What is virtual reality?
Virtual reality technology consists of immersing the user in a completely synthetic computer-generated world, in which his or her senses no longer perceive the real world, immersing the user in an alternative environment.
To enjoy a virtual reality experience, special glasses are needed. These glasses can be connected to a computer, be fully portable or require a mobile phone to be inserted into the glasses.
The most powerful glasses to enjoy virtual reality experiences are those connected to a high-performance computer, since they allow much more realism and graphic quality in the virtual environments proposed to the user.
History of Virtual Reality
The history of virtual reality began at the beginning of the 20th century, back in 1935. In that year, we find the first specific reference to virtual reality glasses, whose author was the science fiction writer Stanley G. Weinbaum in his book “The Pygmalion Glasses”.
The story revolves around a teacher’s invention, which allows the user to transport himself to other worlds and places through glasses.
The first virtual reality glasses were created in 1960 by Morton Heiling, and he is therefore known as the father of virtual reality.
This cinematographer and inventor, had developed the Sensorama in 1957, a rather bulky machine that allowed the user to enjoy multisensory experiences. His new invention, designed to be used as a portable device in the user’s head, was called a stereoscopic television set for individual use. This was the beginning of the history of virtual reality.
Although that virtual reality helmet may seem very rudimentary today, the concept was already very similar to today’s equipment, and so it is considered to be the first virtual reality glasses in history.
How does virtual reality work?
It is interesting to understand how the virtual reality glasses work, as there are several technologies that are integrated into one of these devices. The viewing system consists of two screens on which the user can see a different video sequence in each eye.
When content adapted to the glasses is shown, and by means of stereoscopic vision, the user perceives it as a three-dimensional, dynamic and interactive space.
In addition, the glasses include inertial and positioning sensors to be able to react to the movements made by the user, thus offering a fully interactive experience.
In this way, when we walk, move our head or hands in the real world, we also move in the virtual world.
The software used in virtual reality experiences is basically a video game engine, which must be able to render hyper-realistic, high-resolution images. Rendering is the process that transforms the information of a three-dimensional scene, geometry, textures and lighting, into 2D frames. In the case of virtual reality, two frames must be calculated at a time, one for each eye, and they must have a minimum resolution of 4K for each eye when using the most advanced equipment.
This is why high-performance graphics cards are required in virtual reality applications, since a user-friendly experience must run at least 90 frames per second.
Types of virtual reality
We can currently find different types of virtual reality that can mainly be differentiated according to the device being used.
The most advanced devices use high performance computers and high-quality glasses, and are mainly applied in professional environments such as industry or medicine.
The most popular devices of this type are HTC VIVE or Oculus Rift, which were the pioneers in the industry and which allow the most immersive virtual reality.
Mid range devices
There are other types of glasses that are more affordable and do not need to be connected to a computer.
These glasses are called stand alone and have very acceptable features at a very low economic cost, allowing very realistic experiences.
The most popular within this category would be the Oculus Quest glasses and they are mainly being applied in the entertainment world, to play video games and in multiuser social applications.
More affordable devices
Another type of glasses would be those that need to use your own mobile phone to work.
Basically, what you do is insert the phone into a plastic or cardboard frame, which contains the optical lenses of the glasses.
The screen of the mobile phone is divided in two and its accelerometers, inertial sensors and the phone’s computer system are used.
This type of virtual reality is very suitable for simple content or for watching 360 videos, as the computing capacity of a phone cannot be compared to that of a computer.
Differences between virtual reality and augmented reality
Augmented reality and virtual reality are often confused because they are two similar technologies. The main difference between them is the degree of virtual immersion that is provided in each of them to the user.
Virtual reality creates a completely digital environment, an immersive experience in 360 degrees that is perceived as totally real. In a virtual reality environment, users can interact with what they see as if they were really there and are no longer aware of their real environment.
In the case of augmented reality, the virtual elements are combined with our view of the real world, composing a mixture between the two.
Main benefits of virtual reality
Virtual reality allows us to be transported to environments and situations very similar to reality, which can help us to acquire experiences and knowledge applicable later in the real world.
Some of the main benefits we can get from virtual reality are:
Efficient learning in totally secure environments, which can be applied to mechanical processes, emergencies and medical procedures.
Living situations in first person, which help to empathize with various problems or overcome phobias or train in situations that may be uncomfortable.
More fun and spectacular, as they are very intense experiences, both in video games and in simulators.
It saves costs when validating designs or presenting works, while offering a realistic perspective of the result.
Collaborative sessions, in which several users from different places can meet to develop activities together in the virtual environment.
