effects of Virtual Reality:

side-effects-virtual reality

A lack of research data and guidelines is leaving consumers in the dark about virtual reality‘s potential negative side effects. Well i would say VR has an impact on the brain in a good way, at times in a bad way. This impact depends on several factors and varies from person to person.Some of the side effects are:

  • VR Sickness/ Cybersickeness
  • Derealization/Dissociation effect
  • Impact on brain neurons
  • Impact on eyes

For a more detailed analysis on side effects of VR  and Virtual  Reality best practices click on this link.

Research and Development of VR technologies

VR devices and VR as a technology are going through several research inorder to make the technology and device more efficient, cost effective and improvise. Some of the prime areas of R&D is happening in the following areas.

  • Better FOV : As stated earlier greater the FOV better the experience.
  • Eye Tracking: This will be a great leap as it will make the experience more real by adding depth of field.
  • Haptics & full body suit: Haptics make the experience more real. No more controllers or joysticks. You can simply wear a haptiv glove to touch and feel things in VR like one does in real world.
  • Wireless high end VR : Wireless for highend VR is definitely a must have. With wireless streaming technologies like intel’s WiDI being launched, wireless VR seems quite promising.
  • Display Resolution: 8K and 16K resolution displays for VR are in the development. More pixels per inch will make the experience more richer and real.
  • Merging VR with AR and AI: There are several needs to blend together AR and VR. With artificial intelligence the VR technology is being taken to the next level.
Talk to the Virtual Reality experts

To know more about augmented reality and virtual reality applications for education, healthcare, industries, manufacturing and retail contact us. Email: [email protected] , Call @ +91 988 469 5212

The Future

future of virtual reality

Virtual reality and Augmented Reality have opened a completely new way to looking at the world. Its usage is enormous and it is impacting the heathcare, L & D , industries and consumer goods in a highly positive manner.With huge conglomerates like Apple, Facebook , Google &++ showing interest and investing heavily, VR to become the next big medium of communication and engagement aint that far.Eventually at one point AR and VR devices will merge together to form a more seamless interactive medium. VR devices of the future will have much more sensors that could intelligently understand the environment in 3D. AR and VR technologies will merge together.

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Mukundan Govindaraj

VR/AR/MR Architect & Creative Director | Futurist Extensive experience in immersive technologies (augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality) and new markets, that are steadily changing the world around us, with a strong foundation in Unity game engine, web & mobile technologies and Computer-generated imagery(CGI) pipeline.

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