By now, you have probably heard rumblings about the wonders of virtual reality (VR). While it all sounds intriguing, it can also be a bit confusing. There are so many different applications for the technology, and so many exciting discoveries yet to be made. Before you get too bogged down in the tiny details, it is best to know the basics. Here is a simple guide to help you understand a little more about what virtual reality is and how it might apply to you and your business.

 

What is Virtual Reality?

Basically, it is a constructed reality that is created by immersing you in a digital world. PC World explains that this immersion is achieved by putting on headsets that give you access to this digital world, “The image is then rendered in stereoscopic 3D and viewed through fancy lenses, tricking you into believing you’re looking at a real environment and not a screen mere inches from your eyes.”[1] While it is described as a trick of the eyes, virtual reality feels a lot more concrete and convincing than that for most people. The technology is advancing rapidly, and with those advancements comes even more impressive environments. Also, for you glasses wearers out there, don’t worry! According to Kotaku, the headsets that most virtual reality companies are making fit over glasses (although some more comfortably than others).[2]

 

How is Virtual Reality Used?

Dreamers and visionaries are still working on an answer to that. There are tons of applications for virtual reality right now, but we have likely only scratched the surface of the future applications of the field.  But pretty much everyone agrees that the goal is to be completely enveloped in the experience, “Total immersion is what everyone making a VR headset, game or app is aiming towards – making the virtual reality experience so real that we forget the computer, headgear and accessories and act exactly as we would in the real world.”[3] Pretty much no matter what the point of the virtual experience are, one of the most important components is making sure that it is convincing.

The goal is to make it so convincing, that you become an active participant in the virtual environment you are experiencing. Huffington Post writer Jesse Damiani explains how truly innovative virtual reality content should be able to be tailored by the viewer, “The best storytellers in virtual reality will be the ones who think through many possible “reads” of a given experience and populate their environments with details and developments in service of the larger narrative(s).”[4] Creating a high-quality virtual reality environment takes a lot of work, and developers are still finding new ways to make it happen. Since every person is unique, the way they interact with the content with be individual to them. Anticipating the differences in these interactions can be tough, and that is one of the hurdles that virtual reality creators need to work out as the field progresses.

 

What Technology is Utilized?

That really depends on the virtual reality company. For some, they have created special headsets that immerse the wearer in the virtual world. The invention of these headsets was first developed by then teenager Palmer Luckey, who created the first Oculus Rift and subsequently sold the company to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for $2 billion.[5] Since then, the Oculus Rift has been refined and other competitor headsets have also come out on the market.

While these headsets can be expensive, costing hundreds of dollars, there are some less expensive options also out there. One fun option is the Google Cardboard line that can cost as little as $5.[6] These headsets combine their powers with your smartphone to make a virtual reality device. So while the price of the headset is cheap, you do have to consider the cost of a smartphone too if that isn’t something you currently own. Still, these personal headsets give you the option to experience virtual reality with an app and some cardboard, and that’s pretty awesome!

Virtual reality is in short exciting and inspiring. It can take experiences like watching a movie or playing a video game and transform them into interactive thrill rides. While some virtual reality headsets are pretty pricey, newer and less expensive models are currently being developed to meet the demands to use the technology in more everyday situations. Expect to hear a lot more about the field, and to start seeing it mesh will your everyday reality as it becomes more commonplace.

 

[1] http://www.pcworld.com/article/2948944/gadgets/virtual-reality-for-beginners-everything-you-need-to-know-to-wrap-your-head-around-vr.html

[2] http://kotaku.com/vr-headsets-are-mostly-comfortable-with-glasses-1766105790

[3] https://www.wareable.com/vr/how-does-vr-work-explained

[4] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jesse-damiani/storytelling-in-virtual-r_b_10448832.html

[5] http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/how-palmer-luckey-created-oculus-rift-180953049/

[6] https://vr.google.com/cardboard/get-cardboard/