Today, `Virtual Reality` is used in different ways and often in a confusing and misleading manner. Jaron Lanier, founder of VPL Research (1989) was the first man to term `Virtual world or Artificial world` as `Virtual Reality` (VR). This was followed by other related terms such as `Artificial Reality` by Myron Krueger, 1970s, and `Cyberspace` by William Gibson, 1984. And currently, this is known by the name of `Virtual Worlds` and `Virtual Environments`. Besides this, virtual reality also got popularized by the movie The Lawnmower Man and research in Virtual Reality reached its peak in 1990 with the help of non-fiction book Virtual Reality by Howard Rheingold.
Virtual reality (abbreviated as VR) is fundamentally an attempt to create realistic 3 dimensional world. This 3D world makes interaction of humans with computer possible. A user can interact with virtual environment with the use of standard input devices such as a keyboard and mouse or through devices such as head mounted display (goggles), special gloves, earphones, and/or full-body wiring. Thus, with the aid of specially designed transducers and sensors, users interact with displayed images, moving and manipulating virtual objects, and performing other actions in a way that engenders a feeling of actual presence (immersion) in the simulated environment.
CREATING VIRTUAL REALITY
Head-Mounted Display (HMD)
Head mounted device was the first device to create, and provide its wearer with unseen world of virtual reality. In 1965, Evans and Sutherland first introduced head mounted display. But unfortunately, it was commercially available only after 20 years by the name "Eyephone" system.
HMD device consist of two miniature display screens and an optical system. These two components channel the images from the screens to the eyes, presenting a stereoscopic imaging. Others use a single larger display to provide higher resolution, but without the stereoscopic vision.
HMD provides virtual images by continuously tracking the position and orientation of the user`s head. This allows viewer to look around and walk through the surrounding virtual environment.
The Binocular Omni-Orientation Monitor (BOOM) from fakespace is a high-resolution stereoscopic viewing device that enables interactive and real-time viewpoint control of camera or computer-generated 3D environments. The main advantage of BOOM is that it has the ability to generate better images compared to HMD.
The BOOM (Binocular Omni-Orientation Monitor) generates virtual images by using sensors in the links of the arm that holds the box (the box incorporates screen and optical system). The user looks into the box through two holes to experience virtual world.
When a user releases the BOOM, another person can view the same images from the same perspective, which is another advantage over HMDs.
Cave Automatic Virtual Environment
The CAVE is an immersive virtual reality facility designed for the exploration of and interaction with spatially engaging environments. Basically, the CAVE`s comprises of four projection surfaces on which images are projected with uniquely immersive design. In addition, including projection on the ceiling gives a fuller sense of being enclosed in the virtual world. Furthermore, projection on all six surfaces of a room allows users to turn around and look in all directions. This allows user to interact with world in ways never before possible, which is necessary for full immersion.
The most exciting development in the field of virtual world is the upcoming concept of VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) on the World Wide Web. VRML is an open, platform-independent file format for 3-D graphics on the Web. In other words, VRML allows to create "virtual worlds" networked via the Internet and hyperlinked with the World Wide Web. These 3-D "worlds" can contain objects that link to 3D world, documents and other interactive elements.
Since virtual environment can represent any three-dimensional world that is either real or abstract. An immersive visualization can be applied everywhere starting from educational field to industrial field.
Currently, virtual reality is used for training in a variety of areas, such as military, medical. It is also used for equipment operation, education, design evaluation (virtual prototyping), architectural walk-through, human factors and ergonomic studies, simulation of assembly sequences and maintenance tasks, assistance for the handicapped, study and treatment of different types of fear (e.g., fear of height or animal), entertainment, etc.
Virtual reality has been gaining too much of hype since its inception, and in many cases more effort has been put on the development of new equipment and software rather than on the evaluation of whether VR accomplishes its stated goals. As a result of this, VR technology has not got sufficiently developed for economical use in work settings. For instance, Virtual reality has been heavily criticized for being an inefficient method for navigating non-geographical information.
But at the same time, it has opened doors to provide realistic object and environment, with which a user can interact. Thus, it remains to be seen how researchers utilize the virtual reality technology to take current development to one step above to complete stated goals.