Monday, September 28, 2015

What is Virtual Reality Anyway?

Now that we've established a blog exploring the in's-and-out's of virtual reality, it might be helpful to actually define what we're talking about in the first place!

If we check out the Cambridge dictionary we'll see that VR is “a computer system that creates an environment that looks real on the screen and in which the person operating the computer can take part.” 

Why not read the definition on Wikipedia? VR is an “immersive multimedia or computer-simulated life, replicates an environment that simulates physical presence in places in the real world or imagined worlds and lets the user interact in that world.”

Maybe we should double-check our sources.. NASA tells us that “virtual reality is the use of computer technology to create the effect of an interactive three-dimensional world in which the objects have a sense of spatial presence.” Essentially the same definition, but with a sci-fi twist.

It's clear that these explanations are quite similar and all relate to the relationship that exists between computers (and their virtual worlds) and people. 

It's also important to note, however, that VR often goes beyond the visual and auditory senses. It can also include taste, touch, smell and other sensory experiences.

But how did it all begin?

According to the University of Illinois, virtual reality technologies trace their roots back to the late 1950's when Douglas Engelbart, an engineer and inventor, realized that early computers could be connected to screens and used to solve problems. Engelbart laid the framework for a technology that, combined with powerful advancements in computing and visual graphics, would later develop into VR.
Following Engelbart's initiatives, a visionary inventor and cinematographer named Morton Heilig created a new machine called the Sensorama that produced a reality-imitating environment. It was the first multi-sensory technology of its kind -- users were carried onto movie sets through stereoscopic 3-D images, a body-tilting platform, stereo surround sound, special wind audio tracks and aromas -- all triggered throughout different parts of a film.

Following these bursts of development, the creation and adaptation of VR technologies slowed down until the 1990's, when personal computers became more commercially available, popularity of video games soared and movies began including VR in their plot lines.  

The rest, essentially, is history. Virtual reality applications have quickly expanded into every sector: gaming, education, healthcare, the military, sciences, business, entertainment -- you name it!

Now that you know what VR really is and how it all began, you'll be much better equipped to learn about the different applications of the technology in today's world! So enjoy, share, comment and read on! 

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