Glimpse to Virtual Reality

VR – What in general terms?

Virtual Reality also called as immersive multimedia or computer simulated reality. The definition comes naturally from the Virtual reality name itself: ‘Virtual’ and ‘Reality’. Virtual defines near feeling and reality defines the experience felt as human beings. So the holistic definition says Virtual reality means the ‘near reality’. This might be too generic but it refers specifically as a type of reality emulation.

As a human being, we get to feel the world through our sense organs and perception systems and the most prominent sense organs we know since our childhood are the obvious five senses: TasteTouchSmellSightandHearing. Apart from these senses, humans possess many other sense like the Sense of balance, etc. All these sensory systems provide inputs to brain and along with that they also provide the spatial information to ensure that there is rich flow of information from the environment to our brains. And when comes to reality, everything that we know about our surroundings comes from the sensory system.

When we summarize, “the entire experience of reality is nothing but a meaningful combination of the Sensory information and the Sense making capability of the brain”.

Consider when we are able to present your senses with a made up information, the perception of reality would also change accordingly. And consider that we are presented with a vision of reality which is actually not there in the real world, from the perspective of the human who is experiencing, it would be real and this is nothing but VIRTUAL REALITY (VR).

When we summarize, “the entire experience of virtual reality is nothing but experiencing the computer generated virtual environment with our natural senses and exploring the unreal world in some customized fashion”.

VR – What in technical terms?

Its straight forward, athree dimensional, Computer generated environment which can be explored by humans in their own meaningful fashion. This 3D Virtual reality takes the person to a different world and lets him a part of that by immersing him into that environment, it also lets him manipulate the objects around also called as TELEPRESENCE.

“The extent to which one feels present in the mediated environment, rather than in the immediate physical environment” –Jonathan Steuer.

An effective VR experience causes you to become unaware of your real surroundings and focus on your existence inside the virtual environment. There are to main component’s in VR: Depth of information and Breadth of information. Depth refers to the amount and quality of data as in signals absorbed by the user when interacting in a virtual environment for example, display resolution, complex graphics, sophisticated audio output, etcetera. Breadth refers to the simultaneous presentation of the sensory dimensions and how many dimensions are presented.

In order to stimulate all the senses, the VR environment has to have a wide breadth of information. Most of the existing Virtual environment experiences concentrate on Visual (Sight) and audio (hearing) components over other sensory simulating factors. But as the growing number of scientists and engineers are looking into ways to incorporate users sense of touch, also called as HAPIC SYSTEMS.

VR – When did it all start?

1838 it was, if we focus more strictly on the scope of virtual reality as a means of creating the illusion that we are present somewhere we are not, then the earliest attempt at virtual reality is surely the 360-degree murals (or panoramic paintings) from the nineteenth century. These paintings were intended to fill the viewer’s entire field of vision, making them feel present at some historical event or scene.

  • 1838 – The stereoscope (Charles Wheatstone)
  • 1849 – The lenticular stereoscope (David Brewster)
  • 1939 – The View-Master (William Gruber)
  • 1929 – Link Trainer, The first flight simulator
  • 1930’s – Science fiction story predicted VR – Pygmalion Spectacles (Stanley G. Weinbaum)
  • 1950’s – Sensorama (Morton Heilig)
  • 1960 – The first VR head mounted Display(HMD) – Telesphere Mask (Morton Heilig)
  • 1961 – Headsight – First motion tracking HMD(Comeau and Bryan)
  • 1965 – The ultimate display (Ivan Sutherland)
  • 1968 – Sword of Damocles (Ivan Sutherland and Bob Sproull)
  • 1969 – Artificial reality (Myron Kruegere)
  • 1987 – Virtual Reality the name was born!!(Jaron Lanier, founder of the visual programming lab (VPL) coined the name.)
  • 1991 – Virtuality group arcade machines
  • 1992 – The Lawnmower Man
  • 1993 – SEGA announces new VR Glasses
  • 1995 – Nintendo Virtual Boy
  • 1999 – The Matrix
The ultimate display would, of course, be a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter. A chair displayed in such a room would be good enough to sit in. Handcuffs displayed in such a room would be confining, and a bullet displayed in such a room would be fatal. With appropriate programming such a display could literally be the Wonderland into which Alice walked.”Ivan Sutherland
The first fifteen years of the 21st century has been very crucial in the survival and existence of VR. Rapid advancement of VR, computer technology, especially small and powerful mobile technologies have exploded cost wise as well as in the technology wise. The rise of smartphones with high-density displays and 3D graphics capabilities has enabled a generation of lightweight and practical virtual reality devices. The video game industry has continued to drive the development of consumer virtual reality unabated. Depth sensing cameras sensor suites, motion controllers and natural human interfaces are already a part of daily human computing tasks.

