Virtual reality (VR), sometimes referred to as immersive multimedia, is a computer-simulatedenvironment that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world or imagined worlds. Virtual reality could recreate sensory experiences, including virtual taste, sight, smell, sound, touch, etc.
Most current virtual reality environments are primarily visual experiences, displayed either on a computer screen or through special stereoscopic displays, but some simulations include additional sensory information, such as sound through speakers or headphones. Some advanced, hapticsystems now include tactile information, generally known as force feedback in medical, gaming and military applications. Furthermore, virtual reality covers remote communication environments which provide virtual presence of users with the concepts of telepresence and telexistence or a virtual artifact (VA) either through the use of standard input devices such as a keyboard and mouse, or through multimodal devices such as a wired glove, the Polhemus, and omnidirectional treadmills. The simulated environment can be similar to the real world in order to create a lifelike experience—for example, in simulations for pilot or combat training—or it can differ significantly from reality, such as in VR games. In practice, it is currently very difficult to create a high-fidelity virtual reality experience, because of technical limitations on processing power, image resolution, and communication bandwidth. However, the technology’s proponents hope that such limitations will be overcome as processor, imaging, and data communication technologies become more powerful and cost-effective over time.
Virtual reality is often used to describe a wide variety of applications commonly associated with immersive, highly visual, 3D environments. The development of CAD software, graphics hardwareacceleration, head-mounted displays, datagloves, and miniaturization have helped popularize the notion. In the book The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality by Michael R. Heim, seven different concepts of virtual reality are identified: simulation, interaction, artificiality, immersion, telepresence, full-body immersion, and network communication. People often identify VR with head mounted displays and data suits.
The Rift is an upcoming virtual reality head-mounted display, being developed by Oculus VR. During its period as an independent company, Oculus VR had raised US$91 million for the development of the Rift. The consumer version of the product is expected to become available in 2015.
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How can virtual reality be applied in everyday life
In architecture & construction people can truly benefit from virtual reality in the area’s of visualisation, presentation and virtual design.
Since the early days, when virtual reality was first introduced, architecure has always been one of the first areas to benefit from it and use virtual reality commercially.
Architects, in their workflow, are used to create 3D buildings using CAD software and render those to 2D stills or animated fly-throughs movie clips that are used to present their projects to their customers. Through VR, architects can now visualize and present their building projects to their customers in real interactive 3D where they can enter their constructions in the virtual world and move around.
Using a 3D engine like Unity 3D, it is possible to construct interactive virtual outdoor or indoor environments that, through their almost photo-realistic quality, will imerse the virtual visitors into these virtual constructed worlds and give them the feeling that they are really there.
Scene and render by jinkazamah
By implemening interactive functionality the experience of the visitor of the virtual environment could be enchanced to, for example :
Because of the realistic nature of a virtual reality experience, it is also a great tool for virtual design or prototyping.
In the areas of interior decoration, the application of virtual reality can be very useful because when you are ‘in there’ , the dimensions of objects, rooms, walls etc are exactly as they would be in reality. If you are able to place furniture and interior decoration elements into your virtual rooms and change them during the virtual design process one can imagine that this could really contribute to the designing process.
When creating construction prototypes or doing evironmental planning, it will be very useful to walk around and manipulate elements in virtual space before it is realized in real time.
Scene and render by jinkazamah
Education is an area in which virtual reality can be used for teaching and learning situations.
People learn and consolidate new knowledge better when their attention is focused and their lessons are experienced as being fun and interesting. It is therfore expected that by entering a virtual world where learning information is all around and presented as an alternate reality, a student will be more focused and will enjoy the virtual lessons playfully, hence learn better.
Imagine the difference between learning about prehistorical dinosaurs from a book and a television program, or to be able to enter a virtual jurassic park where you will walk among the dinosaurs and experience them in their full size.
In addition the fact that certain learning data can be better presented as 3D objects in a virtual environment than using the regular 2D study materials. You could for example think of situations where handling and studying certain objects would be too dangerous in real life but not in a virtual world, like for example wachting a vulcanic erruption from close by.In multiplayer VR experiences where users enter the virtual world using an avatar (virtual generated character), they would be able to study, work and learn together. It would even be possible to create an online virtual learning environment, where teacher and students could all collaborate virtually and independent of their real life location.
So by using VR in education we can, for example :
Scene and render by Daniel Voyager
In the area of entertainment virtual reality will be powering games and providing people with all kinds of wonderous experiences. In virtual reality all kinds of fantasic worlds can be created and experienced that could never exist in real life.
People will probably have to get used to the VR environment when playing games because moving around in virtual reality, especially accelerating en de-accelerating can cause VR (motion) sickness. Brains of gamers will have to get used to VR and games will have to take that fact into account. Better VR hardware with lower latency and better resolution and framerate will lower the chance of this ill feeling and will give a better VR Game experience.
In addition to 3D games that will be made ready for virtual reality we also expect that new experiences will become available. A new way of experiencing VR will come to use through virtual rides. A virtual ride is a ‘Sit back and Relax’ kind of experience where the visitor is moved forth in the virtual experience and has minimal interaction but can look around freely. One could position a virtual ride somewhere between a game and a movie.
In regard to movies, there are some that are filming movies with a multiple camera setup or using a 360 degree cam so one could watch that movie using a VR head mounted display and look around while the movie is playing.
In the area of health and psychology virtual reality can be used to help physicians and patients.
In the area of psychology virtual reality can be used to perform exposure therapy to help people cope with phobic anxiety. Virtual exposure therapy is often implemented using a phased ‘systematic desensitation’ implementation that regulates phobic exposure. Scientific research indicates that exposure therapy in a virtual environment can have very good results, especially if the experience is believable and the patient is truly emersed in the virtual world. As the graphical quality of VR gets better and better each year one can expect that the effectivity of virtual exposure therapy will grow as well.
In addition to phobic exposure therapy, VR is also used to help PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) patients copy with their problems by letting them relive their traumatic experiences in a protected and controlled virtual environment.
Other medical applications for virtual reality could be remote surgery, the visualization of medical data and training and simulation of medical procedures.