The definition of virtual reality comes from 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’.
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. 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.
Why have virtual reality?
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.
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 behaviour accordingly which results in a stilted, mechanical form of interaction.
The aim is for a natural, free-flowing form of interaction which will result in a memorable experience.