Virtual Reality Explained

If you’re looking to see virtual reality explained in an easy-to-understand way read on. ARVR Focus is here to help you make sense of virtual reality and everything related to it, such as augmented reality, the Metaverse, and everything blockchain: Cryptocurrencies, Play-To-Earn, NFTs, and more.

What is Virtual Reality All About?

To some extent, the name Virtual Reality defines itself. However, to fully understand what Virtual Reality is all about, we have to know how it works. In simplistic terms, Virtual Reality is a computer-generated environment. This definition is succinct but perhaps too simplistic. It fails to describe the many other components that make up Virtual Reality.

For example, a key element of Virtual Reality is the fact that it is an immersive experience. People become fully immersed, and this immersion takes the experience beyond a virtual environment and turns it into Virtual Reality.

The Virtual Reality experience is composed of many autonomous elements. When combined, these elements create the overall sensory experience. For example, computer-generated 3D visuals are combined with computer-generated audio to create an enhanced sense of reality.

Another part of the VR experience is the devices that increase experiential reality. For example, VR uses interactive devices such as headsets, goggles, gloves, digital firearms, and sometimes even bodysuits.
Immersion is the key factor, and it is what transforms the experience from simply listening and viewing to the next level of Virtual Reality.

An example of this is video games. When video games first came on the market, players watched, listened, and engaged with rudimentary actions. With the VR experience, the visual and audio elements are enhanced, minimizing outside influences. The users interact with the virtual world much like they would with the real world. They become immersed in the virtual world with outside influences shut out.

One big selling point for VR is that it is the ultimate escapism. VR is an imaginary world which users can escape to without leaving home. But VR also goes beyond escapism because AR users do not just visit the virtual world they immerse themselves in it.

5 Key Facets of Virtual Reality

To be considered Virtual Reality, the virtual representation has to be believable. Viewers have to feel like they are inside the virtual world rather than viewing it from outside the world.

VR has to be interactive. As the viewer enters the virtual world and moves around inside, the world has to move with him.

VR must be computer generated because only computer graphics are generated fast enough and of high enough quality to be believable. Only a world made from computer-generated graphics allows users to move around in the world in real-time.

Explorable. A virtual world has to be large enough for visitors to explore and be viewable from multiple perspectives.

Immersive. To achieve believability and interactivity, VR needs to engage participants’ bodies and minds, or put another way participants’ have to be immersed in the virtual world. The immersive experience will involve stimulation of all the senses rather than just audio or sight.

Is it Real, or is it Virtual Reality?

Is it real, or is it Virtual Reality? Virtual Reality is right around the corner and will be here to stay. Are you ready for it?
I can remember the movie Virtuosity and how it scared me. I had seen hundreds of horror movies, but none had scared me like Virtuosity. The sense of irony did not escape me. Virtuosity was by no means a horror movie, and yet I found it quite terrifying.

So why did it scare me? I thought about this and realized what I found scary was not the special effects but the concept behind the film.

The thought of a Virtually created figure being able to terrorize the real world, just as he did the virtual world, was a concept that genuinely scared me.

And that is the thing with Virtual Reality. In the virtual world, there are very few physical limitations. In the virtual world, it is possible to do what you only dreamed about in the real world.
Virtuosity was, for me, especially memorable because not only did it scare me, but it opened my eyes to the world of Virtual Reality.

The History of Virtual Reality

The first attempts at creating a Virtual Reality experience were in the late 18th Century. The paintings were large and designed to fill the viewers’ entire field of vision. This was called panoramic painting because a painting required a 360degree perspective to be viewed in its entirety.

The aim of the artists was for the paintings to envelop the viewers, or put another way, to immerse the viewers and make them feel they were inside the paintings. The panoramic painting would often depict a historical event, and the artist’s goal was to get viewers to feel as if they were at the event rather than just viewing it. The artists attempted to make the viewers experience the paintings rather than only viewing them.

The panoramic paintings can be considered a form of Virtual Reality. By attempting to make people feel they were inside the painting, the artists created an interactive viewing experience. Interaction between the object and the viewer is a key element of Virtual Reality.

The next significant development in VR was the Link Trainer Flight Simulator. The Link Trainer was a commercial flight simulator patented in 1929 by an American inventor named Edward Link. The simulator was an electromechanical device that included a motor linked to the rudders and steering column and simulated pitch and roll movements. There was also a second motor that mimicked turbulence.

The Link Trainer was also the first VR technology to attract investment. The US military bought 6 Link Trainers for $3500, and during WW2 over 10,000 Link Trainers were used to train pilots.

