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Virtual Reality

This is the definitive guide to virtual reality. It contains a wealth of information about virtual reality which is designed for the newcomer and experienced technologist alike. It discusses all aspects of virtual reality which includes concepts of virtual reality, technologies used, applications and ethical issues.

This is a complex and at times, esoteric subject which continues to fascinate a great many people. Yet there is a certain amount of cynicism towards virtual reality or ‘VR’ for short which in the early days, promised so much but did not always deliver.

We have also included a section about augmented reality: this is a similar form of technology in which the lines are blurred between the real world and computer generated imagery, e.g. video. Sound, video or images are overlaid onto a real world environment in order to enhance the user experience.

In-depth look at the world of virtual reality

But what is virtual reality and how does it work? The answer to that and any other question you may have about this technology can be found on this site.

This site features the following in-depth guides:

Each of these topics contains a series of articles which discuss a variety of issues related to that topic. For example, the Virtual Reality and Healthcare topic contains information about surgery simulation, virtual reality in dentistry and virtual reality in phobia treatment.

Virtual reality is considered to have wide ranging benefits for the healthcare sector but, it can be used in other sectors as well which include:

  • Education
  • Gaming
  • Architecture
  • The military

In many ways, this technology has far more possibilities than originally thought. But it is important not to confuse fact with fiction.

Whilst virtual reality may appear a futuristic concept which dwells in the realm of science fiction it is, nevertheless, a very real form of technology. And this real form of technology has the potential to deliver real-world benefits to a great many people.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is a form of technology which creates computer generated worlds or immersive environments which people can explore and in many cases, interact with.

Virtual reality has its advocates and opponents which are mainly due to a lack of understanding about this technology and its capabilities. Unrealistic expectations coupled with lack of awareness regarding technical limitations means that for many people, virtual reality is difficult to grasp or even take seriously.

This topic aims to educate and inform anyone interested in virtual reality. This includes the casual observer through to the teenager fixated on virtual reality gaming through to the healthcare professional or engineer.

We have also included a section about the human factors issues of virtual reality for those of you who work in usability, user experience (UX) or any other user-centred discipline.

A step by step approach to virtual reality

This topic is organised into the following sections:

Are you new to virtual reality?

If you are a newcomer to virtual reality then a good way to start is to find out more about what virtual reality is, the concepts and where the term ‘virtual reality’ originated from. This is, in effect, a complete overview of virtual reality which will provide you with an insight into the main concepts as well as the essential facts and figures.

Educational guide to virtual reality

For example, the originator of the term ‘virtual reality’ was a pioneering computer scientist called Jaron Lanier who devised this term in 1987.

However, some would argue that virtual reality – as a concept - has been around for much longer than that. In fact, it can be traced back to the early 1960’s with the development of the first head mounted display (HMD) entitled ‘Headsight’ by the Philco corporation.

The background to virtual reality is discussed at greater length in the when virtual reality was invented section.

Pros and cons of virtual reality

This is then followed by a series of articles about the various applications of this technology and the equipment used, for example, VR glasses (or goggles as they are sometimes called). This is where you can find out more about the two types of virtual environments:

Both of these result in very different types of experiences.

A virtual environment needs to place the user at its centre and ensure that he or she has a productive experience which they are likely to repeat. But a common problem with virtual reality systems is motion sickness which is caused by poor ergonomics and a lack of awareness of the physical needs of the user. This, as one of the disadvantages of virtual reality, is something which needs to be addressed.