How Does Virtual Reality Technology Work?
Among disruptive technologies that gradually transform industries, Virtual Reality is of the greatest value to businesses in terms of consumer engagement. The process of the technology itself assumes that the user will be completely immersed in a newly created environment that is completely different from the reality in which he is. The task of businesses today is to adapt this technology to their needs and leave less agile competitors on the sidelines.
The Virtual Reality Basics
For VR technology to succeed, it has to realistically simulate environments to fool the human brain and make it believe it is a reality. From a scientific perspective, it all starts with an understanding of how the human brain interprets what a person sees in order to create a mental picture of the world around.
The deal is that the perception of reality is based on the rules that a person develops, using his experience as a guide. For example, using objects that can be identified and their size relative to each other, a person can judge the distance. The shadows cast by objects around, allow detecting the light source. VR designers can use these usual rules to create virtual environments that match people's mental expectations of reality. Thus, the finished result is a holistic experience that people interpret as “real.”
So, the concept of VR is to apply computer technology to create a simulated, fully immersive 3D world that the user can freely control and explore, feeling as if he is in this world. The virtual reality experience should include two fundamental things, 3D images that look life-size from the user's point of view and the ability to track the movements of the user's head and eyes to timely adjust the images on his display, reflecting the corresponding changes in the environment.
Experts also highlight such concepts as the depth of information and the breadth of information. The depth of information is understood as the data in the signals that the user receives by manipulating virtual reality. This may concern screen resolution, the complexity of the graphics used to build a virtual environment, the complexity of the audio output of the system, and so on.
The breadth of information is a number of sensory changes simultaneously presented during the VR journey. A virtual environment has a breadth of information if it stimulates all the senses. Most virtual reality experiences focus on visual and audio components and pay less attention to other sensory-stimulating factors. However, engineers are looking for ways to engage users' sense of touch to make VR experience even more "real".
VR Devices for User Interaction
Typically, to immerse in virtual reality, you need a headset, computer, or phone and a system for tracking movements in some cases. Most computers and phones are sophisticated enough to display high-quality 3D content, making virtual reality technology more affordable for users.
The headsets contain two monitors, one for each eye. If a phone is used for the VR journey, the image on its screen is divided into two monitors according to the same principle. The images create a stereoscopic effect, giving the illusion of depth. However, despite the fact that the phone is an affordable device for VR experience, it is the worst option offered by technology.
Caution: Poor-quality VR experience can seriously harm your health, so you should carefully consider the choice of devices.
Modern technology allows us to create extremely realistic three-dimensional objects. However, the difficulty still lies in their perception of the human eye. Low FPS (frames per second) can cause nausea, headaches, or eye pain. Therefore, 60 FPS is considered optimal for a comfortable VR experience; the extraordinary quality can be achieved at 72 FPS. Moreover, the width of the field of view must also be considered. The human eye can see in a roughly two-hundred-and-twenty-degree arc around the head. And this is a goal that VR headsets developers strive to achieve.
The sound system is also a challenge for developers since it is necessary to take into account a lot of factors, from the volume of the sound depending on the distance of the user to its source to the user's location in space. VR experts use spatial audio to create a simulated audio landscape that matches the visuals.
It is believed that the real magic of presence in virtual reality begins when the user can truly move around the landscape and explore it. The main challenge here is to create an environment that will be changing very fast. After all, the more you need to draw objects, the less FPS, which means experience becomes uncomfortable and painful for the eyes.
To engage one more human sense, touch, the developers suggest using specialized gloves. Prototypes and released devices still do not fully meet the requirements of absolute compliance with human sensations, but active development in this area assumes very promising prospects soon.
Nevertheless, there is a wide majority of input VR devices that provide users a sense of immersion, help to navigate, and interact within a VR environment to make it intuitive and natural as possible. The commonly used input devices are controller wands, joysticks, data gloves, trackpads, on-device control buttons, motion trackers, bodysuits, treadmills, and motion platforms. All of these devices are not a part of standard VR equipment and considered additional equipment.
And yet, despite the complexity of building a virtual reality for its interpretation by the human brain, the technology is already striking users, giving them a very unusual and deep experience of immersion in new worlds.