Thanks to the state of maturity of this technology, we can find many virtual reality companies in Spain and around the world, which take advantage of all these benefits offered by virtual reality, applying it in all types of sectors.
Uses and applications of virtual reality
Virtual reality for education
Virtual reality in the classroom is going to be a revolution in the way children learn.
It has the potential to inspire students’ creativity and awaken their imagination. It will allow them to understand more easily complicated academic concepts and improve their cultural or historical skills with excursions to other parts of the world and other time periods.
Another very clear application of virtual reality for students is related to the learning of values. The possibility of living new situations in the first person, allows them to empathize with others, and work on values such as respect, generosity, humility or tolerance.
Virtual Reality for Industry 4.0
Virtual reality in the industrial world is mainly applied for the training of professionals.
The possibility of training in complex or dangerous tasks before having to perform them in the real situation, means an increase in material and personal safety and cost savings for companies.
Normally, technical training in companies is provided by experts in a field and requires the use of machinery, both of which are critical resources for production.
Thanks to virtual reality, it is possible to train autonomously and without employing these critical resources.
There are studies that have demonstrated the effectiveness of virtual reality as a training tool for professionals, and the knowledge that is assimilated with these dynamics is practically equivalent to performing the tasks in a real situation.
Virtual Reality for architecture and real estate
Virtual reality offers an opportunity for modern and innovative architects who want to bring more value to their clients.
The presentation of a project on the basis of a plan has nothing to do with an immersive and immersive environment.
The designer can inspire his audience by offering them the possibility to feel the projects in first person, to perceive the planning of the space or to walk through the project themselves.
People who are buying a new home can also benefit from a first-person experience. Understanding the spaces and personalising the finishes of their home can make the difference when it comes to making their decision.
Virtual Reality for Medicine
Virtual reality allows medical students to transport themselves to the human body, to see it in a totally new way.
There are limitations in training certain technical interventions, which may require the use of cadavers or living cells. However, in virtual reality, training scenarios can be created in great detail and surgical procedures can be reproduced step by step.
There are other related applications such as the possibility for patients to relax while waiting for a medical intervention or to use it during an intervention to reduce their pain level.
It has also been shown that the use of virtual reality in neurological rehabilitation therapies makes users more motivated and reduces recovery times.
Virtual Reality for Psychology
The applications of virtual reality for mental health and psychological therapies are very broad and its effectiveness has been widely demonstrated.
The ability to transport ourselves to another place is used to expose patients to scenarios in which their psychological difficulties happen.
In this way, the therapist can accompany a patient while they take a virtual trip to a crowded shopping mall, a tall building or during a flight landing.
Virtual reality for marketing
Virtual reality is applied in marketing actions in several ways.
The consumer can be offered an immersive experience in which they can focus on the promotional message without distraction, through a channel that stimulates sensations and emotions with great intensity.
Another possibility is to be able to see a complete range of products and personalize them (cars), improving the possibilities offered by the traditional point of sale.
Virtual reality is also being used so that brands can experiment with consumer behaviour in virtual shopping spaces.
It is possible to test the operation of a new packaging, an offer or a new product.
Virtual reality for leisure
For several years now, virtual reality for enjoying a roller coaster has been a very popular application.
Experience the sensation of speed and vertigo of an attraction from your own home is very attractive to many users. It is just one example of the possibilities of this technology for the leisure sector.
Virtual reality-based video games are beginning to be really spectacular. Although the market penetration of VR glasses is not comparable to video game consoles, new triple-A games adapted to virtual reality are published every month.
The immersive experience in a VR video game, in which our whole body and movements are involved, multiplies the fun and allows to overcome the traditional model, in which you play sitting down using a control with buttons.
Another sector that can benefit from virtual reality is tourism. Being able to visit distant places virtually or understand better how a destination or hotel will be before hiring it, are some of the possibilities offered by virtual reality.
The future of virtual reality
The growth of the virtual reality sector is expected to be enormous in the coming years. All sources agree that this sector will grow by more than 50% per year.
As has happened in recent history with other technological devices, such as the personal computer or mobile phone, we will all come to have virtual reality glasses at home.
We will be able to access advanced services of all kinds and improve many aspects of our interaction with the digital world. Many aspects of daily life will be influenced by this technology, which will conquer areas that have not been explored so far, such as art, social interaction, virtual travel or healing therapies.
This journey of discovery will be exciting, and totally transformative for society and business.
Our purpose as a virtual reality company
At Innovae, we are experts in applying virtual reality in the professional environment, thanks to our team’s broad experience in developing customised virtual reality applications. We adapt to the specific needs of each company to increase the efficiency of their training processes.
If you are considering using virtual reality to transform your organization, do not hesitate to contact us.