Virtual reality (VR) is an immersive experience achieved via a computer-generated simulation. That experience includes audio, visual, and sometimes tactile elements that together make you feel like you’re physically present in an artificial 3D environment. (Such an environment could be part of the metaverse , but that’s a topic for another day.)
The virtual simulation runs on a device — e.g., a VR headset — or combination of devices that can accurately detect the position and orientation of your head (and possibly other parts of your body). This data is used to deliver corresponding graphics, sounds, and haptics to your eyes, ears, and hands, respectively.In other words, what you see, hear, and, in some cases, feel in VR is directly related to your real-time movements.
Virtual reality takes immersion a step further, bringing you right into the action. Whether it’s movies or games, virtual worlds or meetings, VR surrounds you with highly engaging sights and sounds that can redefine what you perceive as real.How do VR headsets create immersion?
Tricking your brain into believing that you’re actually in a virtual world basically requires two things: believable stimuli from the VR headset you’re wearing and the absence of disruptive stimuli from your physical surroundings.By “believable stimuli,” we just mean that what you see, hear, and feel are at least somewhat realistic.
Haptics, which is the stimulation of the sense of touch, is one area in which VR is quickly evolving. Carefully timed tactile feedback from a handheld VR controller or haptic VR glove can make you feel like you’ve made physical contact with a virtual object.
That could heighten the immersion of, say, picking a weapon up off the ground or giving your friend’s avatar a high five. But you probably wouldn’t want to feel the prick of a needle or the burn of a flame, so tactile sensations in VR are necessarily limited.
With this introduction, we’ve stated that virtual reality is an immersive experience and given you an idea of what that experience is like. We haven’t said much about VR headsets or the VR apps and games that together produce the feeling of immersion.
You might be wondering how virtual reality varies across different devices or the kind of immersive experience a given VR headset can provide. These answers call for a basic understanding of a VR headset’s specs and features as well as the software available on it.
In the next few posts, we’ll dive into the hardware side of things and show you how a VR headset’s specifications relate to the immersive experience it offers. Stay tuned as we get you up to speed with the marvel that is virtual reality!