Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment.
It is a simulation that is computer-generated, of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.
This reminds me of a hit American-Australian action film, The Matrix, written and directed by The Wachowski Brothers in 1999.
Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and other characters, the movie depicts a future life in which reality, as perceived by most humans, is actually a simulated reality called “The Matrix.” A real human seats on a technological device, like a chair, and with connections, finds himself (becoming a Matrix) executing a command among humans in another environment. The Matrix are created by sentient machines to subdue the human population, while their bodies’ heat and electrical activity are used as an energy source.[quote font_size=”22″ font_style=”italic” align=”right” bgcolor=”#” color=”#” bcolor=”#” arrow=”yes”]“Everything that we know about our reality comes by way of our senses. In other words, our entire experience of reality is simply a combination of sensory information and our brains sense-making mechanisms for that information. It stands to reason then, that if you can present your senses with made-up information, your perception of reality would also change in response to it.”[/quote]
While human bodies do not undergo heat and electrical activity as energy source today, the future portrayed in “The Matrix” is what we see today in Virtual reality.
Virtual reality, as the term is, can be understood for both ‘virtual’ and ‘reality.’ Virtual means near and reality is what we experience as human beings. So the term ‘virtual reality’ basically means ‘near-reality’. This could, of course, mean anything but it usually refers to a specific type of reality emulation.
Like the Virtual Reality Society (VRS) puts it: “Everything that we know about our reality comes by way of our senses. In other words, our entire experience of reality is simply a combination of sensory information and our brains sense-making mechanisms for that information. It stands to reason then, that if you can present your senses with made-up information, your perception of reality would also change in response to it. You would be presented with a version of reality that isn’t really there, but from your perspective it would be perceived as real. Something we would refer to as a virtual reality.”
As such, virtual reality entails presenting our senses with a computer generated virtual environment that we can explore in some fashion.
An implementation of virtual reality manages to get the combination of hardware, software and sensory synchronicity correctly in order to achieve something known as a sense of presence. This is where the subjects really feel like they are present in that environment. It enables a person to view three-dimensional images, and these images appear life-sized to the person.
The images change as the person moves around their environment which corresponds with the change in their field of vision. The aim of this is to combine the person’s head and eye movements with the appropriate response in real time, as the person explores the virtual surroundings. This ensures that the virtual environment is both realistic and enjoyable.
It all looks real to the person, creating a kind of experience in the person, to feel like it is happening real.
The huge question is, what is so important about Virtual Reality?
Like in the Avatar, a 2009 American epic science fiction film directed and produced by James Cameron, we learn about the Avatar program.
With the Avatar program, humans are unable to breathe Pandora’s air (In the film, Pandora is another planet, an earth-like moon). In the film, the Avatar Program enables humans to link with their own avatar, a genetically-bred human-Na’vi hybrid, and function as if they were a Na’vi native (that is, Pandora’s indigenous population). Jake, the main character of the film, is unable to walk because of his spine problem. But in his avatar body, he is able to walk again and breathe the atmosphere in Pandora. I see this film to foreshadow a technology, which at that time was yet to be invented, but has today become a practical reality with the development in virtual reality.
Today, wherever it is too dangerous, expensive or impractical to do something in reality, virtual reality is the answer.
Also, virtual reality is applied more today in games and entertainment. However, the potentials of virtual reality stretches far beyond that. This technology can be used to advance the methods of teaching and training in our schools and training institutes.
From trainee fighter pilots to medical applications trainee surgeons, virtual reality allows us to take virtual risks in order to gain real world experience.
As the cost of virtual reality goes down and it becomes more mainstream, you can expect more serious uses, such as education or productivity applications, to come to the fore. Virtual reality can substantively change the way we interface with our digital technologies, as people have begun to humanize our technology.
Like in the example given earlier of the Matrix, and the Avatar, some movie producers with technology-forecast mind have “prophesied” virtual reality in their movies. Using the movies, they foretell a time when with the aid of computers, humans can engage in activities that are so impossible, or life threatening in the real sense, but would enjoy it virtually with real feelings, in real time and real experience. And with virtual reality today, we can loudly say: the future is here!