There are three types of virtual reality systems: desktop computer systems (non-immersive), semi-immersive and total immersion as seen in CAVE virtual reality systems. This article discusses semi-immersive virtual reality.
The state of partial immersion
What do we mean by ‘immersion?’
Immersion is a term used to describe the sensation of being inside a particular environment or world, for example, a three dimensional world. The aim is for complete interaction in this world which allows the person to explore and use their imagination.
The aim is for the person to become unaware of their surroundings to the extent that they assume a new identity or interact in new and exciting ways. Interaction is a key feature of a virtual environment.
Example: flight simulator
One example of semi-immersive virtual reality is a flight simulator. This often consists of a large, concave screen, projection system and monitor and is similar to the large screen experiences seen at IMAX cinemas. They also involve high end computer graphics.
The viewer becomes partly but not fully immersed in this environment.
A flight simulator set up would consist of a physical display (i.e. the cockpit), and chair but with three dimensional images. The viewer does not need to wear virtual reality gear such as a data glove or head mounted display (HMD) and is still aware of the real world outside of the virtual environment.
Semi-immersive virtual reality is a relatively new development in the world of VR technology. It has a few advantages over fully immersive systems such as a CAVE system which includes cost, ease of use and logistics. But it has its disadvantages as well which include limited range of interaction devices and problems with multi-user applications.