The term “Virtual Reality” was first used by Antonin Artaud in his collection of essays “Le Théâtre et son double” in 1930. The first virtual reality experiment was conceived between 1960 and 1970.
Virtual reality (VR) is a technology that will allow a person to dive into an artificial world created digitally. Be careful not to confuse it with augmented reality, which superposes several pieces of information or virtual elements in a real environment.
It can be a reproduction of the real world or a totally imaginary world. The experience will be visual, auditory and, in some cases, haptic with the production of a feedback of effects. When the person is equipped with the appropriate interfaces, such as gloves or clothing, he or she may experience certain sensations related to touch or certain actions.
How does virtual reality work?
Today, most virtual reality devices are visualization headsets that deceive our brains into believing that we are evolving in a new environment. It is in fact a virtual environment of real size without the demarcation obtained with a television or computer screen, in the case of a video game for example. The content scrolling on the screen comes from a computer connected to the headset or using a smartphone inserted in the front of the device.
Virtual reality aims to deceive our brains
Virtual reality headsets work by stereoscopy, a technique by which the brain perceives a relief. For this to work, the brain will reconstruct an image from the two flat and different images perceived by each eye. These stereoscopic images, generated using a computer, are created by two lenses located in front of each eye. Then they are sent to the headset display device, which will display the images in 3D. The software must also take into account the user’s position to display the elements at the right time.
The field of view of the helmets should also be close enough to that of a human (180°) for it to look like reality. In addition, each headset must have a minimum of latency to give credibility to a virtual experience. Latency is the time between an action performed by the user and its inclusion in the virtual experience. If this time is too long, the user may quickly get tired of the virtual environment.
In which sectors can we find virtual reality nowadays?
At first, virtual reality was used for training or simulation purposes. As time and technology progresses, VR is now available to everyone. Thanks to miniaturization, it is no longer necessary to have large parts or large equipment. Now, users only need a VR headset and its accessories for their VR experiences.
With the takeoff of the virtual reality headset market, many developers and studios are now providing VR experiences. We also find products that allow a perfect immersion in the virtual world. These solutions focus mainly on the field of VR video games, which is the most successful sector. We can also talk about other experiences for the general public such as 360° videos, especially for marketing campaigns, which are very successful.
However, VR is also present in other fields such as: sport, training, education, medicine, architecture, etc. For several years, virtual reality has been seen as a relatively expensive solution for creating content.
What is the future of virtual reality?
After talking about the areas where we can find this technology, it is time to look at its future.
Today, there are several points of improvement to be seen for virtual reality headsets: price, visual quality (with lens enhancement) or freedom of movement for headsets connected with a cable to a computer. Moreover, even if it is decreasing, the price remains a barrier to the purchase or use of VR technology.
The main defect is certainly the visual quality of the screens. Indeed, the lack of pixels leads to a “grid effect” that causes the user to notice the screen first and foremost and not the experience. The restricted field of vision is also a barrier to the development of the VR, as is the omnipresence of cables, which interfere with immersion. To solve this problem, some high-resolution headsets are being prepared (with eye tracking), as well as wireless devices and even stand-alone headsets.