The most common use of virtual reality is for video games, but it has a lot of potential in other fields. For example, virtual reality, or VR, is used in the military to simulate training in dangerous situations and combat. In healthcare, professionals use it to practice their skills and learn new ones in a simulated environment where they cannot cause any harm to a patient. VR is also used in construction projects because it’s a lot faster and cheaper than building a model or structure. The building can be examined in 3D and prevent mistakes in the final building. Engineers use VR to see a 3D model of their design, making it easier to see how the project works, and take note of possible risks. VR has also been used in courtrooms. 3D crime scenes can help jurors visualize what happened more effectively than 2D images. In 2014, the University of Zurich published a study, determining that the Oculus Rift’s reconstructed crime scene helped show the details of a case and make a more accurate decision. VR is present in many museums, allowing for instant transportation to museums around the world such as the Louvre, the Acropolis, and the Guggenheim. Those virtual spaces make it easier for people to experience culture. In medicine, VR has a large impact. Companies like Surgical Theater and Conquer Mobile have created simulations that transform CAT scan and ultrasound images into 3D models, making it safer and easier for surgeons to find tumors, practice surgeries, and determine where incisions should be made. Additionally, VR makes telemedicine possible. Telemedicine is taking care of and carrying out medical procedures on patients without physically being there. The daVinci robot, a robot that is controlled by a surgeon using VR from another location, is an example of this concept.. The process is very successful and is now widely used in hospitals everywhere. This opens the doors for multiple surgeons working together to complete challenging operations. Builders also use VR for their projects. Before, models of buildings and complex vehicles were made of paper, card, wood, or plastic. Recently, these are being made on computer programs, cutting the costs of making models, so adding VR to that makes the model more immersive.
VR has come a long way, and is drastically different than it originally was, thanks to many intelligent people. In 1956, cinematographer Morton L. Heilig invented the Sensorama, patented in 1962. It had stereo speakers, a 3D display, and like its name, simulated all five senses. In 1960, Heilig created the Telesphere mask. It was head-mounted, had surround sound, and wide vision. Jaron Lanier coined the term ‘virtual reality’ in 1987 when his company VPN began developing the Dataglove and the Eyephone, types of VR gear. Major video game company SEGA released the Sega VR headset in 1993, featuring surround sound and an LCD screen. In 2007, a VR program called Virtual Warzone was created to help veterans suffering with PTSD. This yielded incredible results, the program being very effective in helping patients overcome their trauma. Finally, medical students were given more realistic and safe practice in 2008, when operating simulators were created in VR.
A VR headset is meant to override the user’s outside input. Sensors track user motion, like the press of a button, controller motion, and body part movements, including minor things like eyes. The outside world is supposed to interfere in the least amount possible. A true VR system is not possible because current software does not completely cancel out the user’s surroundings. Immersion is the illusion of physically being somewhere else. When related to VR, this is crucial to the effectiveness of the simulation. Computer scientist Jonathan Steuer claimed that immersion is made of two essential parts. These parts are breadth of information and depth of information. Depth of information is the quality of the data that the user receives. The essential parts of depth of information are the display’s resolution, the graphics, and the audio and video quality. Breadth of information relates to the senses, and how many are present in a simulation. More senses being present creates a more immersive and realistic environment, allowing the user to be fully focused on their simulation. Currently, sound and sight are the senses that are most researched and focused on by VR developers, these being the most essential parts of immersion. Sense of touch is another of the main factors in immersion, its importance recently becoming more prioritized. For a virtual environment to be fully immersive, the user must be able to explore it effectively. Perspective and point of view are key. The user’s vision should be like it is normally, seamless and following the person’s angle.
VR is unlike other devices because of its inputs and outputs in use of senses. VR uses motion sensors to track body movement. For sight, a headset has one screen for each eye, creating the illusion of depth. In some cases haptic feedback, or the sense of touch is in place. VR headsets are head-mounted displays, or HMDs. It allows the user to simply move their head to view an image from multiple angles and have a different field of view. HMDs tend to use one of 2 technologies in the screen. cathode ray tube, or CRT, or liquid crystal display, commonly called LCD. CRT gives a more realistic image, reflecting the image onto the user’s eye. Sometimes, the images are not fully reflective, allowing the user to see the outside world as well and use other devices at the same time. LCD works in a different way than CRT. Each eye gets a slightly different image. In the brain, these two images are merged together, forming a realistic wide view. LCD displays lack the picture quality of CRT, but it is thin, cheaper, and weighs less. VR headsets display a 3D image, changing in real-time when the user’s head and/or body move. These images are made 3D because of the headset’s two small screens, each displaying an similar image from slightly different angles, imitating the way our eyes view things. To preserve the immersion, the headset has a blackout blindfold built around it, preventing any outside light from getting in. To make the audio realistic, the headphone contains built in stereo headphones. To create a realistic experience, the user’s perspective must change when they move their head or body. To do this, HMDs have position sensors, which adjust the displayed image whenever they detect a change in position or orientation of the user’s body or head. VR headsets seem pretty elaborate, but simple ones have been made and are very popular, such as the Google Cardboard, a basic headset head of cardboard and lenses that hooks up to a phone. To interact with a virtual world, one needs more than simply a headset to just look around. Wands are a remote paired with the headset. Holding them allows the user to interact with the virtual world via their hands. This is made possible by built-in accelerometers, the same things that are in the headset to determine body and head position. In the wands, they determine the position of the user’s hands. They have buttons and scroll wheels on them to further interact with menus and such. In older versions, they were wired, but recently, most are wireless.
VR has many advantages. VR can help train employees in dangerous lines of work. Pilots, doctors, and firefighters are some professions that utilize VR in order to train and get real-time experience to prevent mistakes when they do their job in person. Mass implementation of these practices will cause those new to the job to gain experience faster than those who learned without them. VR can also be very beneficial for meetings, making meetings and conference calls more interactive and informational. It would feel more like actually being in the same room with someone. Since they won’t have to pay for their employees to travel for projects and meetings, VR can cut a lot of costs for companies. Using VR, they can make important decisions and evaluations without going anywhere. VR can be very useful in education, because of how common language barriers are. Multiple languages can be programmed into the software, making the learning experience much easier.
There are, however, some downsides to VR. Human communication is damaged by the use of VR. In education, students need to learn from each other. Not learning from others damages relationships and prevents connections from forming. Using VR makes it difficult to ask questions, since a software can be programmed with answers, but likely won’t anticipate every question the user has. Learning isn’t fixed. People need to be able to ask questions and be curious in order to find what works best for them. Mistakes happen with any device. The same is true of VR. If something breaks for someone using it for business or education, they will be left unable to complete their task. Fixing a technology as complex as VR is very expensive. The chance of addiction with VR is very possible. People may see the virtual world as better than what they have, and spend an unhealthy amount of time in something that isn’t even real. HMDs are usually heavy, placing strain on the head, neck, and shoulders when worn for too long. Ones that are very heavy even have to be mounted on stands.
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