Virtual reality (VR) is a simulated experience that can be similar to or completely different from the real world. Applications of virtual reality can include entertainment (i.e. video games) and educational purposes (i.e. medical or military training). Other, distinct types of VR style technology include augmented reality and mixed reality, sometimes referred to as extended reality or XR.
One may distinguish between two types of VR; immersive VR and text-based networked VR (also known as "Cyberspace"). The immersive VR changes your view, when you move your head. While both VRs are appropriate for training, Cyberspace is preferred for distance learning. In some cases these two types are even complimentary to each other. This page in mainly focusing on the immersive VR.
Currently standard virtual reality systems use either virtual reality headsets or multi-projected environments to generate realistic images, sounds and other sensations that simulate a user's physical presence in a virtual environment. A person using virtual reality equipment is able to look around the artificial world, move around in it, and interact with virtual features or items. The effect is commonly created by VR headsets consisting of a head-mounted display with a small screen in front of the eyes, but can also be created through specially designed rooms with multiple large screens. Virtual reality typically incorporates auditory and video feedback, but may also allow other types of sensory and force feedback through haptic technology.
The exact origins of virtual reality are disputed, partly because of how difficult it has been to formulate a definition for the concept of an alternative existence. The development of perspective in Renaissance Europe created convincing depictions of spaces that did not exist, in what has been referred to as the "multiplying of artificial worlds". Other elements of virtual reality appeared as early as the 1860s. Antonin Artaud took the view that illusion was not distinct from reality, advocating that spectators at a play should suspend disbelief and regard the drama on stage as reality. The first references to the more modern concept of virtual reality came from science fiction.
Modern virtual reality headset displays are based on technology developed for smartphones including: gyroscopes and motion sensors for tracking head, body, and hand positions; small HD screens for stereoscopic displays; and small, lightweight and fast computer processors. These components led to relative affordability for independent VR developers, and lead to the 2012 Oculus Rift Kickstarter offering the first independently developed VR headset.
Independent production of VR images and video has increased alongside the development of affordable omnidirectional cameras, also known as 360-degree cameras or VR cameras, that have the ability to record 360 interactive photography, although at relatively low resolutions or in highly compressed formats for online streaming of 360 video. In contrast, photogrammetry is increasingly used to combine several high-resolution photographs for the creation of detailed 3D objects and environments in VR applications.
To create a feeling of immersion, special output devices are needed to display virtual worlds. Well-known formats include head-mounted displays or the CAVE. In order to convey a spatial impression, two images are generated and displayed from different perspectives (stereo projection). There are different technologies available to bring the respective image to the right eye. A distinction is made between active (e.g. shutter glasses) and passive technologies (e.g. polarizing filters or Infitec).