Over the years, terms like cyberspace, simulator technology, synthetic environment, etc. were in use for what we call Virtual Reality (VR) today. While it is a modern manifestation, the core idea has remained the same. In this article, our focus will be on addressing a core question- How does VR work?
To cut the clutter, VR is an interactive, computer-generated multimedia space. Here, the user gets involved in a virtual world created by the computer. How virtual reality works is by creating a simulation of the real world to be experienced visually. Also, it allows real-time motion and enhanced sound to give an interactive experience.
In essence, VR creates an illusion that makes us believe that the object on the screen has more depth and precision. It is in contrast to what we otherwise may see on a flat-screen.
1. Components Of VR
Now let us take a look at the components of virtual reality that cultivate such effects on screen. These components are crucial in understanding how VR works.
The hardware components of virtual reality include:
Virtual reality computers are high-end computers that have a design to support technical applications. They are connected to the local network and enable the operation of a multi-user system.
As they are high-performance computers, their CPU, GPU, memory, RAM, PSU, multitasking abilities, etc. set them apart from regular computers. The specifications of the VR computer you use determine its performance.
For satisfactory VR computer outcome, a RAM of 16GB or more, a CPU of i5 6500U, an AMD R90 GPU should be present. Apart from this, a good SSD storage and an operating system working with 64 bits or more are preferred.
The best virtual reality computers are those computers that have excellent speeds, connectivity, and good graphics as well to support the virtual environment.
Sensory displays are the most commonly known component of virtual reality. It is the view we get on these displays that forms the basis of how virtual reality works. As the name suggests, they display the virtual environment in a screen to the user. The two main types of sensory displays available today are-
A Head-mounted display is the one that has a design to keep the screen in front of the viewer’s eyes every time. The view of the virtual environment appears on the screen. It is further influenced by the sensors that are present on the helmet that mounts the screen. As the viewer moves, the display is modified. It occurs by receiving information from the sensors.
In many head-mounted displays, optical lenses and mirrors are in use to magnify the image produced on the screen for a better experience.
One of the core components of the head-mounted displays of VR is that there should be a swift motion-sensing facility available. The tracking of the motion of the viewer is around six basic movements. These include strafing, yawing, surging, pitching, and elevating.
Experts have varying opinions on the best VR headsets as per their use and specifications. A high-quality virtual reality experience can only be present with the use of a similar quality of gadgets.
Binocular Omni-Orientation Monitor (BOOM)
The technology works similar to a head-mounted virtual reality displays. The difference is that the screen here mounts on a mechanical arm. Sensors that are present at various locations on the mechanical arm can track the motion and positions of the viewer.
A computer then senses the position of the viewer adequately to produce an image that is best suited to give an enhanced VR experience.
Visual Display Monitors
Visual display monitors, as the name suggests, are just screens for viewing the virtual image. There are two types of virtual display monitors, which could be either LCD monitors or CRT monitors. Both have different characteristics in the way that they produce the virtual experience of this interactive environment.
2. Software Components
Software components of VR technology include
VR Simulation software- Lays down the rules for the functioning of virtual reality.Moreover, it coordinates the activities of other constituents of VR technology.
3D Graphic Software- It adds depth and perception to the image of the objects.
2D Graphics Software- Modifies the features of 2D images so that they look more appealing in VR.
3. Other Components
Some of the other components of VR systems include Process Acceleration Cards that are components that update the experience with new visual and audio inputs. They provide three-dimensional updates to the visual and auditory display of the perceived view. They include graphic cards, Audio cards, etc.
Then there are sensors for tracking user behavior. These can make use of ultrasonic or infrared technology for sensing the viewer. In many cases, even mechanical trackers are in use for VR systems.
Input devices like joysticks are also Hardware components of virtual reality computers.
How Does Virtual Reality Work?
Virtual reality works on fulfilling two primary goals. The first is to provide a display or view that is as similar as possible to the real imagery. Secondly, the image that is on display should have an immediate modification as per the changes in the position and viewpoint of the observer.
To understand how virtual reality works, we must first know the basics of human vision.
How we view an object is influenced by our angular position, brightness around the subject, and the size of the object relative to us.
Also, since we have binocular vision, it is known that the image produced by each eye individually Is somewhat different. Somehow if the two images produced by both eyes separately are fused, then a three-dimensional image will be obtained. It is called stereo vision that is- capturing a 3D picture from 2D sources.
Here, in virtual reality systems, the most commonly used hardware is the head-mounted display. In this, it places a display screen for each eye in front of the face. When an image is displayed to the two eyes separately, the brain fuses them, involuntarily, to ultimately view it as a single 3D image.
Along with this, when you move your head, you change the parameters like eye parallax, angular position, etc. While using a VR device, when the head moves, the change in attitude assumed by the body is tracked by sensors to compensate for the typical mechanism.
This way, you feel that you are viewing objects via the body mechanisms, but in reality, the same mechanism is mimicked by the device to give you a nearly real experience.
While many of us have started using VR Technologies, it is still not clear to us how does VR work? Virtual reality cuts across all domains today. But the nature of Virtual environment produced, depends on the technical aspects of the equipment in use. For this purpose it is pivotal to know the working of these equipments to produce virtual imagery.
Virtual reality is still a new concept for most of us. It is a technology which requires high-end components to execute the desirable presentation. High levels of skill and cost, both are required for VR. So, it might just not be as easy to get a hang of it soon.
Nevertheless, it is the right time that we recognize the potential of a Virtual Reality system because it can give a boost to varying sectors like education, architecture, design, ergonomics, etc.