TechDogs-"An Introductory Guide To Virtual Reality"

Emerging Technology

An Introductory Guide To Virtual Reality

By TechDogs

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 Are you a Harry Potter fan wondering what it would feel like to roam the great halls of the Hogwarts Castle? Or maybe you want to visit Middle Earth and experience the breathtaking Elvish city of Rivendell? If you're the adventurous type, perhaps you want to travel to the planet Pandora from Avatar? Would you believe us if we said there is a technology that can let you do all that - and more!
Welcome to Virtual Reality or VR!
If you are wondering how such seemingly opposite words (#WeLoveOxymorons) form the name of such an exciting technology, join us. In this article, we'll tell you how the idea of Virtual Reality was conceived, how it works, the different types and what’s in store for us in the future. Trust us; it's totally worth the read!
TechDogs-Now, Reality Will Never Be Disappointing!-"An Introductory Guide To Virtual Reality"
Tell us this - while watching The Mandalorian, did you ever feel that you were cruising through a galaxy far, far away? Or did you feel like an explorer of alien planets while watching James Cameron's Avatar in 3D? 
The point is that directors and film producers can transport you to places that aren't real by displaying elements that influence your senses. Artists do the same with pictures, musicians with their lyrics and sounds. You get the drift.

Well, what if you could be transported to a place where you are in complete control of what happens - where to go, who to be and what to do. Wouldn't that be delightful?
That’s where Virtual Reality comes in.
Virtual Reality (VR) is a revolutionary technology that’s used to create immersive digital experiences. VR works by creating a simulated environment that changes and responds according to the user’s actions - giving the feeling that you’re in another world, even though you might be sitting on your couch wearing yesterday’s pajamas. #AllHailWFHCulture

All this might seem a little too ‘techy’ now but we’ll figure it out. While we’re at it, we’ll also explain how VR has evolved over the years, what fueled its adoption and how VR is going to influence our lives in the future. So, put on your VR glasses and let’s step into the simulated world!

What Exactly Is Virtual Reality?

Answer us this.
Why is ‘virtual’, meaning ‘not fully real’ and ‘reality’, meaning ‘real’ - two words that have opposite meanings - paired together to name a technology? Turns out, this is what VR actually does - it gives the user a sense of experiencing something that is not real but with so much detail and definition, that it feels real. VR ‘simulates’, or imitates, environments that the user can view and interact with, almost as if it were real world. 
However, what kind of environments are we talking about? Since VR is a creative technology, there are no limits as to what can be created with it. As we speak, VR is being heavily used in the gaming industry. Resident Evil 7 is providing VR-ready experiences to gamers who want to be immersed in a zombie-ravaged survival scenario!

Real Estate agents are using VR to stage homes - the curtains, furniture and flooring are all computer generated – and the customers can get a pretty good idea about how their future home might look. Dollars saved; deals closed!

Now that we know what VR is, let’s travel back to a time when the virtual world did not exist.

Virtual Reality Through The Ages

TechDogs-"Virtual Reality Through The Ages"-2D Image Of A Male Character Wearing Virtual Reality 3D Glasses - VR Headset
How did anyone think of creating a new reality? No, it wasn’t Thanos!

Ever heard about Pygmalion's Spectacles? It is a fantasy short story written by Stanley Weinbaum in 1935 that features a protagonist with a pair of spectacles that transports him to a fictional world every time he wears it. The wearer can feel everything in the new world - the sights, sound, smell and touch - as if he was in a real, physical world.
Fast forward to 1968, Professor Ivan Sutherland, along with one of his students, developed the world's first head mounted display (HMD). It could show 3D wireframes that shifted perspective when you move your head. It was so heavy that it had to be suspended from the ceiling!

