An Introduction to Virtual Reality
Virtual reality has a long history, but in the context of 2016, the term generally describes a class of highly immersive experiences that make the user feel as though they are inside the action rather than simply viewing it through the window of a TV screen or computer monitor. This level of immersion is achieved by engaging your most prominent senses (sight and vision) in the same way that the real world does.
The foundation of the virtual reality experience is the VR headset, which includes a display that wraps a view of the virtual world nearly to the edges of your vision, and a tracking system which carefully tracks the movement of your head so that the computer knows which direction you are looking inside the virtual world. Done correctly, this means that when you turn your head to the left, your view of the virtual world will rotate around you to show you what’s on your left, just like what happens when you turn your head in real life.
Beyond vision, sound is also a hugely important part of creating a convincing virtual reality experience. All sounds in the real world originate from some specific point in space. The human auditory system is surprisingly adept at identifying the origin of a sound, and this input helps us map the world around us. For convincing virtual reality, virtual sounds also need to originate from specific points in the virtual world and need to provide the same cues to our ears so that we can identify their source. This way, the crackling virtual fireplace to your right sounds like it’s on your right. And with proper tracking, that virtual fireplace should sound like it’s in front of you when you turn your head to face it.
Modern VR headsets effectively use your senses of sight and sound to create impressively immersive virtual reality experiences which make you feel like you are transported inside the action. But once you’re inside, how do you interact with the virtual world? That’s where VR input comes into play.
Like a mouse is used for interacting with your computer—VR input is the system used to control your actions inside the virtual world. Different VR systems use different methods of input, but as a rule-of-thumb, the more ‘natural’ the method, the more immersive the VR experience.
Natural VR input tracks the motion of your hands through space, allowing you to feel like you are reaching out into the virtual world to grab virtual objects very much like how you’d do so in the real world. Less natural input (like a mouse or a controller) is a much more abstract approximation of how humans interact with objects in the real world, and thus not as immersive. Oculus has released a video which shows a side by side view of the real world and the virtual world and what it’s like to interact in virtual reality using natural VR input.
– Learn more about VR at http://www.roadtovr.com/
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