As Oberlo.com notes, almost 1 in 5 (19%) of consumers in the United States made use of virtual reality in 2020. Furthermore, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, an estimated 23 million jobs will be utilizing VR and augmented reality in one way or the other by 2030 (PwC, 2019).
What is Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality (VR) refers to the usage of modern computer technology to form a simulated environment. As opposed to traditional user interfaces, VR allows the user inside the experience itself. This means that rather than watching a screen placed in front of you, you are immersed and have the ability to interact with three-dimensional (3D) worlds.
The computer – through the simulation of as many senses as possible including vision, touch, hearing, and even smell, – is converted into a gatekeeper to this man-made world. The only restriction to near-real virtual reality user experiences are the availability of cheap computing power and content.
History of Virtual Reality
There are controversies regarding the precise origins of virtual reality, partially as a result of how it has proven to be difficult to craft a definition for the phenomenon of an “unreal” existence. Noticeable components of VR emerged as far back as the 1860s. The first recognitions of the more contemporary concept of virtual reality stemmed from science fiction.
The 1990s witnessed the initial widespread commercial productions of consumer headsets. For instance, Computer Gaming World, in 1992, forecasted “affordable VR by 1994”. From 1970 to 1990, the VR industry significantly released virtual reality devices for military training, automobile industry design, flight simulation, and medical purposes.
As of 2016, statistics reported the presence of at least 230 companies producing VR-related products. Samsung, Sony, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon all had committed VR and AR groups. As reported by Grand View Research, the world’s VR market will increase to 62.1 billion dollars in the year 2027.
How does virtual reality work
Progressive developments in virtual reality technology makes it achievable to create an artificial world that is accessible to the user, to the extent that it is an overwhelming experience we can touch, hear and see. VR is achieved through a number of virtual devices, including:
- A smartphone
- A desktop computer
- A head-mounted display (HMD), such as a VR headset or VR goggles.
These devices construct the 3D environment and execute input tracking to manage user actions, like hand or head movement, as well as speech patterns.
Usually, HMDs encompass the following essential features and components:
- Display screens that show you what is going on. Lenses which adjust images to render them as stereoscopic 3D graphics. The display divides the feed to each eye, bringing depth to the images to offer the user the perception that they are viewing three-dimensional reality.
- A high frame rate with a minimum of 60 fps to make sure the environment reacts as anticipated, which puts the illusion undisrupted.
- An input tracking device which interacts with the processing unit of the system to inform it of the inclination of a user’s viewpoint. The device makes use of sensors to monitor the speed and direction of the user, hence the display reshapes the images in accordance with the user’s movement.
How Virtual Reality is being used today
It isn’t surprising that the gaming world is one of the top advocates of virtual reality. For instance, the Oculus Rift headsets has already found its way into games such as Grand Theft Auto and Skyrim, although more recent games such as Elite: Dangerous are developed with inbuilt headset support. As the hardware for high VR gaming has become vastly available, the video games industry has swiftly adapted to the progress.
In medicine, aviation, and the military, VR training has become an enticing alternative to abandon training with sensitive technology, dangerous situations, or expensive equipment. Commercial pilots are now using realistic cockpits with virtual reality technology in their holistic training sessions which feature live instruction and virtual flight. Surgical residents can also train with virtual patients and surgical tools, and practice their virtual skills in the operating theatre, and researches have already started to reveal that such kinds of training produces more efficient surgeons who make lesser mistakes. Finally, the police and army can organize virtual raids which will avoid putting our lives at risk in the future.
Types of virtual reality
There are basically 3 types of VR being used in today’s modern world, they are: fully-immersive, semi-immersive, and non-immersive simulations.
Most likely when VR is mentioned, what comes to your mind is a completely-immersive experience, featuring gloves, headphones, head-mounted displays and probably a treadmill or any form of suspension mechanism.
Fully-immersive VR is popularly used for entertainment purposes, especially for gaming in VR arcades or even in homes.
Fully-immersive simulations provide users with the highest level of realistic experience possible, even in terms of sound and sight. The VR headsets offer high-resolution content with a large area of display. Whether you’re shooting some zombies in a dark forest or flying a plane, it’ll feel like you’re actually there.
The experiences with semi-immersive VR offer users a partly virtual world to interact with. This kind of simulation is usually used for training and educational purposes. A semi-immersive experience is achievable with huge projector systems and graphical computing.
In the image above, the pilot is training with instruments that are real, however the window screens are displaying a virtual reality.
These type of simulations are usually ignored as an actual form of virtual reality, and this is frankly because they are typically common in our day-to-day lives.
