What is Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality is the term used to describe a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment that can be explored and interacted with by a person. That person becomes part of this virtual world or is immersed within this environment and whilst there, is able to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions.
Virtual reality (VR) 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. With current technology, this usually means that users wear a headset over their eyes or view a display screen inside of which they see an image of an imaginary world. Users are sometimes able to interact with this world through the use of sensors that detect their body movements, and these virtual reality experiences can be shared by multiple people.
In the most simple of forms, virtual reality is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment, which a user can interact in a seemingly real way by means of a special suit (connected to the computer), gloves, and other devices. Virtual reality artificially recreates or enhances one’s physical presence in places in the real world or imaginary worlds.
The first technology that had the power to create a virtual reality had its origins in the military and involved using this technology for training purposes. The concept of virtual reality was created as early as 1912, but it would take more than 40 years before such a creation would come to fruition. It is also known as an alternate reality, which is a type of experience that takes place when one escapes from the present circumstances and enters an imagined world.
What is a VR Headset?
A virtual reality headset is a head-mounted device that provides users with immersive experiences, often in 3D and mostly interactive. The experience is generated by a computer and typically involves audio and video. There are numerous models on the market today, but the most popular ones feature stereoscopic displays and motion tracking sensors. They are widely used in gaming, entertainment, education, and training.
The modern virtual reality headset has its roots in the early 1990s when American computer scientist Jaron Lanier founded the company VPL Research to develop VR-related products that include data gloves and VR headsets. In 1991, Sega announced plans to release a VR headset for their video games. However, the project was discontinued shortly after it was revealed at 1991’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), marking it as one of the first attempts to commercialize VR technology.
VR headset displays are mostly worn on the head like goggles and require various amount of cables for connectivity to a computer. They have either one or two small LCD or OLED displays, one for each eye, which shows the virtual reality scene from different angles. Each display is built into its own lens and reflects off the back of the eyes with an optical mirror that allows users to see clearly in front of them and focus on objects in close range (a few centimeters). Two lenses and a part of the headset (which looks like a visor) give users an even wider field of vision. VR headsets also feature integrated earphones that provide sound effects and music in 3D space, as if heard from “outside” rather than within or behind the ears.
By placing the VR headset over your eyes you are able to look into a screen that will provide you with an image that fills your vision, replacing what is directly in front of you. This gives the user the perception that they are inside this virtual world which can be different from how it would usually appear.
Working of a VR Headset
A Virtual Reality Headset or VR headset is a device that allows virtual reality simulation. The device covers the eyes and ears, blocking outside light from the user’s vision and altering the reflection of sound to create an immersive environment for its user. Its function is similar to the head-mounted displays used in the entertainment industry which are intended for users to watch 3-D videos or play video games.
The main working of a virtual reality headset can be divided into 3 parts:
- Head tracking
- Stereoscopic displays
- Motion tracking
Head tracking is the process of determining where you are looking in a virtual reality environment by rotating your head around, up and down. Since the two screens are 2-D, they can’t show where you are looking at. Therefore it requires some extra technology so that the 3-D objects on each side of the screen adjust themselves according to your head movement. Head tracking is indispensable when it comes to creating a fully immersive virtual reality world, with depth perception being one of the most important aspects for achieving this.
Stereoscopic displays are 3-D displays that use two images in order to create the illusion of depth. The only way we can see things in three dimensions (height, width, and depth) is due to the human ability to integrate the separate views from each of our eyes. Stereoscopic images can be passed in such a way that they create this illusion when viewed through special glasses. The technology involved in stereoscopic 3-D images has been around for decades and it’s based on placing two identical images side-by-side, thus creating an illusion of 3-D depth. However, the images need to be viewed through stereoscopic glasses which are now being replaced by VR headsets.
The virtual reality headset is also capable of tracking head rotation using cameras attached to the device. This allows it to sense movements in any direction e.g up/down, left/right, forward/backward. Motion tracking is used to accurately track the movements of your head when you are using a virtual reality headset. It also allows for motion input which is an extremely useful feature that increases interaction with objects in this virtual environment.
VR headsets work on the principle that each eye sees a slightly different image and the brain can merge these two images together to create the illusion of depth. VR headsets are essentially an improved version of stereoscopic 3D glasses that block out external light and enhance the immersion effect.
Components of a VR Headset
VR headsets typically contain the following components: displays, lenses to focus the images, sensors for detecting head position and orientation, and various control buttons. Headphones are often placed over or in the ears to provide sound. The VR headset may also include an external camera for picking up gestures or hand movements.
Applications of a VR Headset
A virtual reality headset can provide its user with physical experiences that are not possible without it. For example, a VR headset can take someone’s heart rate or blood pressure if it is integrated with a medical device. Businesses and educational institutions use virtual reality headsets to impart training and education to their employees and students. For example, architects can make building designs or car developers can test their automobiles on simulated roads. Also, virtual reality headsets are being used in the entertainment industry to create unique experiences that cannot be replicated outside of a VR headset.
VR headsets are used for various applications such as in educational simulation, gaming, simulating places and events, remote communication with people and objects in real-time. VR headsets can also be used to escape reality for recreation (ex. virtual vacation) or training purposes (such as medical simulation). The user does not necessarily need special clothing or a large space to use a VR headset. In most cases, the user just needs something that they can hold in front of their eyes with an aspect ratio of 16:9 or 4:3. Some users will have a fixed point of view and turn their head only instead of using a 360-degree field of view as in mobile virtual reality. Most applications of virtual reality are enhanced by motion tracking sensors, which allow the user to move freely and safely in their environment.
With virtual reality headsets becoming more available due to their use by businesses and media, there is an increasing concern about their safety. For example, some point out that there have been reports of people getting motion sickness or disoriented when they use virtual reality headsets. The immersive experience of a VR headset can lead to motion sickness in some users if it is not integrated with proper motion tracking sensors. It has also been argued that the use of VR headsets by children under the age of 13 should be restricted or banned for safety considerations, which may include issues such as cyberbullying.