Virtual reality is all the rage right now, but what exactly is it? VR, as it’s commonly known, is the application of computer technology to make simulated surroundings. Unlike the normal video games people enjoy, VR places the player inside an experience as opposed to in front of it via a user interface. Players are immersed into a simulated world where they can interact with a 3D environment. VR stimulates all the senses as you’re immersed into an artificial existence.
Is there a difference between virtual and augmented reality?
Whilst the experiences are similar, augmented reality does not immerse a player completely into another environment. Augmented reality simulates artificial objects in your real surroundings whereas virtual reality makes an artificial environment that you inhabit.
With augmented reality, sensors are used to determine where a camera should be positioned. This then renders 3D images in front of you as they would appear to the camera. It superimposes the generated images on top of the player’s view of the real world.
VR uses the same type of sensors but instead of using a real camera in a real location, the eyes of the player are placed inside the simulated surroundings. When the player turns their head, the graphics move accordingly.
The most recognisable part of a VR set-up is the head display that covers the user’s eyes. This wearable technology is the biggest difference between VR and other gaming experiences using a traditional user interface.
VR is a lot of fun, but it can’t completely replicate the thrill of real-life situations just yet. For a real-life experience full of adrenaline, try aTank Driving day and Visit Armourgeddon.
The future of VR is exciting and still evolving, with many hardware and software options available. The main players at present include Oculus, HTC and PlayStation VR, but other companies are developing their own versions, like Apple, Lenovo, Google and Samsung.
The best VR is more than the graphics, however, as both vision and hearing are central to a person’s sense of their immediate surroundings. It is scientific fact that humans react faster to audio cues than they do to visual ones. To create the most realistic artificial environment, therefore, requires immersive and realistic environmental sounds to lend a strong sense of presence to a virtual world.
The future of VR will focus on more of the senses than just audio and visual. Research is being carried out into tactile inputs so users can feel as if they are really walking through the artificial environment rather than simply sitting in a chair.
Other technologies include haptic, touch feedback or kinaesthetic which have evolved from motors that provided rumble spinning weight motion to now including the latest in ultrasound technology. These technologies will aim to provide real-to-life sounds and feelings to combine with the visual immersion.