Virtual Reality is a medium with tremendous potential. The ability to be transported to other places, to be fully immersed in experiences, and to feel like you’re really there– present– opens up unimagined ways to interact and communicate. Until recently, virtual reality was out of reach for the average consumer due to cost and other factors. However, advances in the technology over the last few years have set the stage for a mass market revolution that could be as influential as the introduction of television, the Internet, or the smartphone.

Virtual reality– VR for short– comprises a collection of technologies: 3D displays, motion tracking hardware, input devices, software frameworks, and development tools. While consumer-grade VR hardware is young and evolving, a handful of platforms have emerged as go-to choices, including Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Cardboard. Each delivers a different level of VR experience, at a different price point, with varying degrees of in-your-hands portability.

Software to create and display consumer virtual reality is also coming together rapidly. The Unity3D and Unreal game engines, popular for making desktop and mobile games, have become tools of choice for native VR development. And the web is not far behind: WebGL and 3D JavaScript frameworks like Three.js and Babylon.js are providing a path for creating open source, browser-based virtual reality experiences for desktop and mobile operating systems.



Tuscany VR Demo Oculus Rift



Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.

—Albert Einstein

Virtual Reality has one goal: to convince you that you are somewhere else. It does this by tricking the human brain– in particular the visual cortex and parts of the brain that perceive motion. A variety of technologies conspire to create this illusion, including:

  • Stereoscopic Displays. Also known as 3D displays, or head mounted displays (HMDs). These displays use a combination of multiple images, realistic optical distortion, and special lenses to produce a stereo image that our eyes interpret as having three-dimensional depth.
  • Motion Tracking Hardware. Gyroscopes, accelerometers and other low-cost components are used in virtual reality hardware to sense when our bodies move and our heads turn, so that the application can update our view into the 3D scene.
  • Input Devices. Virtual reality is creating the need for new types of input devices beyond the keyboard and mouse, including game controllers and hand- and body-tracking sensors that can recognize motion and gestures.
  • Desktop and Mobile Platforms. This includes the computer hardware, operating systems, software to interface to the devices, frameworks and engines that run applications, and software tools for building them.

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