The definition of virtual reality comes, naturally, from the definitions for both ‘virtual’ and ‘reality’. The definition of ‘virtual’ is near and reality is what we experience as human beings. So the term ‘virtual reality’ basically means ‘near-reality’. This could, of course, mean anything but it usually refers to a specific type of reality emulation.
So what is virtual reality?
Answering "what is virtual reality" in technical terms is straight-forward. Virtual reality is the term used to describe a three-dimensional, computer generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person. That person becomes part of this virtual world or is immersed within this environment and whilst there, is able to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions.
The person wears a head-mounted display (HMD) or glasses which displays three-dimensional images as part of their experience. Some systems enable the person to experience additional sensory input, e.g. sound or video which contributes to their overall experience.
They are aided by various sensory stimuli such as sound, video and images which form part of most virtual reality environments. But many newer environments include touch or force feedback through a haptic device such as a ‘data glove’ which further enhances the experience.
Many people who work with virtual reality prefer to use the term ‘virtual environments’ instead. This is a response to a perceived negativity to this technology which has often turned out to be true. There are people who view virtual reality with little enthusiasm and dismiss it as ‘science fiction’, seeing it as having no practical application in the real world.
Variety of uses
But there are in fact, a wide variety of applications for virtual reality which include: * Architecture
* The Arts
Virtual reality can lead to new and exciting discoveries in these areas which impact upon our day to day lives. One example of this is the use of virtual reality in medicine, such as surgical simulations, which helps with training the next generation of surgeons.
Features of virtual reality systems
There are many different types of virtual reality systems but they all share the same characteristics such as the ability to allow the person to view three-dimensional images. These images appear life-sized to the person.
Plus they change as the person moves around their environment which corresponds with the change in their field of vision. The aim is for a seamless join between the person’s head and eye movements and the appropriate response, e.g. change in perception. This ensures that the virtual environment is both realistic and enjoyable.
A virtual environment should provide the appropriate responses – in real time- as the person explores their surroundings. The problems arise when there is a delay between the person’s actions and system response or latency which then disrupts their experience. The person becomes aware that they are in an artificial environment and adjusts their behaviour accordingly which results in a stilted, mechanical form of interaction.
The aim is for a natural, free-flowing form of interaction which will result in a memorable experience.
What is virtual tour ?
You probably know what is 3D Panoramic photo. Now imagine that you have several panos from one area (for example restaurant or hotel). And if you connect these 3D panos with each other, you will get virtual tour.
Virtual tourism, the activity of "visiting" sites of interest over the Internet without having to physically travel to them, can take on many forms. An early form of virtual tourism presents the user with a slideshow or video which explores a limited area, for example, a museum. Some museums offer a 3D graphical interface that allows one to explore the attraction site...
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