Virtual Reality Application
Contrary to popular belief that virtual reality is a purely entertainment technology, many industries have already adopted VR solutions to achieve their goals. Here are some common examples of how advantageous virtual reality could be for businesses.
The tendency to the gamification of many routine processes, such as education and training, owes much to its development to virtual reality. An engaging and interesting experience allows you to absorb even the 'driest' information. Large amounts of data, formulas, statistics, all this can be an integral part of the game, which is beneficial.
In healthcare, VR can be used both for training future doctors and for training surgeons before complex operations. Besides, many mental health restoration practices already include virtual reality. As for research and scientific activities, VR technology allows the creation of virtual laboratories to conduct safe experiments.
For retailers and online sellers, virtual reality extends the boundaries of customer interaction, providing a new “try before buy” experience. Moreover, this is an excellent tool for creating the most customized configuration of the product, whether it is a change in color or trim level, the result will be visible immediately, which improves decision-making motivation to purchase.
Meeting or collaboration groups from different countries can interact thanks to the created virtual space where each participant is involved and engaged. This practice is perfect for outsourcing companies or remote dedicated teams that need to stay in touch with other participants. A presence effect created by virtual reality is much more engaging than video or audio calls.
VR is a cost-effective, safe, and time-saving way to create interactive prototypes and new product models. Using this technology allows us to save physical resources and conduct tests with a virtual model until it is actually created. This is a great way to learn about the functionality of a product, make changes at an early stage, and avoid many mistakes in the future. This reduces time to market and can significantly improve the quality of the finished product without additional costs.
VR prototyping will come in handy in many industries, such as the production of new equipment, the automotive industry, even architectural projects, and so on. Using virtual reality to demonstrate all the benefits of a future product is an additional competitive advantage for the company.
Staff training can be provided not only thanks to gamification. For example, risk managers or stockbrokers can undergo intensive training in virtual reality that simulates different scenarios for them. They can use the gained experience in their future work. Moreover, it allows us to determine the strongest employee and the weakest based on their reactions and behavior in a virtually created environment.
Virtual reality applications can also be used for hiring and interviewing remote employees. The distance is erased when there is an opportunity to personally speak with a potential candidate.
Virtual travel is also gaining popularity, making any place and country accessible without the need to leave home. The same method can be used by hotels and resorts to familiarize potential visitors with their environment to demonstrate a room, a lobby, a restaurant at the hotel, and even the surrounding area. Virtual reality, unlike photo and video content, creates the effect of presence, which acts as an additional argument in favor of business.
Real estate agencies can act on the same principle. A virtual tour to the office, apartment, or house saves the potential buyer’s time and involves him as much as possible in the process, so VR can increase sales and improve interaction with customers.
How to Get Started with VR Projects?
Creating a VR project from scratch is a laborious and costly process. Despite the existence of a large selection of tools and even step-by-step instructions for their use, it will take a lot of time to delve into the process of creating a VR application. That is why companies that want to discover the world of virtual reality have two ways, to supplement their IT department with the necessary specialists or hire a VR expert service provider.
Hiring employees on an ongoing basis can be economically unprofitable or too costly while working with a third-party contractor ensures compliance with the agreed budget. A professional team will provide you with preliminary consultation based on an in-depth analysis of your needs and goals. This will allow you to choose the best way to implement the project, determine the technological stack, and the required level of expertise of the performers.
Moreover, the company can access a wide knowledge base, experience, and skills of highly qualified specialists. You can explore their capabilities through portfolios or case studies, which are usually publicly available or on-demand. In addition to innovative development using an individual approach, a service provider company can provide maintenance and support for the application in the future, develop updates, and implement them.
Experts are still discussing the real potential of virtual reality as a technology of the future. However, successful examples already existing today indicate that VR technology will become a must-have tool for many businesses in the near future. Therefore, it is necessary to partner with the top AR/VR development company to help your business realize the VR project at a high level.
The article was written by Nikolay Smorgun, Head of Game Development Department at Computools. Nikolay is an experienced leader that is passionate across AR/VR technologies. He has deep industry knowledge and experience in this field.
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