For instance, the regular video game can be regarded as a non-immersive simulation experience in the technical sense. When you consider it: you’re sorted in a physical environment, but you’re interacting with a virtual world. Another example is a detailed 3D representation of a new building, built by an architect to present to clients, which can be explored by moving a mouse on a desktop computer.
What is the purpose of virtual reality?
The primary purpose of virtual reality technology is to create engaging experiences that will assist in educating and even entertaining the audience or users. Asides from its prevalent use case in the gaming industry, VR is employed in a range of industries, some of which include military, architecture, medicine, and others.
Augmented reality vs virtual reality
A lot of people are oblivious that there is in fact a difference between augmented reality and virtual reality. In the real sense, augmented reality and virtual reality are two sides of an obverse coin. We can describe AR as VR with one foot in the actual reality. While AR remodels artificial elements in the real world; VR constructs an artificial world to inhabit.
In AR, the computer utilizes algorithms and sensors to ascertain the orientation and position of a camera. Augmented reality technology then presents the 3D graphics the way they would be seen from the camera’s viewpoint, rendering the images generated by the computer over a user’s perception of the real environment.
In VR, the computer utilizes similar math and sensors. Although instead of positioning an actual camera within the physical setting, the location of the user’s eyes is within the virtual environment. Thus when the user turns their head, the graphics will react correspondingly. Instead of designing and creating artificial elements and a real environment, virtual reality applications and technology build a believable, interactive environment for the users.
Examples of virtual reality
Below are some of the best virtual reality examples that can be found on the market today:
- Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift
- HTC Vive
- Valve Index
- Samsung Gear VR/Google Daydream
- Google Cardboard
- Haptic Gloves
- Virtuix Omni Treadmills
Applications of Virtual Reality
Dangerous and difficult jobs can be cumbersome to train for. How can one successfully practice performing a brain surgery, landing a jumbo aircraft, embarking on a trip to space, or doing a parachute jump? Thanks to virtual reality applications, all these activities can be safely practiced. Flight cockpit simulators, for instance, were one of the foremost VR applications. Surgeons are also being routinely trained with VR. In a 2008 survey of 735 surgical trainees across 28 countries: 68% remarked that VR presented them an “excellent” opportunity to train efficiently and just 2% said it was inappropriate.
Industry architecture and design
Prior to the evolution of VR, architects would construct models with paper and cardboard; today they have the opportunity to develop VR computer models that clients can walk through and observe. In the same manner, it’s significantly less expensive to design airplanes, cars and other sophisticated, costly vehicles on a computer screen compared to modeling them in plastic, wood, or other physical materials.
Entertainment and games
From race-car games to flight simulators, VR has long been rooted in the gaming world. With the advancement of new and affordable peripherals such as the Oculus Rift, VR is about to revolutionize the experience of gamers and bring an end to hindrances such as absence of decent datagloves and HMDs, displays not having complete 3D, and computers being extremely slow.
Pros and cons of virtual reality
Just like every other technology, VR has its good and bad effects. To start with, critics have often identified the risk that humanity can be engrossed in alternative realities so much that they neglect their lives in the real world. And it becomes pertinent to consider the ethical and philosophical question: What is actually real? Nonetheless, the truth is VR steals away nothing from the real world: it’s a matter of choice to use it or not to.
The usefulness of VR can be seen in its increasingly potential applications in medicine, architecture, the military, science, and other fields; all of which depend on virtual reality technology in several ways. In the area of VR in medicine, there have been a number of fascinating breakthroughs, as it is being implemented to support surgeries and assist Parkinson’s patients learn how they can walk again.
Virtual reality future
After many years of derision, VR reality technology is no more a sci-fi fantasy or half-baked pipedream. As an increasing amount of business solutions are arriving on the market, it is expected that the value of virtual reality will soar continuously, allowing businesses to interact with customers in an exceptionally immersive way that locks their attention, unlike any other sales or marketing strategy. With the way things are going, we are positive of a lot of mind-blowing innovations coming into manifestation in the near future of virtual reality.
Virtual reality trends
Below are the top 8 virtual reality trends to watch out for:
- Extensive adoption of VR in other industries
- The merging of AR with artificial intelligence
- Increased application of VR in military training
- Immersive sports activities
- Widespread adoption in the entertainment sector
- New experiences in the retail and shopping world
- Better advertising opportunities
- Advancements in the virtual reality CAVE system
The global VR market size is expected to skyrocket at a compound annual growth rate. This shows how valuable and essential VR technology will be in a decade or even a couple of years from now. Now is the time to jump on the train of virtual reality and leverage on the abundant potential benefits it can offer your brand.