Two decades later, NASA partnered with Crystal River Engineering to develop the Virtual Environment Workstation (VIEW), a training simulation for astronauts. Around the same time, Mattel also released Power Glove, which was a controller glove for the Nintendo Entertainment System. However, since it was difficult to use, it never really clicked in the market.
In 2007, Google announced Street View, where we could see panoramic images of different locations. Three years later, Oculus designed their first prototype of a VR headset - and four years after that, Oculus was bought by Facebook for a whopping $2 billion! This acquisition brought more visibility to the technology and we started seeing a variety of applications using this technology.

In 2018, the first stand-alone VR Headsets were launched, ones that didn’t need to communicate with a computer or rely on a smartphone to provide display and processing. This made Virtual Reality, for the first time, a very intuitive and easy-to-use tool.

If you are still unclear on how VR works, don’t fret, wear a headset!

How Virtual Reality Works

The basis of every VR experience is a Virtual Reality headset (or HMD). These headsets use one or two LCD displays, which, when paired with additional lenses between the user’s eye and the displays, results in realistic, 3D visuals. These displays provide a field of view of around 100-110 degrees. The exciting part about headsets is their capability of motion tracking. When you move your head up, the visuals also change so that it feels like you’ve lifted your head up in the virtual world.

VR headsets make use of gyroscopes, accelerometers and magnetometers, which helps the headset plot the position of your head in an 3D coordinate system. (Do not worry if these terms are unfamiliar, just know that the headset tracks the smallest movement of your head and moves the display accordingly.) All headsets today come with added auditory capabilities. Working together, the 3D visuals, motion tracking and the crystal-clear audio are sure to transport you anywhere you want!

When it comes to VR devices, we follow the rule ‘the more, the merrier’. Devices such as tactile gloves can give actual haptic (touch) feedback according to the events on the screen -  from petting a strange alien animal in one reality to holding a lightsaber in another, you can take your VR experience to the next level!

You might be thinking, with all these customizations available, there should be at least some categories or types of VR experiences. Excellent thought, because that’s what we’re going to talk about next.

What Are The Different Types Of VR?

TechDogs-"What Are The Different Types Of VR?"-3D Image Of Young Woman Using VR-Glasses With Neon Lights
Depending on the ability of the VR device, we can respond back to the stimuli created by the device. This is how VR is categorized; based on how much we can interact with it.
  • Fully Immersive VR

    Imagine a VR experience where you feel like you're actually there (the real part of the virtual reality). You can see the virtual world alive in front of your eyes, you can hear the sound all around you, you can move around in the world, interact with the objects, kick the villain where the sun don’t shine - no, seriously - kick it. This is a fully immersive VR experience, because you feel like you’re really there - or in other words, the “virtual-ness” of VR is quite indistinguishable.

  • Semi-Immersive VR

    If you were nodding your head while reading about Fully Immersive VR, you’d have probably figured out what a semi-immersive VR is. Like the name suggests, the user is only partially immersed in the virtual environment, which means that the experience might be interactive but limited to a level where you can look around and maybe interact with some objects. 

  • Non-Immersive VR

    You know where we’re going with this. Non-immersive VR is now a talk of the past. Think about a video game on your PC, say PUBG. As you’re driving through the streets of Pochinki or hunting for loot in Georgopol, you feel as though you’re in Erangel. However, you’re still aware of your phone vibrating or the birds chirping at 6 AM because you’ve been getting “chicken dinners” all night. You feel like you’re inside but not completely inside the experience.

  • Collaborative VR

    Collaborative VR is all about sharing the virtual space. Think about a virtual conference room. You can see and communicate with everyone inside the room - well, their virtual avatars - although everyone might be in a different city or country. None of you are actually there, yet everyone is sharing a space (virtual conference room) that is entirely computer-generated. If you’re still not sure, just think of the top-secret meeting in Kingsman where most agents were not physically present in the room – but their virtual avatar was.

    Now that we’ve seen what VR is, how it works and its different types - what’s next? Well, apart from games and spy meetings, do we even need VR?

