Virtual Reality

What Does Virtual Reality Mean?

Virtual reality is technology that allows a user to carry out actions in a digital environment, yet feel as if they are immersed in a physical environment.

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The purpose of VR is to allow a person to experience and manipulate the environment as if it were the real world. In contrast, augmented reality (AR) is technology that integrates digital information into the user’s real-world environment.

A virtual reality environment is experienced through sensory stimuli provided by a computer and the virtual visitor’s actions can influence what happens in the digital environment. At the current stage of development, users have to interact with this type of artificial environment by wearing a VR headset or haptic glove.

As the technology continues to improve, virtual reality is expected to play an important technical role in the creation of immersive metaverse experiences.

Techopedia Explains Virtual Reality

There is no concrete standard for what a virtual reality experience entails, so opinions differ depending on the field in question and the mode used to achieve virtual reality. That said, virtual reality does follow a few accepted guidelines:

  • The environment must be made up of images that appear life-sized according to the perspective of the user/viewer unless the desired effect deviates from this.
  • The system responsible for running the virtual environment must be able to track the user’s motions, especially the eye and head movements, so that it can react and change the images on the display or initiate any related events.

In order to immerse the user fully, Jonathan Steuer, a well-known Ph.D. in communication theory and research, proposed that virtual reality has two important components.

  1. Depth of Information: Refers to the quality and amount of data the user is fed by the virtual environment itself. Dr. Steuer believes this could be achieved through display resolution, graphics quality, sound quality, haptic feedback and complexity of the environment.
  2. Breadth of Information: Refers to how many senses are being stimulated by the virtual environment. According to Dr. Steuer, the most basic of these should be audio and visual, while the most advanced systems should include stimulation of all five senses in order to enhance immersion.

The two components above are mentioned in Dr. Steuer’s article “Defining virtual realities: Dimensions determining telepresence” and are often cited in academic and industry literature.

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.