Virtual Reality (VR) is a fully immersive computer simulated environment where a user can interact with the digital world.
VR is a fully immersive computer simulated environment that gives the user the feeling of being in that digital world by cutting off outside stimuli. The user can interact with the digital world by using specialized displays and sensors. Being first developed as training simulators for pilots or soldiers, VR expands into new areas like healthcare, engineering, entertainment, etc.
A user’s experience in the digital world first requires a suitable display method. The VR headset became prevalent in recent years, it takes the form of head-mounted goggles with a screen in front of the eyes. In order to interact with the displayed environment sensors mounted inside the VR headset measure the user’s motions. This technique, called head tracking uses sensors like gyroscope, accelerometer or magnetometer which all function in a different way, but pursue the goal of tracking a user’s head movements. Furthermore a user’s physical location as well as the location of held objects can be measured and inserted into the digital world to ensure a fully interaction with the displayed environment.
The first users of VR have been pilots, soldiers and doctors who used the digital world for training purposes.
As the VR technology developed further, it started being used in more and more industries and also made its way to private households.
Many companies use VR technologies in combination with CAD models to do manufacturing engineering to virtually see and test their products before any production step has even started. The entertainment industry (especially the video games industry) discovered the high potential of VR in the last years and is experiencing an immense demand from consumers who do not want to play a game on a normal screen anymore but want to be a real part of the action. Recently a new trend called augmented reality emerged which can be seen as upgrade of VR. The virtual reality is transferred into real world by a screen showing the real environment combined with virtual reality data. As a result the surrounding real world becomes interactive.
There is no doubt that the field of VR will grow in the future since it offers so many possibilities to make work and life easier. But with an ever increasing number of users we might steer into a dependency on the virtual world where the real world is being neglected and also sociological problems occur. What could be a suitable solution is the mixing of the virtual with the real world as it happens with the technology of augmented reality.
Literature: Matjaz, Domen; Samo (2014): Virtual Reality, Technology and Applications. Heidelberg: Springer