Then the answer is a big, fat yes!

Why Do We Need VR?

All this talk about VR is good but all of this is a moo point if we don’t understand why we need this technology (Thanks, Joey).  

To put it frankly, VR is all about taking people to places they can’t otherwise be in. The air force doesn’t want to waste money on fuel or crash their planes while training new pilots. Enter VR which can simulate the training. You can’t burn a mall to prepare the fire brigade for the rescue operation. Once again, enter VR with a simulation. Any scenario that is too complex, expensive or time-taking to check in the real world, VR can help us simulate with utmost accuracy.

So, if the robots can’t manage us humans in the future, what will they do? Yep, you guessed it, put us in a VR simulation. Wait, what? (subtle Matrix reference - check!)

How’s The Future Looking For VR?

If you were to come face to face with the future of VR, you’d have to wear sunglasses and SPF-500 - it’s that bright. C’mon, it wasn’t that bad!

VR has come a long way from being a ‘fancy game tech’. It is being used by various industries and more people are looking to leverage the possibilities of what a simple HMD can bring to the table. Ummm, Facebook metaverse, anyone? Improved hardware at cheaper prices has enabled VR developers all around the world to ideate and develop VR experiences quicker than ever before. This has also led a lot of people to think in terms of VR - ‘what if we could also provide a VR experience of this product?’. This has led to more content being created using VR, further expanding the inventory that can be accessed by a simple VR headset. 

In the future, the method of storytelling is expected to change with the utilization of VR. The way content will be presented – be it news, entertainment content, educational content, self-help or something else – it will all be transformed. How consumers consume content will also be drastically affected as VR will enable them to relate and understand better.

Talking about headsets, did you hear about the new VR contact lenses?! A startup called Mojo Vision recently unveiled its VR/AR contact lenses at CES 2020. Let that sink in, from a big metallic heap suspended from the ceiling to thin wearable contact lenses!

This also marks the merging of VR with Augmented Reality (AR), leading to something called Mixed Reality (MR). Pretty soon, VR is going to be used in therapy, for educational purposes, even to overcome mental distress and fear. Imagine if you could spend a few minutes every day looking down from a high, suspended bridge until you're not afraid of heights anymore. As we said, the future is bright.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is Virtual Reality?

Virtual Reality (VR) is a groundbreaking technology that enables users to immerse themselves in digital environments, offering experiences that feel real despite being entirely simulated. The term "virtual" denotes something that is not fully real, while "reality" signifies the actual world. When paired together, VR creates an environment that mimics reality with such precision that users perceive it as genuine. VR simulates environments that users can interact with, presenting a wide range of possibilities limited only by creativity. Industries like gaming and real estate are leveraging VR to provide immersive experiences, whether it's surviving a zombie apocalypse or virtually touring a potential home.

How does Virtual Reality work?

At the core of every VR experience lies a Virtual Reality headset (HMD). These headsets utilize one or two LCD displays, along with lenses, to produce realistic 3D visuals. The displays, coupled with motion tracking technology, provide users with a field of view that mimics natural vision. VR headsets incorporate gyroscopes, accelerometers, and magnetometers to track the user's head movements, ensuring that the displayed visuals correspond accurately to their actions. Moreover, advancements like tactile gloves enhance the experience by providing haptic feedback, allowing users to interact with virtual objects more intuitively.

What are the different types of VR?

VR experiences are categorized based on the level of immersion and interactivity they offer. Fully immersive VR transports users into a virtual world where they can interact with objects and environments as if they were physically present. Semi-immersive VR provides a partially immersive experience, allowing users to engage with the environment to a limited extent. Non-immersive VR, although less common now, offers experiences akin to traditional video games, where users remain aware of their physical surroundings. Collaborative VR enables multiple users to share a virtual space, facilitating interactions and communication regardless of physical location. These categories cater to different needs and preferences, offering diverse VR experiences to users across various applications and industries.

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