VR = Virtual Reality

The term Virtual Reality is used to describe a 3-dimensional, computer generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person. That person is immersed within the virtual world and is able to manipulate the computer generated environment, e.g. lift up a virtual coffe cup. With computer screens, tablets and smartphones we have a window through which we can look inside the amazing landscapes of virtual worlds.

For long expensive VR technology like complex Head Mounted Displays (HMD) was needed to let people actually step inside the virtual world and experience it first-hand. Now advanced and cheaper solutions like Oculus Rift or the Google Cardboard allow everyone to get the real virtual reality feeling. Most current virtual reality worlds are primary focused on the visual experience, but some simulations include additional sensory information like for example sounds through speakers or headphones, or even tactile information.

How does this technology work?

A person can enter a computer generated virtual 3D world by wearing a Head Mounted Display. The user's head movements are detected via sensors in his HMD and the view is changed accordingly. This way the user can follow his instincts while exploring a new virtual world or new parts of an environment. He can naturally look and move around freely, while studying a virtual world or single objects from different sides and angles.

VR through the ages

Virtual Reality has been around for a few decades; In 1968 Ivan Sutherland and his student Bob Sproull created what is widely considerer to be the first VR and AR Head Mounted Display system. The HMD was so heavy that it had to be mounted on the ceiling, besides the graphics comprising the virtual environment were simple wire-frame model rooms, therefore it lacked realism.

The term "Virtual Reality" was popularized in the 1980s by Jaron Lanier and some VR hardware entered the world market in the 1990s. This hardware was generally expensive and unwieldy, besides the screen resolution and rendering was not sufficient to provide a convincing virtual experience which resulted in the technology not taking off.

Only during the last few years VR started to become a "big thing". With new technology - e.g. Oculus Rift - providing an impressive and immersive user experience the great possibilities of virtual reality are finally explored.