In 1962 Morton Heilig patented the Sensorama. The Sensorama was a portable theatre cabinet. People could view a movie while inside the cabinet, and the device also incorporated speakers, a stereoscopic 3D display, a vibrating chair, a head-mounted display device, and even smell generators. The idea was that people should feel as if they were inside the movie, experiencing it, rather than just watching it remotely.

In 1965 Ivan Sutherland invented the Ultimate Display, which was a head-mounted display device that, according to Sutherland, was a “window into a virtual world.”

In 1966 a military engineer named Thomas Furness introduced the Furness’ Flight Simulator. The Furness’ Flight Simulator is credited as having kickstarted modern flight simulator technology. Furness is considered the “Grandfather of VR,” and the techniques he developed, are still used in VR technology to this day.

1968 saw the release of the game, “Sword of Damocles” which featured the first VR / AR display headset and computer-generated graphics. Then in 1969, Myron Kruegere invented A SERIES of computer-generated environments named GLOWFLOW, METAPLAY, and PSYCHIC SPACE.

Kruegeres’ inventions paved the way for the development of VIDEOPLACE technology that enabled people to communicate with each other remotely in a “responsive computer-generated environment.”

In 1972 General Electric produced a computerized flight simulator that included three screens. The screens surrounded the cockpit, and this created the feeling of being immersed in the environment.

Throughout the seventies, there were a series of inventions that each influenced the development of VR. Some of the more famous ones were Kruegers VIDEO PLACE in 1975, the MIT Movie App in 1977, and the McDonnel-Douglas HMD.

Alongside development in optical devices was the development in haptic devices. Developments in Haptic technology meant that VR devices could now stimulate the visual, auditory, smell, and touch senses. It also meant that people could move around in the virtual space.

In the eighties, the Sayre Gloves were developed, and these were the first form of “data gloves.” In 1986 Furness invented the super cockpit that helped train pilots using CG graphics and real-time interactivity. Then in 1989, NASA entered the VR field with project VIEW. VIEW featured gloves that enabled touch interaction, and the technology used would later lead to the development of the Nintendo Power Glove.

The nineties saw advances in Virtual Reality through the gaming industry. SEGA released the Sega Genesis console and the Sega VR-1 and in 1995 Nintendo released Virtual Boy. In the nineties, VR was used as a treatment for PTSD in war veterans.

Large companies such as Apple are researching VR technology and VR headsets now contain advanced features such as extra-wide viewing fields, scanning by hand, and eye-tracking.

Virtual Reality Statistics

Revenue for Virtual Reality in 2020 reached $1.8 billion, and this was a 31.7% increase from 2019. Overall, the VR market size is projected to grow to more than $12 billion by 2024.

In 2020 there were 13.48 million units of VR devices shipped and analysts project that by 2026 this figure will rise to 112.62 million.

Sales of Virtual Reality Headsets in 2016 were 5 million units and 68 million units in 2020.

It is estimated that approximately 58.9 million people will use VR in 2021 and 93.3 million people will use AR at least once per month.

Video gaming was a big growth area in 2020 and sales of VR-based video games reached $22.9 billion.

Virtual Reality in Industry and Society

Automotive Industry
VR is now being used by many industries. In the automotive industry, major manufacturers such as BMW, Jaguar, and Land Rover are using VR to experiment with the look and build of a vehicle. Car designers have used VR to replace the building of prototypes and as a result, are saving millions of dollars in production costs.

Healthcare industry
Virtual Reality is now being used extensively throughout the healthcare industry. Healthcare professionals are using virtual models for training in surgery methods and the treatment of mental health issues.

Retail
VR has influenced the retail sector and is playing a significant role in online shopping. Through utilizing VR shoppers can conduct a body scan and try on clothing remotely. This ensures shoppers can choose the right fit before purchasing.

But the VR experience goes far beyond shoppers finding the right fitting clothing as eBay has released the world’s first virtual reality department store.

Tourism
Virtual Reality is also revolutionizing the travel industry with a try before you buy, virtual tours. Through using VR travelers can experience their chosen holiday destination before making a booking. Virtual Reality also enables travelers to engage in virtual tours of hotels, restaurants, and physical landmarks.

Real Estate
Virtual Reality is being used extensively in Real Estate. Real Estate companies are now offering a guided virtual tour of the houses they are selling. This means potential buyers can remotely view and tour the houses they are interested in, without leaving the environment they are currently in.

Architecture
Virtual Reality is being used extensively by architects for design purposes. By offering 3D imagery architects can see exactly what a building or space will look like before construction.

Virtual Reality is also saving homeowners money. Homeowners can experience the space before the house is built and they can make real-time changes. This saves the architect and the homeowners time and money.

