To say that virtual reality technology has finally arrived would not quite be correct, but it is closer than ever. Let’s take a look at this new and developing advancement in our lives.
Virtual reality technology has taken our fantasies and is trying to make them real-or at least, as real as a computer can simulate. That you can stand (or sit) in your own living room and take a virtual tour of ancient Rome, or have your golf swing analyzed is just short of a technological miracle.
Today’s scientists are working on developing the most realistic 3D simulated worlds they can, using virtual reality technology. Computers, combined with special interfacing peripherals, are capable of simulating any environment written into its programs.
Basically, the requirements for such a simulated environment require that the computer and its peripherals be able to project a 3D world that looks at real as possible to the user. It is also necessary that the programs be able to track the user’s movements, using that information to adjust the environment accordingly, to give the user a sense of total immersion into his virtual environment.
The degree to which a user feels completely immersed in the virtual environment is called telepresence. Along with being able to interact with the environment, telepresence in virtual reality technology is the standard by which this advancement is measured. A successful telepresence will give the user a sense that he is no longer in his own world, and will have to cooperate and interact with his new environment.
Therefore, the quality of the display is vital. Image resolution and sound quality are the primary systems with the most focus on them in virtual reality technology. But there are scientists working on other sensory feedback systems. User force feedback, called haptic systems, is the event whereupon a user can reach out and touch a virtual object and receive computerized feedback that actually makes the user feel a corresponding sensation. This is the newest element of development in the virtual reality technology world.
For example-about that golf swing analysis we mentioned earlier. Using an actual golf club, the user feels it in his hands, but what he sees, when he looks at it, will be a virtual representation of the golf club. That is one-way scientists are using haptic systems to give the sensation of full immersion into a 3D world.
The peripherals used in virtual reality technology become an important factor in giving the user the ability to interact with his 3D world. Such peripherals, like data gloves and omnidirectional treadmills, body suits, headsets and joysticks are but a few of the devices in common use today as part of the experience.
The financial implications of virtual reality technology are astounding. Virtual reality technology is not limited to games and theater. With this capability, it will be possible to create products virtually and make changes to them without having to actually build and scrap them. Medical, educational and businesses the world over stand to make great strides in their respective fields when the costs of research and development are reduced through the use of virtual reality technology.
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