Virtual reality (VR) immerses users in a computer-generated simulation. It involves a headset that shields your eyes from the light and objects in your environment while displaying a 3D world, plus hardware that senses movement and translates it to your virtual experience. The latest VR systems also include haptic devices, which add the sensation of touch to a virtual world.
It can be a fun way to explore imaginary places like space or the jungle, but it also has important professional applications. For example, architects and engineers can build and test their designs virtually to see how they will stand up to wind or the rigours of life before constructing a real bridge or skyscraper.
This technology can also be used to provide safe training for professionals who must enter dangerous or life-threatening situations, such as firefighting, pilots and astronauts. Immersive simulations can narrow timeframes for training, reduce costs and improve outcomes.
Virtual Reality: Transforming the Way We Experience the World
There are many types of VR, from non-immersive to full immersion. A typical VR experience is accessed through a screen or headset and can generate sound. It might use a virtual keyboard or mouse to control the environment and can be augmented by other technologies, such as a computer that displays images over furniture in your home or a smartphone app that allows you to try on wedding dresses without leaving your living room.
When the hardware, software and sensory synchronisation are perfectly in place, it can achieve something called “a feeling of presence” where a person truly feels they’re present in an immersive environment. However, problems with lag or latency between the user’s actions and the system response can cause motion sickness, disorientation or other discomfort.