Virtual reality: is the use of computer modeling and simulation that enables a person to interact with an artificial three-dimensional (3-D) visual or other sensory environment. The term virtual reality was coined in 1987 by Jaron Lanier, whose research and engineering contributed a number of products to the nascent VR industry. Virtual reality is a computer-simulated environment that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world or imagined worlds. Virtual reality can recreate sensory experiences, including virtual taste, sight, smell, sound, touch, etc.
VR applications immerse the user in a computer-generated environment that simulates reality through the use of interactive devices, which send and receive information and are worn as goggles, headsets, gloves, or body suits. In a typical VR format, a user wearing a helmet with a stereoscopic screen views animated images of a simulated environment. The illusion of “being there” (telepresence) is effected by motion sensors that pick up the user’s movements and adjust the view on the screen accordingly, usually in real time (the instant the user’s movement takes place). Thus, a user can tour a simulated suite of rooms, experiencing changing viewpoints and perspectives that are convincingly related to his own head turnings and steps. Wearing data gloves equipped with force-feedback devices that provide the sensation of touch, the user can even pick up and manipulate objects that he sees in the virtual environment.
Most current virtual reality environments are primarily visual experiences, displayed either on a computer screen or through special stereoscopic displays, but some simulations include additional sensory information, such as sound through speakers or headphones. The simulated environment can be similar to the real world in order to create a lifelike experience—for example, in simulations for pilot or combat training—or it differs significantly from reality, such as in VR games. Michael R. Heim has identified seven different concepts of virtual reality: simulation, interaction, artificiality, immersion, telepresence, full-body immersion, and network communication.
The term “virtual space” has been suggested as more specific for this technology, which is described in detail in the article Virtual Space – the movies of the future.
The use of VR in heritage and archaeology has potential in museum and visitor centre applications. Virtual reality enables heritage sites to be recreated extremely accurately, so that the recreations can be published in various media. This technology can be used to develop virtual replicas of caves, natural environment, old towns, monuments, sculptures and archaeological elements.
Many science fiction books and films have imagined characters being “trapped in virtual reality”. One popular fictional work that uses the concept of virtual reality is William Gibson’s Neuromancer which defined the concept of cyberspace. VR is also used in other genres of art like films, games, musi. It also has its therapeutic uses. The primary use of VR in a therapeutic role is its application to various forms of exposure therapy, for instance in phobia treatments. Other research fields in which the use of virtual reality is being explored are physical medicine, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. Medical personnel are able to train through VR to deal with a wider variety of injuries.
VR plays an important role in combat training for the military. A fully immersive virtual reality that uses Head-mounted display (HMD), data suits, data glove, and VR weapon are used to train for combat. The fully immersive training environment allows the soldiers to train through a wide variety of terrains, situations and scenarios. VR is also used in flight simulation for the Air Force where people are trained to be pilots. Finally, the same goes for truck driving simulators, in which Belgian firemen are for example trained to drive in a way that prevents as much damage as possible.