An Introduction to Virtual Reality

  • Mallika Rangaiah
  • Jun 16, 2020
  • Deep Learning
An Introduction to Virtual Reality title banner

We’ve all dived into the world of the Matrix with Thomas Anderson and strolled through the X-Men Danger Room, the fictional training facility that was a virtual reincarnation of the X-mansion. Little did we reckon that the technology in these sci-fi movies might not be as far fetched as we’d expected. 


We’ve all experienced the world via our senses and perception systems, that is our five basic senses which are basically the sense of smell, touch, sight, hearing as well as taste. Yet you could say these are only some of the mainstream sense organs. We consist of various more senses apart from these senses that safeguard that we receive a rich flow of information from our surroundings into our minds. 


Everything that we’ve learned about our reality we’ve learned through our senses. Basically our entire experience of reality is merely a merging of sensory data and our brains comprehending that information using its mechanics. So following this logic, our perception of reality will alter according to the information fed to our senses. This means that our senses can be shown a version of reality which isn’t actually real but could be perceived so. And this is basically what we term as Virtual Reality. 



So what exactly is Virtual Reality (VR)?


The definition of virtual reality originates from the definitions of both ‘virtual’ and ‘reality’. "Virtual’ implies near and reality implies the conditions experienced by human beings. Hence the term ‘virtual reality’ basically implies ‘near-reality’


Virtual Reality (VR) is the employment of computer technology to develop an artificial environment. Virtual Reality situates the user within an experience, contrary to conventional user interfaces. Rather than just glimpsing a screen in front of them, the users are engaged and allowed to converse with 3D worlds.  By replicating most of the senses like vision, touch, smell, and hearing, the computer is molded to serve as a doorway into an artificial world.



How does virtual reality (VR) work?


“The incredible thing about the technology is that you feel like you’re actually present in another place with other people. People who try it say it’s different from anything they’ve ever experienced in their lives.” - Mark Zuckerberg


Virtual reality technology allows the creation of virtual experience with the intention of replicating real-life scenarios or developing a virtual world consisting of non-realistic elements such as in games providing participation in various situations with risk-free choices.


The expense of executing this situation in real life is not advantageous when compared with the anticipated ROI yet with the aid of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies, all the likely applications can cut down the expense of employing these situations for varied purposes such as training of employees, products trail, examining of locations, projects trial and various other purposes, which can be accomplished through the personalized use of these technologies.


Alongside AR and VR applications which are benefitting various business fields, some examples of VR visualization equipment that can be used to experience the virtual reality are Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR / VR as well as Oculus Rift



Applications of Virtual Reality


“There are as many applications for VR as you can think of, it’s restricted by your imagination.” - John Goddard, HTC Vive


From the military to sports, to mental health, to our daily lives, Virtual Reality is seeping its way through every sector. Check out some of the applications of this technology  :

This image shows the areas where Virtual Reality is being used

Areas where Virtual Reality is being used 

1. VR in Military


Both the military from the UK as well as the US have employed virtual reality in their training as it enables them to take up a wide range of imitations. Virtual Reality is utilized for all departments of service ranging from the navy, the army, the air force, marines to the coast guard. Virtual Reality can effectively transport a trainee into a variety of varying scenarios, locations as well as environments with the purpose of facilitating training.


VR is employed for military purposes like simulations of flights, vehicles and the battlefield, medic training, to create a virtual boot camp and so on.  The technology is an entirely engaging experience complimented with visuals and sound that can securely simulate risky training scenarios for preparing and training soldiers, while also avoiding putting them under risk until they are prepared for combat. Alongside this, the technology can also be employed for teaching soldiers skills like interaction with local civilians or with international correspondents while residing on the field. 


Yet another VR adoption is done for treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which the soldiers who have come back from combat often face, needing assistance to adapt to their normal life. This treatment is termed as Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET). One of the main advantages which employing VR has provided is the curtailing of training costs. 



2. VR in Education

This image shows Virtual Reality in Education

Virtual Reality in Education

VR is also deployed in the education sector for teaching and learning scenarios. It aids the students in conversing together, in the vicinity of a 3D environment. The students can also be carried on virtual field trips such as to museums, embarking on tours of the solar system as well as traveling back in time to varying eras.


Virtual reality can prove to be specifically advantageous for students having special needs, like autism. Research has discovered that VR could prove to be a motivating platform to safely train children and teach them social skills including children having autism disorders. For instance, the technology company, Floreo, executed virtual reality situations that enable children to absorb and train themselves with skills like making eye contact, pointing as well as developing social connections. 



3. VR in Sports


Virtual Reality has been steadily shifting the sports industry for all its participants.  This technology can be employed by coaches as well as players for training effectively across various sports, with them being able to view as well as experience particular scenarios repeatedly and enhancing their performance every time. 


VR is also adopted to serve as a training aid for assisting in assessing athletic performance and examining techniques. It’s also been known to enhance the cognitive capabilities of athletes while injured by allowing them to virtually experience gameplay situations. 


Likewise, technology is also being adopted to improve the experience of the viewer while watching the sporting event. Various broadcasters have begun streaming live games through VR and are arranging to sell virtual tickets for live sports events which will allow people situated anywhere in the world to be a part of any sports event. This also enables the people who may not be able to afford to spend money, to attend live sports games and feel included as they enjoy the similar experience from their own locations, at no cost or for a reduced expense.



4. VR in Mental Health


VR technology, as I’d mentioned before, is being adopted to treat PTSD.  By employing VRTD (Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy), a person is placed in a recreation of a traumatic event with the aim to help the person to come to terms with the event and start recovering.


Alongside this, it is also being employed for treating feelings like anxiety, depression, and phobias. For instance, various patients having anxiety have discovered meditation by employing VR as a useful approach to deal with stress sensitivity and enhance coping mechanisms. The VR technology can facilitate a safe environment for patients to face the components that they fear, whilst staying in a guarded and secure environment. 



5. VR in Medical Training


VR is also being employed for practicing surgeries and procedures by medical as well as dental students, owing to its interactive characteristics, enabling a safe and guarded environment, free from any dire consequences, minimizing the risk of any harm or blunders upon practicing it on the actual patients.


Virtual patients are adopted for allowing trainers to gain abilities they can later use in the actual world. VR technology is not only aiding in enhancing the quality of medical training but also holding the potential to optimize expenses. 


6. VR in Fashion


VR’s application in the Fashion industry is one aspect that has been much less talked about. For instance, virtual replications of store environments can prove to be greatly effective for retailers to practice constructing their signage as well as product displays without the necessity of having to commit to the build.


Likewise, proper time and resources can be assigned for developing a layout of the stores. A couple of renowned brands that have started executing VR in their business are namely Tommy Hilfiger and Coach and Gap. These brands are adopting VR to facilitate a 360-degree experience of fashion events and enabling consumers to virtually try on clothes.





The above applications are just a handful of instances of how Virtual Reality technology is being adopted. The capacity held by technology is unlimited and flawless. Alongside these applications the technology is also being executed in mass communication fields like Cinema and Entertainment, Research, Health & Safety, Heritage & Archaeology, Fine Arts, Marketing, and Music and Concerts, etc. It remains to be seen how this technology will revolutionize various industries across the world in the future.



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