After making a post with my picture experiencing what Virtual Reality looks and feels like for the 3rd time, some asked me what that actually is, and I decided to write about Virtual Reality. I’m going to be a bit technical though, techies would appreciate this more.
My First Experience
I could remember then, seeing some group of people in school putting on something strange and acting really weird. I became so curious wanting to know what’s happening there, so I walked up to them. One of them explained what the weird scene was all about, I found it fascinating and I wanted to try. they gave it to me, showed me how to put it on and control it.
The first thing I saw was a horror movie being played in a strange environment, I turned around and could see a well-furnished Cinema with chairs, the exit door, and people’s head as though I was seated in one of the seats. That scared me a bit because I was taken out of my physical environment to an unreal one yet feels so real. I turned to them and was like: this is magic, so I dare you to show me something I’m familiar with.
So, they switched to one of the most popular game at that time, “Temple Run”. I want to cut the story short, the environment looked so real and all you needed to do was raise your head to jump the obstacles, but I would make sure jump in reality to skip that. The thought that maybe when I get caught by the monster chasing or hit one of the things on the, I might just feel it. It was really amazing that I kept thinking about it, and I told myself I was surely going to make a research about it.
Let’s talk Virtual Reality.
The truth is you and I may never visit Mars or walk amongst dinosaurs etc. But with the latest wave in technology, you can have an experience as close to the real thing all within the comforts of your very own living room. Virtual Reality is opening doors to the long-held human desire to escape, whether it’s an escape from the current day to day situation or to escape the real world altogether. Virtual Reality simulates pieces of our world or imagined worlds. I’d like to break the concept of Virtual Reality into Two: Psychological and Technical.
Emulation and perception are the two basic keys to Virtual Reality. Let’s examine that for a moment. We all have sensory and perception systems. Our experience of everything, or reality, is a combination of sensory data and how we process that data to form our understanding or perception of what is happening, where it is happening, as well as, when, how and why it is happening. What if we present these systems and processes with data that isn’t really there but is convincing enough for us to perceive it as reality? In a nutshell, I believe Virtual Reality is an emulation of a situation that we understand, or perceive, to be real. Now, That’s the Psychological definition.
Now let’s dive into the technical aspect. let me not bombard you with technical terms, Virtual Reality is the term used to describe a digital environment which can be explored and experienced by a person. However, for a Virtual Reality experience to be successful, there are five things that must be fulfilled.
- Virtual Reality must be believable.
- You need to feel like you are there.
- You lose that and the experience dies.
- Interactive, the VR world needs to match your movements. Interacting by reaching out, bending over or stepping through space adds to the experience. Remember when I told you I was jumping in reality, that’s part of the Interaction it comes with.
- Explorable, this is what separates VR from a 2-D passive experience like watching TV. This can be a large environment or an object. It has to allow you to experience it from any angle on your terms. Immersive, this is the combination of believable and interactive. Only when both of these parameters exist is Virtual Reality truly immersive.
Types Of Virtual Reality
Virtual reality is certainly a major technology buzzword these days. The term virtual reality or VR has been used to describe video games, movies, and even television series. Let’s take a moment to define different types of virtual reality experiences.
- Collaborative: The thing is as virtual reality technology grows, so do the applications. The idea of sharing content and virtual worlds with other viewers is what a collaborative VR experience is all about. Whether it’s a VR social media experience, gaming, or virtual design in meeting spaces, collaborative VR carries strong value to consumers and businesses alike.
- Non-immersive: This can be 3D content that is displayed on a flat-screen to simulate or visualize. Examples include a detailed, pre-rendered architectural walkthrough or an on-screen flight simulator. Furthermore, a first-person perspective game on a flat-screen can also be referred to as a non-immersive virtual reality experience. A non-immersive experience with a VR head-mounted display, may by an on-the-rails experience where the view is seated and taken on a tour of a virtual world. What the viewer is simply doing is, viewing with no interaction with objects or manipulation of the surrounding environment.
- Fully immersive. This is a detailed experience that allows the user to move about a virtual world where the visuals and the audio move with the viewer in a manner much like the real world. Objects can be manipulated or interacted with. A head-mounted display, complete with surround sound headphones and the use of controllers, are all basic requirements for a fully immersive virtual reality experience.
Today’s virtual reality is more powerful, more compact, and more diverse in options. Traditional forms of visuals on computers rely on flat-screen displays. Input devices such as a mouse, keyboard, or stylus. Virtual reality requires the use of wearable devices, sensors to track position and movement, and stereo headphones to produce surround sound. Let’s take a quick look at virtual reality equipment.
- A head-mounted display(HMD): can be a high-end device that is powered by a powerful pc such as the HTC Vibe or a mobile device plugged into a docking headset like the Samsung Gear VR. Mobile devices aside, an HMD consists of two screens, one for each eye, encompassed in a shield to block out external light. But then, the HMD is much more than that. They are typically built with several sensors to track head position and orientation.
Stereo headphones: Audio is incredibly important for a full, immersive, and compelling virtual reality experience. A good stereo headset allows the viewer to experience 360-degree audio much like in the real world. This adds to the overall believability of the experience. That was the part that amazed me the more because when you look beside or behind you, you see a whole different veiw. Amazing!
Controllers: Hand-held devices allow users to interact with virtual content, whether it is creating a dynamic immersive sculpture or blasting attacking aliens. Controllers bring the user’s hands into the experience. They also serve as their own tracking sensors in the same way as the head-mounted display.
Haptic gear: These are a wearable input device that provides sensory feedback to the user. This simulation of touch is achieved by applying vibrations, motions, and forces to the user via the device. Most virtual reality controllers have haptic feedback with vibration built-in to them. More advanced haptic feedback devices like vests, helmets, gloves and even boots provide the user with physical simulation to emulate effects such as punches, bumps, and strikes. Now see the part that made me took off the device, scared not to feel the of bumping into something.
Eye tracking devices: This is the latest addition to VR technology that allows for the tracking of eye movement. This a practical use for using your eyes to select menu options or objects in a scene. I experienced this too, was even able to use my hands to select. However, the biggest benefit is providing selective rendering based on tracking the center of the pupil or fovea. This process is referred to as foveated rendering, dramatically decreases the amount of rendered detail required in a scene.
Last but not least is computer hardware. Virtual reality requires powerful graphics processing units, or GPU’s, in order to provide fast real-time performance. Because, without high-performance computer hardware, virtual reality viewers are exposed to stuttering or slow performance which results in motion sickness, also referred to as VR sickness. Advances in hardware performance are helping drive the evolution of virtual reality and vice versa.
As technology improves, hardware costs are reduced, and this allows for greater access to virtual reality development overall. And I could remember saying, let me experience and enjoy VR before everyone can afford it because then the experience won’t be fascinating. Thank you for dropping by though.