Virtual Reality is the use of computer modelling and simulation that enables a person to interact with an artificial three-dimensional (3-D) visual or another sensory environment.
Through the use of interactive devices that send and receive information and are worn as goggles, headsets, gloves, or body suits, its applications engross the user in a computer-generated environment that compares with reality.
In other words, it gives users the ability to interact and explore a virtual environment in a way that compares to reality.
The user’s movements are tracked by VR technology, which then modifies the virtual world to give the user a sense of presence.
It can be applied to many different things, including simulations for training, education, healthcare, and architecture. VR can make gaming more immersive and give gamers the impression that they are actually in the game.
In the classroom, virtual reality (VR) can give students a more engaged and interesting learning experience by letting them explore virtual worlds and acquire new ideas.
VR can be utilised in healthcare for pain treatment, therapy, and professional medical training. Virtual reality (VR) can also be used in architecture to see and design structures before they are developed.
Let’s go down memory lane: using virtual reality history.
1. According to research by Charles Wheatstone from 1838, the brain mixes several two-dimensional images from each eye to create a single three-dimensional object. When looking at two side-by-side stereoscopic images or photos through a stereoscope, the user felt immersed in the scene. The widely used View-Master stereoscope later improved and patented in 1939, was used for “virtual tourism”. Today’s popular Google Cardboard and inexpensive VR head-mounted displays for smartphones are based on the stereoscope’s design principles.
2. Edward Link developed the “Link trainer” in 1929; it was entirely electromechanical and was patented in 1931. Its pitch and roll were altered by motors connected to the steering wheel and rudder. Turbulence and other disturbances were simulated by a tiny motor-driven device. Because of the urgent need for safer methods of training pilots, the US military spent $3500 for six of these tools.
3. In the 1930s, science fiction author Stanley G. Weinbaum introduced the concept of holographic, olfactory, gustatory, and tactile goggles in his story Pygmalion’s Spectacles, which is where the idea first appeared. In retrospect, Weinbaum’s description of the experience for users of the goggles is very similar to the present and emerging experience of virtual reality, making him a true visionary of the field.
4. In the mid-1950s, Cinematographer Morton Heilig developed the Sensorama (patented 1962) which was an arcade-style theatre cabinet that would stimulate all the senses, not just sight and sound. It featured stereo speakers, a stereoscopic 3D display, fans, smell generators and a vibrating chair. The Sensorama was intended to fully immerse the individual in the film. He also created six short films for his invention all of which he shot, produced and edited himself. The Sensorama films were titled, Motorcycle, Belly Dancer, Dune Buggy, helicopter, A Date with Sabina and I’m a coca cola bottle.
5. In 1960, Morton Heilig’s next invention was the Telesphere Mask (patented in 1960) which was the first example of a head-mounted display (HMD), albeit for the non-interactive film medium without any motion tracking. The headset provided stereoscopic 3D and wide vision with stereo sound.
6. In 1961, two Philco Corporation engineers (Comeau & Bryan) developed the first precursor to the HMD as we know it today – the Headlight. It incorporated a video screen for each eye and a magnetic motion tracking system, which was linked to a closed-circuit camera. It was developed for immersive remote viewing of dangerous situations by the military.
The technology of today has brought the 60s and 90s to a standstill because this type of technology has brought to life, all those ideas had by scientists. It has also advanced previous inventions made, calling it 20th and 21st Century Technology.
Further to the advancement, it has led to the creation of different types of Virtual Reality which gives an explanation of what category of virtual reality a technology is made to be.
Let’s take a look at the three kinds of Virtual Reality:
1. Non-immersive: This type of VR typically refers to a 3D simulated environment that’s accessed through a computer screen. The environment might also generate sound, depending on the program. The user has some control over the virtual environment using a keyboard, mouse or other device, but the environment does not directly interact with the user. A video game is a good example of non-immersive VR, as is a website that enables a user to design a room’s decor.