Recently companies like Google have released interim virtual reality products such as the Google Cardboard, a DIY headset that uses a smartphone to drive it. Companies like Samsung have taken this concept further with products such as the Galaxy Gear, which is mass produced and contains “smart” features such as gesture control.

Developer versions of final consumer products have also been available for a few years, so there has been a steady stream of software projects creating content for the immanent market entrance of modern virtual reality. It seems clear that 2016 will be a key year in the virtual reality industry. Multiple consumer devices that seem to finally answer the unfulfilled promises made by virtual reality in the 1990s will come to market at that time. These include the pioneering Oculus Rift, which was purchased by social media giant Facebook in 2014 for the staggering sum of $2BN. An incredible vote of confidence in where the industry is set to go. When the Oculus Rift releases in 2016 it will be competing with products from Valve corporation and HTC, Microsoft as well as Sony Computer Entertainment. These heavyweights are sure to be followed by many other enterprises, should the market take off as expected.

  • 2016 – we are now, Looking for a Next Big thing in Immersive experiences

VR – How to achieve?

Although we talk about a few historical early forms of virtual reality, today virtual reality is usually implemented using computer technology. There are a range of systems that are used for this purpose, such as headsets, Omni-directional treadmills, special gloves, etcetera. These are used to actually stimulate our senses together in order to create the illusion of reality.

This is more difficult (getting better) than it sounds, since our senses and brains are evolved to provide us with a finely synchronized and mediated experience. If anything is even a little off, we can usually tell. This is where you’ll hear terms such as IMMERSIVENESS and REALISMenter the conversation. These issues that divide convincing or enjoyable virtual reality experiences from jarring or unpleasant ones are partly technical and partly conceptual. Virtual reality technology needs to take our physiology into account. For example, the human visual field does not look like a video frame. We have (more or less) 180 degrees of vision and although you are not always consciously aware of your peripheral vision, if it were gone you’d notice. Similarly, when what your eyes and the vestibular system in your ears tell you are in conflict it can cause motion sickness. Which is what happens to some people on boats or when they read while in a car.

If an implementation of virtual reality manages to get the combination of hardware, software and sensory synchronicity just right it achieves something known as a sense of presence. Where the subject really feels like they are present in that environment.

VR – Why have it?

This may seem like a lot of effort, and it is! What makes the development of virtual reality worthwhile? The potential entertainment value is clear. Immersive films and video games are good examples. The entertainment industry is after all a multi-billion dollars one and consumers are always keen on novelty. Virtual reality has many other, more serious, applications as well. There are a wide variety of applications for virtual reality which include:


Architecture Medicine Fine arts Entertainment
Heritage and Archaeology Therapy Urban Design Gaming
Concerts Retail Film Media
Theme Park Motion Pictures Training Fiction Movies

Virtual reality can lead to new and exciting discoveries in these areas which impact upon our day to day lives.

Wherever it is too dangerous, expensive or impractical to do something in reality, virtual reality is the answer. From trainee fighter pilots to medical applications trainee surgeons, virtual reality allows us to take virtual risks in order to gain real world experience. As the cost of virtual reality goes down and it becomes more mainstream you can expect more serious uses, such as education or productivity applications, to come to the fore. Virtual reality and its cousin augmented reality could substantively change the way we interface with our digital technologies. Continuing the trend of humanizing our technology.

