How is Virtual Reality Possible?

Virtual reality is possible thanks to developments in interactive technologies by people such as Jaron Lanier,Douglas Engelbart, Ivan Sutherland and Morton Heilig

These people were pushing the boundaries of technological research and experimented with new forms of input devices, user interfaces, multimedia and 360 degrees user experience.

Technological advances

Plus advances in film, television and the media also contributed to these developments. This has continued to this day with the creation of virtual reality gaming for example the Nintendo Wii which uses a handheld controller as a tracking device. The gamer uses this to interact with objects on the screen in front of them and as a result, changes the interaction.

This combined with advancements in graphics and video technology and the emergence of virtual worlds such as ‘Second Life’ mean that we can fully engage with these environments in ways which we had never previously considered.

Find out more in the virtual reality games section.

Virtual reality is currently being used to create virtual environments such as those seen in military applications. They use these for training purposes for example, flight simulators as well as battle scenarios, e.g. searching for unexploded bombs.

These and other applications are discussed in more detail in the virtual reality and the military section.

Advances in computing

It is a combination of several things such as an increase in processing speed, bigger and better graphics cards, advances in interactive technologies, increased interest in virtual worlds and not forgetting, web 2.0 in which the dominant theme is interactivity.

Web 2.0

The internet plays an important part in all of this. There has been a shift from the idea of the web as a passive experience to web 2.0 in which we as users play a far greater role. Users generate content which is shared with millions of others as can be seen in the rise of social media, e.g. Facebook and Twitter.

All of these put users firmly in the driving seat. We control the means of interaction and help to create new and exciting forms of interaction which will drive future developments in virtual reality.