What is Virtual Reality?

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What is Virtual Reality?

You probably already know what Virtual Reality (VR) is, but in case you don’t, we’ll break it down for you. Virtual Reality uses computer technology to create a simulated environment. Unlike traditional user interfaces, VR places the user inside an experience by creating the immersive illusion of being somewhere else. This can happen through a VR headset or helmet. It allows people to immerse themselves in a game as if they were one of the characters. They can improve their sports training, perform surgery, battle an opponent, etc. Senses such as vision, hearing, touch, and even smell are simulated which transform the computer into a sort of gatekeeper that allows access into an artificial world. 
 

When Was Virtual Reality Invented?

Virtual Reality was first introduced in 1957 by Morton Heilig. Heilig worked in the Hollywood motion picture industry. He invented the multimedia device, the Sensorama, which is considered to be one of the earliest VR systems.  Its objective was to make people feel like they were “in” a movie. The Sensorama experience simulated a real city that you rode through on a motorbike. Multisensory stimulation allowed users to see the road, hear the engine, feel vibrations, and actually smell the motor’s exhaust in this artificial “world.” The term “virtual reality," however, wasn’t actually coined until 1987. Researcher, Jaron Lanier, developed gloves and goggles needed to experience what he referred to as “virtual reality.” 

Around the same time, a military engineer, Thomas Furness, created the Air Force’s first flight simulator. This allowed VR to progress because the military provided significant funding in order to help produce better flight simulators. By the 70s and 80s, Optical advancement projects ran parallel to haptic device ones. New instruments were created that allowed people to move around in virtual space.  

By the 1990’s, VR made its way into the video game industry. Jonathan Waldern introduced Virtuality, a VR Arcade Machine with headsets and real-time immersive stereoscopic 3D images. Some games could even be linked together to allow for multi-player games. Eventually, popular games like Pac-Man had their own VR editions. By the late nineties, SEGA released a motion simulator arcade machine and VictorMaxx released a VR headset. Nintendo later introduced the Virtual Boy console, the first portable console to display 3D graphics. Unfortunately, it ended up being a commercial failure due to poor image quality, discomfort, etc. It was discontinued a year later. 

Come the 2000s, Virtual Reality evolved rapidly. In 2007, Google introduced Street View, and later a stereoscopic 3D view for street view in 2010.  By 2017, Facebook purchased the Oculus VR company for $2 billion. This was a huge moment in VR history since it allowed Virtual Reality to gain serious momentum. Shortly after, Sony announced they were working on Project Morpheus, a VR headset for Playstation 4 (PS 4). Around this time, Google released the Cardboard – an affordable, DIY, stereoscopic viewer for smart phones. Samsung also announced the Samsung Gear VR, a headset that utilizes their Samsung Galaxy smartphone as a viewing device.  

Traction continued picking up as many companies developed VR headsets, such as HTC, Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft Sony, and Samsung. Facebook later joined the bandwagon. Facebook introduced the Oculus Quest, Half Dome headset. It offered 140 degrees field of vision. It sold out in various locations and brought in $5 million in sales. Shortly after, Nintendo introduced their Labo: VR Kit for Nintendo Switch and Beat Saber became the first app to sell over 1 million copies in less than a year. As you can see, Virtual Reality is booming and only continuing to get bigger and better! 
 

What is the Difference between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality?

Despite the underlying technology being closely intertwined, they’re actually very different. Augmented Reality (AR) is basically the cousin of Virtual Reality (VR), the one who still has one foot in the real world. AR simulates artificial objects within reality, meaning objects and images are placed in the real world. One of the most well-known examples of this would be the mobile app and game, Pokémon Go. In this game, you can walk around your neighborhood roads and parks, while virtually catching Pokémon in these familiar locations at the same time. Virtual Reality, however, doesn’t feature any existent territory and instead happens within an entirely artificial environment. 
 

We hope this article taught you a bit about the history of Virtual Reality! It’s both exciting and encouraging to see how fast technology continues to progress for our enjoyment, and in many ways, for our benefit. Furthermore, we hope you better understand the differences between Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality. Though they are both quite different, we still say both are pretty cool. We’re grateful for both of them and we’re antsy to see how these two continue to evolve! 
 

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