VR – What features it has got?

There are many different types of virtual reality systems but they all share the same characteristics such as the ability to allow the person to view three-dimensional images. These images appear life-sized to the person.

Plus, they change as the person moves around their environment which corresponds with the change in their field of vision. The aim is for a seamless join between the person’s head and eye movements and the appropriate response, e.g. change in perception. This ensures that the virtual environment is both realistic and enjoyable.

A virtual environment should provide the appropriate responses – in real time- as the person explores their surroundings. The problems arise when there is a delay between the person’s actions and system response or latency which then disrupts their experience. The person becomes aware that they are in an artificial environment and adjusts their behavior accordingly which results in a stilted, mechanical form of interaction.

The aim is for a natural, free-flowing form of interaction which will result in a memorable experience.

VR – What happens if you use?


During the course of VR evolution there are certain health and considerations that were raised. For example, a number of unwanted symptoms have been caused by prolonged use of virtual reality and these may have slowed proliferation of the technology and now most VR systems come with consumer warnings.

There are a few ethical issues in regard which need to be addressed. These are related to human behavior and motivations and are also concern of gaming industry. Problems like desensitization and virtual criminality.

Desensitization to virtual reality games in which there are high levels of violence or training exercises for the military in which solders engage in simulated combat scenarios which include killing. For most reasons these simulations make the person no longer get affected by extreme acts of behavior such as violence and fails to show empathy or compassion. Which in turn blurs the boundary between real and virtual life.

Virtual Criminality, it is hard to imagine but what happens if someone commits a criminal act but within a virtual environment? A potential situation is one in which several people are immersed within a virtual environment but one of these participants becomes injured or traumatized due to the actions of another person in that situation. The question is whether it is possible for someone to suffer an injury or mental distress as a result of a violent action carried out in a virtual environment. And if this does happen is the perpetrator punished in a similar way to someone who commits this action in the real world? What may be argued is whether a virtual reality participant can experience pain, distress or other emotions associated with a criminal act? This is an ongoing issue.


Using 3D and virtual reality environments as part of training methodology allows students / workforce to experience an entirely new side of training. This type of technology breathes life back into traditional computer based learning and re-awakens the enthusiasm in users who are used to this technology in other circles outside of training. From both a trainer and trainee point of view, Skills2Learns virtual reality technology can bring the following benefits to you.

TRAINING – In some sectors, VR is used to train employees, especially in dangerous environments. For example, pilots use simulators in case they make a mistake, and aspiring doctors take advantage of virtual reality to avoid medical accidents. These practices will only expand to other sectors in the future.

CONFERENCING – Think Skype for Business on steroids. VR has the potential to bring digital workers together in digital meetings and conferences. Rather than merely seeing the other person on a screen, you’ll be able to feel as if you are in the same room with them, despite being miles away.

CONVENIENCE – VR can save organizations time and money, and make work more convenient. Workers won’t have to travel in order to make decisions and complete projects. For example, architects from across the globe can use virtual reality to evaluate designs.

REAL LIFE SITUATIONS – VR is used to create interactive scenarios which reflect real-life situations. Virtual reality e-learning can be used to simulate the way equipment responds. Emulate the way machinery works or to replicate soft skills such as human actions and behavior.

VR – Lets Summarize?

Virtual reality is the creation of a virtual environment presented to our senses in such a way that we experience it as if we were really there. It uses a host of technologies to achieve this goal and is a technically complex feat that has to account for our perception and cognition. It has both entertainment and serious uses. The technology is becoming cheaper and more widespread. We can expect to see many more innovative uses for the technology in the future and perhaps a fundamental way in which we communicate and work thanks to the possibilities of virtual reality.

Anything is possible in VR. Just let your imagination go wild!