Education
VR is making it possible for students to learn in an immersive, experimental way. For example, through using specially designed 3D apps students can take a tour of Ancient Rome, explore anatomy, or board the Titanic. Some apps serve as immersive classrooms where students can learn from a range of lecturers from around the world.

Sports
VR companies are now specializing in sports and changing the way sports are watched. You can now watch the NFL and NBA live events in Virtual Reality. Companies like Cosm Immersive enable live events to be watched on mobile VR. Some companies broadcast international events in VR. For example, BT Sport using YouTube and the BT VR app broadcast the UEFA Championship League in 360 degrees VR.

Art and design
Using VR, you can not only create artwork but you can be in it. You can step in and out of your image. Plus, you can make 3D models and sculptures. The two most, well-known VR art applications are Tiltbrush and Masterpiece Studio.

Law enforcement
Virtual Reality is being used extensively to train police. Companies like VirTra provide simulated environments which put the trainees in certain scenarios which they are likely to face in reality. The scenarios include visual and audio elements down to the minutest detail.

Trainees are taught to make sound judgment calls and critical decisions in stressful situations. The simulations also teach trainees how to escalate or deescalate certain situations.

News and journalism
It is now possible to watch news stories and documentaries in VR. This means that readers and viewers can experience the news stories rather than just read them or view them. Again, this is done through an app and several major newspapers are experimenting with this technology.

Investment Opportunities in Virtual Reality

Investment in VR can be made by investing in producers of consumer hardware, enterprise computing, software companies, or chip makers Listed below are some of the most prominent companies involved in VR that represent a profitable investment opportunity.

Facebook
In 2014 Facebook purchased the VR technology company Oculus. Oculus has helped Facebook develop VR headsets and software. The CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg has publicly stated he is aiming to get one billion people using Virtual Reality regularly.

Zuckerberg is also promoting the Metaverse as the future of Facebook and the future of the internet. The metaverse according to Zuckerberg is a virtual environment that internet users are inside of rather than just viewing.

Facebook has released Oculus 2 which is a VR headset and it is already the biggest selling VR headset on the market today.

In 2021 Facebook changed its corporate name to Meta. This change represented Facebook’s commitment to the Metaverse, and its plans to create its place and make its mark in what it believes to be the next phase of the Internet and online social interactions.

Sony
Sony has developed a virtual reality headset that is compatible with PlayStation consoles. The headset is named the PlayStation VR and it can be used with PlayStation 4 or 5. The Play Station is perhaps the most popular gaming console available so it will boost sales of VR and vice versa.

Alphabet
Through its parent company Alphabet, it is believed Google will continue research and development into VR. Google will try to develop its unique applications for its current platforms such as Oculus. Google representatives have stated that the company is committed to trying to expand the use of VR across all internet-enabled devices.

Microsoft
Microsoft is involved in the VR field through the development of its Hololens device. Microsoft describes the device as an “untethered self-contained holographic device with enterprise-ready applications.”

Microsoft markets Hololens in the fields of manufacturing, healthcare, and education, and the company has supported Hololens with its suite of industry-specific apps.

Microsoft has recently signed a $22 billion contract with the U.S. Army. Under this contract, they will be supplying custom-built Hololens devices which will be used in fight simulation training.

Apple
Apple has dabbled on the fringes of VR development but the company is yet to commit to developing an Apple standalone virtual reality product.

Industry analysts however predict that Apple will release a standalone VR headset shortly. Apple is a major player in the tech market and if it enters the VR market it will take VR to the next level as it will integrate the technology across the range of its other Apple products such as PC’s Smartphones tablets speakers etc. With over a billion iPhone users worldwide integration with VR would represent a major entry into the mainstream market.

Nvidia
Nvidia is a company that produces graphics processing units (GPU) which are an essential part of VR. Nvidia has graphic cards specifically designed for VR and the company has created a software developer kit (SDK) designed to help in the development of high-quality graphic cards. The SDK helps developers produce the highest quality graphics and it helps keep latency in the production system to a minimum.

The strength of Nvidia is that its products are not restricted to any particular brand or manufacturer. Its graphics cards are used across the board in all forms of hardware not matter who produces that hardware.

Virtual Reality has been in existence in one form or another since the late 19th Century. However, it is only in the last 20 years that it has experienced rapid growth and has become part of mainstream business and society.

Virtual Reality has now attracted some significant investors, and through being connected with other forms of technology, it is developing rapidly. VR is present in a wide diversity of areas. From Education and Sports through to Gaming and Military Applications. 

Interesting Links:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality
https://www.britannica.com/technology/virtual-reality
https://www.explainthatstuff.com/virtualreality.html
https://www.fi.edu/virtual-reality/history-of-virtual-reality