1.1 Description about Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality (VR) involves development of a computer generated virtual environment intended to simulate the real world. It is an emerging computer visualization technology that allows users to experience a strong sense of reality in a computer-generated environment. Engineers have begun to realize the usefulness of VR as an innovative tool to visualize, manipulate, and interact with complex three-dimensional (3-D) graphical data that are difficult or even impossible to adequately understand in traditional two-dimensional (2-D) drawings or even 3-D solid models. This chapter highlights the recent developments and applications of VR in engineering and the sciences.
1.2 Definition of Virtual Reality (VR)
The term Virtual Reality (VR) is used by many different people with as many different meanings. There are some to whom VR is a specific collection of technologies (i.e. Head Mounted Display, Glove Input Device and Audio Device). Others stretch the term to include movies, games, entertainment and imagination. Virtual Reality is a way for humans to visualize, manipulate and interact with extremely complex data in a variety of immersive environments. A computer is used to generate visual, auditory or other sensual outputs to the user. This data may encompass a CAD model, a scientific simulation, or a view into a database. The user can interact with the virtual world and directly manipulate objects within it. Some worlds are animated by other processes such as physical simulations or simple animation scripts. Interaction in an immersive environment is perhaps the most intriguing part of virtual reality. In conventional human-computer interaction, humans remain "separated" from the computer environment. In VR, humans are totally immersed in the visualization-based world. They have the ability to manipulate and interact with the objects analyzed just as they do in the real world. Virtual Reality is often referred to by other terms, such as Augmented Reality, Synthetic Environments, Cyberspace, Artificial Reality, Simulator Technology and Immersive Environments. All of these terms actually refer to the same thing - Virtual Reality (VR). VR remains the most used term by the media.
1.3 History of VR
In order to gain an understanding of where today’s technology is in the field of high-end visualization, it is helpful to look at the history of Virtual Reality in both fiction and reality. Surprisingly, VR is closely linked to the development of calculating machines as well as the development of mechanical devices (such as automata). The concept of VR can be traced back to the automata of the ancient Greeks. Archytas of Terentim (circa 400-350 BC) was reported to have developed a pigeon whose movements he controlled remotely using a jet of steam or compressed air. In China, at about the same time, inventors had created an entire mechanical orchestra that could be controlled by operators sitting yards from the instruments. Calculating machines such as Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine were attempts to simulate reality in numeric form and then manipulate that reality to learn the results of different forces. During World War II, the first computer was developed to decipher intelligence as well as to assist in missile research. Rocket trajectory, airflow patterns, and other characteristics of rocket engines were simulated on computers before prototypes were actually developed. As with most technologies, fiction preceded fact in VR. In the 1932 novel, Brave New World, Aldous Huxley described “feelies”, movies which allowed the viewers to feel the action taking place. Isaac Asimov explored the subject of virtual environments in his Robot series. The books in that series featured positron brains that operated in virtual worlds. Arthur C. Clarke, in many of his books, talked about a “cyberspace” created by orbiting satellites. The first fictional description...