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Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (commonly abbreviated to VR) is the common term used to describe a range of technologies.

Virtual Reality (commonly abbreviated to VR) is the common term used to describe a range of technologies that create an immersive experience controlled by body movements, often via a head-mounted display (HMD).  The aim is for the user to be completely immersed in an environment and to be ‘part of the world’. 

To achieve immersive VR, the user needs to have the ability to move around within the space, as well as look around, typically in a 360 degree environment, although 180 degree experiences do exist.

One of the most important elements of delivering good VR experiences is high quality audio. Binaural audio has experienced a huge growth in popularity thanks to VR productions.  By having position-dependent, object-based surround sound, spatial information can be conveyed with the help of interaction. Audio triggers are often used as triggers to direct the audience to where they should be looking.

The production, demonstration and interaction with VR is still in it’s infancy with a growing number of new technologies now available on the high street. However certain guidelines are already becoming clear - to avoid "VR Motion Sickness" the system should provide as high a frame rate per eye as possible with 90-120fps being ideal, offer a viewing angle of 110 degrees or more; and keep latencies between head, hand, and body-tracking as low as possible. Even a very small offset between the representation in the glasses and the user’s actual head movement will be noticeable. This can create a feeling of disorientation for the user and can cause motion sickness.

The technical requirements for the VR hardware differ greatly depending on the target devices that the production or game is being delivered too. For high-end models such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, that provide photorealistic VR experiences, a very high spec computer with multi-core CPUs and high-end graphics cards like the Nvidia GTX970 or the AMD Radeon R9290 are required.

At the other end of the market, devices like Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream offer a headset that you insert your smartphone into. This smartphone-based VR is limited by the mobile computing power required for complex real-time simulations, motion tracking and audio delivery. However for many this is a cost effective way to reach millions of users on devices that they already own. 

Almost all VR applications have the disadvantage of requiring cables, which limit the range of movement of the user. However this is not true of smartphone-based applications. It is likely that these hurdles will soon be overcome.

Applications for this technology are very diverse. The largest areas are the gaming industry. VR headsets and body-tracking are a new step towards making spatial, artificial worlds even more tangible. Furthermore, it has a wide range of applications in all conceivable areas of training and education. Situations could be simulated for training in risk-free VR. In addition to the games industry, this technology could be used, for example, for product design, prototyping and services in development.

VR will grow stronger in the coming years as a technology, with specific applications developing, especially in the games industry. 

The growth of the technology could also lead to a further variant of Virtual Reality - Augmented Reality. Called AR for short, this technology describes the opportunity to integrate virtual elements into the real world. A good example of this is the Microsoft HoloLens headset.

The elements can be made visible through smartphones, using the front camera to capture the real environment, enriched in an AR app with virtual elements which appear on the display in real time. One of the most common examples of AR is Pokemon Go.

HMDs which function more like eyeglasses may replace smartphones as presentation devices. Mobile apps, not just games, but any kind of assistance systems, are among the application-providers of AR.

Virtual reality in the media is often thought of as 360° video . This conceptual blending is difficult, as the requirements for an immersive experience with the opportunity to interact with virtual elements is missing in 360° video. 360 ° video, although a variety of VR, is not the same.