What is VR and how it works?

Virtual Realities

Have you ever wondered what is VR? Do you know how strong a contribution of new technologies on our lives can be? VR is a great part of our future and worth paying your attention.

What is VR?

Virtual reality (VR) is a new fast developing technology in IT area used to create a virtual environment. VR shows the user a different kind of interface, which indeed differs from the traditional one. Instead of watching on a display, users get an opportunity to be in contact with 3D worlds.

VR technology turns the computer into a gate to the artful world using simulated senses like vision, touch and so on, so the user could feel his presence in the 3D world. The only obstacles to make that world closer to the real one for users are material and technical limits.

Simulated reality requires two main parts. One of them must be a device creating the artificial world. It is possible by recording reality or by building the environment using a specific algorithm. The second part is a device with which the virtual device tracks user’s behavior. It involves dedicated rooms or head-mounted displays.

VR technology has been developing for decades. A lot of its achievements are currently applied in different areas. Recently many companies started working in this area and expanding the market with their products, developing technologies and creating new ones.

VR has a number of important measurements to provide an effective, comfortable, high-quality image and interaction. Resolution, field of view, refresh rate, persistence are the main ones. You should be attentive to them while choosing VR devices.

VR is a tool in many spheres and becomes just more popular. Virtual experience can be really wide: from looking at 360-degree pictures, videos to playing games and preparation for dangerous jobs by interacting with the 3D world.

Today VR is becoming closer to us. You don’t need to spend a lot of cash to get access to the virtual reality. There are many options for different aims and budgets, but we will talk about it later.

How does virtual reality work?

We have already found out what is VR. Now let’s try to understand how it works. VR requires several devices like headset, computer, smartphone or another machine to create a new imaginary world. Also, the user of VR needs some technology of hand or voice trailing.

Various VR devices have a display with the feed to eyes. A cable, normally HDMI, transfers an image to the screen. Another option is the technology of devices from Google and Samsung. A phone is placed into the headset and becomes a display and source of VR at the same time.

Many leading companies are constantly searching for new technologies to create an impressive interactive world. So there are some others now. For instance, lenses change original images into three-dimensional. Also, 100, sometimes 110-degree piece of sight allows to do some tricks and implements a function of ensuring that virtual world follows the user in the reality.

High frame rate appears to be a very considerable feature for approaching two worlds. It should be minimum 60 fps so that the illusion stays untouched and approaches the real world behavior. Now let’s consider VR system and its interaction with the user.

Head tracking

Head tracking system includes a headset, so that representation in front of you follows the movements of your eyes, head on any side, with any angle. 6DoF (six degrees of freedom) is a system describing user’s head with X, Y and Z axis to track all directions and movements of it.

There are other inner details for this technology, like accelerometer, gyroscope, circle of LED’s around the headset to ensure 360 degrees tracking by outside camera monitoring the signals.

Head tracking needs low latency for more effective result. It means 50 milliseconds and less, otherwise users can notice the retard between head movements and simulated world changes. Besides, headphones increase the sensation of the illusion and its appetency with reality.

Eye tracking

Eye tracking is a very important part of creating VR, too. The headset contains an infrared controller which tracks the direction of your eyes sight in the virtual world. The major benefit of this technology, except allowing to follow your eyes, is to get more realistic, impressive, deeper field.

Motion tracking

Head tracking is a very important feature, bonus of headsets. But the main players of VR market are developing new tracking technology. You probably think “More tracking? Why do we need it?” It can be clearly seen on such example: when the user, having a VR headset on, looks down, he would see his own hands in the artificial environment.

Not long ago, the VR market has got a new product – the Leap Motion accessory. This device uses an infrared sensor to observe moves of user’s hands and is a part of Oculus dev kits. Also, developers experimented with Kinect 2 cameras to track user’s behavior. However, today famous companies like Oculus, Valve and others use exciting input technologies.

Oculus Touch consists of wireless sensors which function is to make an illusion of moving your hands in the artificial environment, too. You use controllers and buttons while playing VR game. There is also an opportunity to detect some gestures using a matrix of sensors.

VR/AR/MR: what’s the difference?

Knowledge of the answer to the question “What is VR?” is not enough today. Virtual and Augmented Realities are very similar and the bound between them is very thin. AR imitates simulated environment in the real one.

Speaking of AR, algorithms and sensors are detecting the position of a camera. AR makes the 3D graphics using the view of the camera, generates a picture and combine it with a user’s perception of the reality.

In case of VR, PC also applies analogous controllers and mathematical calculations. Still, the position or direction of user’s eyes is located inside the simulated world instead of having an actual camera. So if the user turns his head, the graphics and images react suitably. VR technology makes a conclusive, powerful world for the user instead of combining illusive objects and a real environment.

How can we explain it in another way? We can make an interesting comparison: let’s take for example scuba diving and being in the aquarium. Compare these two options. If you use VR, you are able to swim among fish and feel cold water, see the sea world. And if it’s AR, you can only look at a fish popping out of the pocket, hand, bag.

Feel it? Unlike VR, AR gives the user possibilities to feel more freedom in action, and more aspects for vendors as it doesn’t require a head-mounted screen. What is interesting, besides the question “what is VR?” there is a serious converse about comparing augmented reality with the mixed.

The expression “mixed reality” sometimes disappear for users mostly in favor of “augmented reality”. This aspect appears due to the fact that the difference between them hasn’t been certainly outlined yet. These terms are usually used alternately.

AR is a combination of content on the reality, but it is not held on or a piece of it. Meanwhile, MR is a mix, combination of artificial matter of the reality and is anchored to and a part of it.

Major players of VR market

Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift introduces telepresence to the VR headset. Now it is a small, well-crafted device, requiring connection to the computer. Oculus Rift is a result of the project, neglected on Kickstarter. The user can either sit or stand while you playing a game, for example, but can’t walk around.

Microsoft HoloLens 

In contrast to the Oculus Rift, Microsoft’s pretentious developer teams use holographic technology for their VR devices. This is being considered to AR (or Microsoft used to call it “mixed reality”) more than to VR. It gives the user an opportunity to interact with holograms around him.

Sony’s Project Morpheus

Sony came into the field of VR with Project Morpheus, which tries to improve what Oculus created, but also with working on widely popular PlayStation game systems.

The Vive by Valve

Valve is famous for developing Steam platform for gamers. It was a very successful project and led them to VR market. The Vive, created by HTC, is the first of headsets on platform SteamVR.

Samsung GearVR

The Gear VR uses Oculus head-tracking technology in combination with Android smartphones like the Galaxy Note 4 to power mobile VR experiences. Samsung uses technology which makes device simpler and cheaper because lenses transform the phone’s screen into a stereoscopic screen.

Google Cardboard

And how can we miss Google? Their VR project called Google Cardboard is a new simple option in the sphere of mobile VR. It’s a device for Android smartphones that can cost less than twenty dollars. Some games and applications are accessible for users with Cardboard on the Google Play store.

VR usage areas

VR is becoming an important tool in many different areas. People use technologies to make their life easier, so VR isn’t far from it. The question “What is VR?” is becoming popular, it’s just more and more interesting to people. Now it is not just an expensive toy, but a very powerful and perspective achievement.

  • Education: training for different jobs and skills.
  • Science: visualization of research.
  • Medicine: monitoring, operating patients remotely.
  • Industrial design and architecture: you can walk through the building that is just at the stage of design.
  • Games and entertainment: playing games with VR changes the whole process and lets the user feel himself a character of that story.

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Virtual Realities