2. Semi-immersive: This type of VR offers a partial virtual experience that’s accessed through a computer screen or some type of glasses or headset. It focuses primarily on the visual 3D aspect of virtual reality and does not incorporate physical movement in the way that full immersion does. A common example of semi-immersive VR is the flight simulator, which is used by airlines and militaries to train their pilots.
3. Fully immersive: This type of VR delivers the greatest level of virtual reality, completely immersing the user in the simulated 3D world. It incorporates sight, sound and, in some cases, touch. There have even been some experiments with the addition of smell.
Today (in 2023), lots of VR machines are in existence;
1. Bigscreen: Bigscreen Beyond
The studio behind the cinema app of the same name, Bigscreen, unveiled a super-light, wired PC VR headset in February. Weighing in at just over a quarter of a pound, the device is the smallest and lightest VR headset built and marketed to date, according to the manufacturer. SteamVR tracking is required for operation.
Neither the base stations nor the controllers are included in the $999 price. Thus, Bigscreen Beyond is primarily aimed at clientele already in Valve’s ecosystem that wants to replace the 2019 Valve Index with a more modern product.
The company also promotes that the face mask of the Bigscreen Beyond is individually tailored for each wearer. This is done with the help of a face scan, which currently requires a newer model iPhone. The result could be a VR headset with unprecedented wearing comfort.
2. HTC: Vive XR Elite
HTC’s new all-in-one flagship headset combines the strengths of its two standalone predecessors, HTC Vive Focus 3 (review) and HTC Vive Flow. It also expands its technical capacities into Mixed Reality with colour passthrough and a depth sensor.
A special feature of the Vive XR Elite is its modular design. The battery on the back can be removed, turning the XR headset into a half-pound pair of XR glasses. The device connects to an external power source via a USB-C connection cable. This can be a power bank, a PC, or an aeroplane seat. The battery can even be replaced during operation via a hot-swap mechanism. The Vive XR Elite costs $1,099.
3. The Lynx: Lynx R1
The Lynx R1 is technically similar to the Meta Quest Pro and, like the Quest Pro, is designed for Mixed Reality applications. The Lynx R1 will be significantly cheaper at $849. The headset currently relies on hand tracking, with dedicated VR controllers planned for the third quarter of 2023.
4. Meta: Meta Quest 3
Mark Zuckerberg talks about the “next generation of our Quest headset for consumers” and Chief Technology Officer Andrew Bosworth talks about the “successor to the Meta Quest 2.” Even though the executives do not mention the new headset by name, they probably mean the Meta Quest 3 (info) scheduled for 2023. According to Zuckerberg, the price range will be between $300 and $500.
5. Pimax: Pimax Portal, Pimax Crystal
The Pimax Portal (info) is a handheld console similar to Nintendo Switch or Valve’s Steam Deck that becomes a VR headset with an adapter. VR smartphone adapters, long believed to be dead, send their regards.
It is a standalone high-end VR headset with high-resolution QLED displays, eye and face tracking, a display port connector, a removable battery at the back of the head, and optional lens pairs. The targeted price is currently around $1,599 and is thus aimed at enthusiasts.
6. Shiftall: Meganex
After many revisions and a delay, the slim and lightweight Meganex PC VR headset will hit stores this spring. They are SteamVR compatible and support index controllers. The combination of an HDR-capable OLED microdisplay and Panasonic-brand pancake lenses results in a low weight of just under three-quarters of a pound. The earpieces can fold in, making them easier to carry.
The Meganex offers a Displayport connection to the PC for native PC VR transmission established through an included converter box. Standalone operation is not supported. It comes in two versions. The Standard Edition is aimed at enthusiasts and costs $1,699 (base stations and Index controllers not included).
7. Sony: PlayStation VR 2
The second generation of Playstation VR is technologically up to date, reduces cabling to a minimum, and comes with dedicated VR controllers. The biggest shortcomings of Sony’s first VR system have thus been eliminated. There are also new advanced features like eye tracking and head haptics. It costs $549.