What is VR? A simple guide to the basics of Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality first made a splash in the 1990s, with films like The Lawnmower Man and Disclosure painting a picture of a future where the boundary between the virtual and the real had blurred. Now, with the success of VR devices like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, we are on the cusp of a virtual revolution as sci-fi becomes reality. But just what is VR?

Simply put, VR is the use of computer technology to create a virtual, simulated environment. Instead of watching on a screen, a VR headset lets users step inside their entertainment and even interact with it. VR games transport players to far-off worlds that they can see, hear, and touch, while innovative VR sales tools place prospective homebuyers in properties located on the other side of the world.

VR aims to trick your senses into believing that you really are somewhere else. High definition screens in front of each eye replace reality with the virtual world, while motion tracking technology monitors the angle and position of your head, changing your view to match your movements. Using special controller wands, you can even interact with and manipulate objects in the virtual world, giving you a tactile, authentic experience.

So what can VR do? The application that is driving the spread of the technology is gaming. With the global gaming market now worth an estimated $91.5billion, games companies are looking for ever-more immersive ways to capture the imaginations of players, and VR is causing some major excitement in the industry. VR headsets are beginning to appear in living rooms worldwide as big companies like Sony and HTC battle upstarts like Oculus for control of this hugely dynamic market.

Of course, there’s more to VR than games. The technology has the potential to revolutionise the way properties are sold, as potential customers can experience virtual representations of homes, wherever they are in the world. VR can even let customers see into the future: by using VR representations of planned buildings, architects and property developers can let their prospective clients experience the feel of a home even before it’s been built.

Like our smartphones and tablets, expect VR to filter into every aspect of our lives. Soon we’ll be planning our interior design in virtual mock ups of our homes, and experiencing VR movies that place us right into the action. As we learn to create more and more realistic simulations and discover new, innovative ways to blend the real and virtual worlds, VR is going to show us new ways of learning, communicating, and seeing.

In short, Virtual Reality is the future of entertainment, shopping, and of human life as we know it. The technology’s potential is literally only limited by our imaginations, and as graphical and processing technology improves, VR is going to seem less and less virtual.

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