Virtual Reality (VR) is a simulated 3D environment that allows users to interact and explore a virtual surrounding that’s similar to or completely different from the real world. Virtual reality is mainly used nowadays in entertainment, video games, virtual meetings, and education—such as medical or military training. Other types of VR-related technology include augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality, also known as extended reality or XR.
Today, standard virtual reality systems are used in virtual reality headsets or multi-projected environments to generate realistic sounds, images, and other sensations that simulate a user’s physical presence in a certain virtual environment. Users can interact and explore an artificial world, move, and use virtual objects or items.
This environment is created using computer hardware and software and is best experienced with VR headsets consisting of a head-mounted display (HMD) with high-resolution OLED or LCD screens in front of the eyes.
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Three Main Types of Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality as an industry has come a long way in providing realistic sensory engagement to its users. VR systems can vary depending on their purpose and the technology that’s used to create them. Although there are various VR technologies that are being developed today, they usually fall between these three main categories:
A non-immersive virtual reality refers to a 3D simulated environment that’s accessed through a computer display. Depending on the software or program, it can generate sound and its user can have partial control over the environment using a mouse, keyboard, or a similar device.
However, the virtual environment doesn’t directly interact with the user. Some examples of non-immersive VR are video games or a webpage that allows you to customize home designs.
Semi-immersive VR provides a partial virtual experience to its user. It can be accessed through a computer screen, head-mounted display (HMD), or specialized glasses. It’s more focused on providing a visual 3D perspective of virtual reality and incorporates little physical movement, compared to a full-immersive VR.
A common application of semi-immersive VR is flight simulators—these are used by commercial airline companies and the military to train their pilots.
The last and greatest level of virtual reality is fully immersive. It’s capable of completely immersing its user in a simulated 3D environment. It applies the most basic types of senses, such as sight, sound, and touch. In some experiments, the smell is also being tested on VR systems.
In this type of VR, users need to wear specialized equipment, like gloves, goggles, and helmets to fully interact with the virtual world. Stationary bicycles and treadmills can also be applied to simulate walking or cycling in the virtual environment. This type of virtual reality is being used in the healthcare and entertainment industry.