reality, synthetic environments, artificial environments, cyberspace
or information design are the other names for the single term Virtual
Reality (VR). The term, which is composed of two words, virtual and
reality, involves the use of technologies to create a virtual 3-D
world for the user creating an impression of the real world for him.
The user can look around and move around in the artificial worlds just
as he would in the real one. Aircraft pilots are increasingly
utilising the concept of VR during their training in flight simulators
that looks like a cockpit of an airplane with all relevant gadgets and
switches. An even shaped high-resolution screen replaces the front
windshield of the cockpit. The screen displays different image
sequences, the same as what a pilot sees from the cockpit windshield
during landing, take off or a smooth glide giving the trainee a real
feel of flying actually. This is VR. To a trainee, the environment
inside the simulated or virtual cockpit is a real one.
Though no one actually knows when actually serious work on VR started yet a major breakthrough came when Apple in 1984 pioneered the first widely used input device that is the mouse. This provided communication between the user and the computer when the user could tell a computer what to do by selecting the desired activity. These mouse-driven programs that provide onscreen graphics are referred to as GUI (Graphical User Interface). This interface allows communication between the user and the computer. This GUI employs three concepts of visual reality. It allows navigation abilities (two-dimensional) to the user, manipulation of objects and application of pictures. Later, in 1965, Ivan Sutherland invented a piece of equipment, a head-mounted display that allowed for pictures to be placed in front of the eyes. Then in 1969, Myron Krueger designed a responsive environment called Glowflow. This artificial environment would respond to a person’s weight by changing the pictures on the walls.
Each of these advancements played a part in the birth of virtual reality. Without one, the other couldn’t have occurred. Even without the ultimate vision of virtual reality each improvement brought us closer to where we are today.
Virtual Reality is
basically composed of six components and six ingredients. The
ingredients refer to the technology inputs needed for the Virtual
Reality system. They have been depicted in the accompanying diagram.
Various methodologies and the components that integrate to form a VR system are:
Since VR allows for the ‘what-if’ scenarios, it finds potential applications in a number of fields like architecture where the clients can walk through the room and find possible answers to the questions like ‘what if the staircase were a little wider’ or ‘what if the room were a bit larger.’
Chemists find it a boon as now they can see how well molecules fit together and how they react to one another. Vehicular marketing can utilise a VR system for allowing their customers to test drive a virtual car for instance. Military sector benefits from VR when it demonstrates the use of new equipment in addition to simulating battle scenarios. The possibilities are endless and can be put to use in any field be it education (teaching aids), surgery (training, preplanning), tourism, diagnostics, rehabilitation and entertainment.
The major hurdle in the
popularity of VR is the lack of an impressive market size. Consequently,
there are not many market leaders, no standards as such and very few