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A Basic Guide to Forms and Methods of Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (VR) is an immersive experience in which a person uses a VR device, usually a headset with a screen and a controller for each hand, to enter a three-dimensional, computer-generated world. Virtual reality is designed to feel as realistic as the world you live in, so you can explore the virtual world in front of you and it will feel as though you are actually there. To that end, several different types of technology have emerged that offer varying levels of immersion, from non-immersive virtual reality to fully immersive virtual reality, semi-immersive virtual reality, augmented reality, and collaborative VR.

Non-Immersive Virtual Reality

Non-immersive virtual reality technology provides users with a computer-generated environment that allows them to control what they see on the screen while still being aware of what’s going on around them. This type of VR relies on a computer or video game console, keyboard, mouse, and controllers. It is the least immersive and interactive type of technology, as it provides a single display for content, meaning that it is only perceived in two dimensions: height and width. Video games would be the most common example of non-immersive virtual reality. You can still control what you see and do in the game, and that has an effect on the game environment, but you aren’t directly interacting with it.

Fully Immersive Virtual Reality

On the opposite side of the spectrum, fully immersive virtual reality offers a realistic experience where you feel as though you are physically in another world. Fully immersive VR uses special VR headsets, gloves, and sometimes even body detectors to allow a person to be part of a computer-generated world that responds to real-time movement. The data from the sensors in the equipment allows the virtual world to move along with the user to provide a more realistic experience. Virtual reality headsets are becoming popular as gaming systems, allowing people to slip on a headset and step into a video game in their own home.

Semi-Immersive Virtual Reality

Semi-immersive virtual reality falls in between immersive and non-immersive VR. It uses a computer screen or a VR headset to allow you to explore a virtual environment. Unlike with a fully immersive experience, the world you see will not respond to your movements; it is only a visual experience with no enhancements to truly make you feel like you’ve stepped into a new world. This is a popular type of technology for museums, colleges, and businesses, as they can create a virtual tour available on their website or as an app on a VR headset to allow people to explore their spaces without having to physically be there.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is a type of VR primarily used on a phone or tablet screen. It connects with the device’s camera to allow the user to see the real world on their screen with a virtual overlay. There’s no physical addition to your environment, but when you look at the same area on your phone screen, it displays extra information or graphics related to the app you’re using. The most popular example of augmented reality is Pokemon Go, a mobile game in which creatures are displayed on a mobile device’s screen as if they are present in the real world.

Collaborative VR

Collaborative virtual reality is a space or platform that allows users to come together in virtual settings from remote locations to communicate through text and speech. The users may play games together or just talk to one another, but they are able to do this from their homes without seeing the other players in person. This allows for collaborative efforts between people who are otherwise separated by geography. Common examples are virtual meeting rooms where remote employees can work together on projects.

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