An artificial reality that projects the user into a 3D space generated by the computer. A virtual reality system uses stereoscopic goggles that provide the 3D imagery and some sort of tracking device, which may be the goggles themselves for tracking head and body movement, or a "data glove" that tracks hand movements. The glove lets you point to and manipulate computer-generated objects displayed on tiny monitors inside the goggles.|
Serious Work or Entertainment
Virtual reality (VR) can be used to create an illusion of reality or imagined reality and is used both for amusement as well as serious training. Flight simulators for training airplane pilots and astronauts were the first form of this technology, which provided a very realistic and very expensive simulation.
Spatially Immersive Environments
Virtual reality has other variants. Spatially immersive displays use multi-sided rooms that you walk into, and an "immersive theater" or "immersive wall" uses a large flat or curved screen (8-24' long) that completely fills your peripheral vision. Desktop virtual reality (desktop VR) uses a computer to play games and view environments that you move around in, although they lack the 3D reality of true VR systems. See head mounted display, 6DOF, cyberspace, VRML, augmented reality, virtual world, 3D visualization and Second Life.
In this application, the child is looking through the goggles and manipulating the scenes that he sees with a game controller. (Image courtesy of I-O Display Systems, www.i-glasses.com)
Fakespace Systems' CAVE products simulate a VR environment for various purposes, such as testing the design of a new building (train station above) or learning how to operate a Caterpillar bulldozer (below). In the latter, the steering wheel on the left meets the real steering wheel on the right in virtual space. CAVE was developed by the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois in the early 1990s. (Images courtesy of Fakespace Systems Inc., a subsidiary of Mechdyne Corporation, www.mechdyne.com)