Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment.
It usually refers to the computer-generated simulation in which a person can interact within an artificial three-dimensional environment using special electronic devices, such as special goggles with a screen or gloves fitted with sensors.
In the simulated artificial environment, the user is able to explore the various artifacts and proceedings as they might in the real world.
See also: What is Artificial Intelligence?
The term virtual reality is built on the natural combination of two words: virtual and reality. The former means “nearly” or “conceptually,” which leads to the concept indicating an experience that is near-reality.
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.
More sophisticated efforts involve such approaches as wrap-around display screens, actual rooms augmented with wearable computers, and haptics devices that let you feel the display images.
Virtual Reality (VR) literally makes it possible to experience anything, anywhere, anytime. It is the most immersive type of reality technology and can convince the human brain that it is somewhere it is really not.
Head mounted displays are used with headphones and hand controllers to provide a fully immersive experience.
The virtual experience is best understood by first defining what it aims to achieve – total immersion.
Total immersion means that the sensory experience feels so real, that we forget it is a virtual-artificial environment and begin to interact with it as we would naturally in the real world.
In a virtual reality environment, a completely synthetic world may or may not mimic the properties of a real-world environment.
This means that the virtual reality environment may simulate an everyday setting (e.g. walking around the streets of London), or may exceed the bounds of physical reality by creating a world in which the physical laws governing gravity, time and material properties no longer hold (e.g. shooting space aliens on a foreign gravity-less planet).
Several categories of virtual reality technologies exist, with more likely to emerge as this technology progresses. The various types of virtual reality differ in their levels of immersion and also virtual reality applications and use cases.
These include non-immersive simulations, semi-immersive and fully-immersive simulations.
Non-immersive simulations are the least immersive implementation of virtual reality technology. In a non-immersive simulation, only a subset of the user’s senses is stimulated, allowing for peripheral awareness of the reality outside the virtual reality simulation.
Users enter into these three-dimensional virtual environments through a portal or window by utilizing standard high-resolution monitors powered by processing power typically found on conventional desktop workstations.
Semi-immersive simulations provide a more immersive experience, in which the user is partly but not fully immersed in a virtual environment. Semi-immersive simulations closely resemble and utilize many of the same technologies found in flight simulation.
Semi-immersive simulations are powered by high-performance graphical computing systems, which are often then coupled with large screen projector systems or multiple television projection systems to properly stimulate the user’s visuals.
Fully-immersive simulations provide the most immersive implementation of virtual reality technology. In a fully-immersive simulation, hardware such as head-mounted displays and motion detecting devices are used to stimulate all of a user’s senses.
Fully immersive simulations are able to provide very realistic user experiences by delivering a wide field of view, high resolutions, increased update rates (also called refresh rate), and high levels of contrast into a user’s head-mounted display (HMD).
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 (or two – one for each eye) 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, the 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.
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