A Beginner’s Guide To Figuring Out Virtual Reality

A Beginner's Guide To Figuring Out Virtual Reality Empact Labs

A Beginner’s Guide To Figuring Out Virtual Reality

Can you believe the origins of VR dates back to 1962 with the creation of Sensorama, a mechanical device with multiple senses? Since then, there has been revolutionary development in the field of VR in terms of both hardware and software.

So, what is VR?

VR is an experience that simulates the immersive involvement of human body and mind in a 3D real or imagined environment. It’s now easy to feel like you’re teleporting to a completely new world. How cool is that?! Imagine that you’re in your room, sitting on a chair and then, at the very next moment, you could be in the Amazon, or in space, or a live music festival! That’s how powerful VR is!

The recent popularity of VR can be accredited to the cool virtual reality headsets – like the Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Sony Playstatioin VR – launching into the market at affordable pricing. These headsets are high functionality devices with numerous features like positional tracking, motion controllers, 360 degrees tracking systems, and built-in camera and sound. Google Daydream is another ambitious project in VR.

While studying these headsets, one question struck me – How does Virtual Reality work?

To understand the actual working of VR, it is important to understand the different techniques used to trick the human brain into believing that it’s in a 3D world. One of them being the “Stereoscopic Display”, which displays two slightly different angles of the same image or scene to each eye. This helps in simulating depth. There is another technique called “parallax” that makes farther objects move slow. Other factors that matter are shading, field of vision, degrees of freedom, refresh rate, latency, et al. To simulate the different senses with the help of movement and interaction, accelerometers, magnetometers, gyroscope, lasers and infrared sensors are used. The entire VR experience is the perfect blend of the 360-degree visual – which could be a real or an imagined world – sound, movement, and interaction of the human body with the virtual environment. Eye tracking, motion tracking and head tracking make the VR experience surreal.

Finally, I also explored the VR Landscape. It has six main components: VR Studios, VR Capture, VR Process and Engines, VR Distribution, VR Display and VR Input – Output.

VR studios like Juant, Framestore, StoryStudio, Felix and Paul, and VRSE develop and provide the content for VR experiences. VR Capture includes different devices used to capture the experience like the 360 degree cameras, Stereoscopic 3D, and Lightfield (used in HTC Vive). VR Process and Engines include the different software used to edit, stitch and compress the videos. VR Engines develop the Computer-generated Imagery (CGI) , games and imagery. VR Distribution is the companies that distribute the VR Content to the public and VR Display are the different VR headsets (either PC based, console based, or mobile based). VR Input/Output enriches the entire VR experience by allowing the user to interact with the virtual environment using hands, feet and haptic technologies.

VR can have a huge impact on wide variety of fields like video games, animation, movies, live music, healthcare, clinical therapies, engineering, fine arts, marketing, real estate, shopping, education, simulation, tourism, and exploration. Soon the world is going to be captivated by the power and magic of VR, it’s only a matter of time.

Maithili Pannase
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