Does the virtual reality work

What is Virtual Reality?

VR here, VR there - the topic Virtual reality is on everyone's lips! What is often neglected in many contributions and discussions, however, is a basic definition of this virtual reality. Therefore, in this article we would like to approach the topic of VR from a scientific perspective and use different definition approaches around the question "What is Virtual Reality?”Illuminate.

So you have been warned: A theoretical treatise on the subject of virtual reality awaits you here - if you prefer it practical, I recommend contacting us directly or booking a workshop as a speaker, because with virtual reality it is actually like this: “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. ",(Morpheus, The Matrix 1999)

What is Virtual Reality? ©

What does virtual reality mean?

In order to approach the term “virtual reality”, we should first consider the meaning of the words virtual (eng. “Virtual”) and reality (eng. “Reality”) separately from each other. In Duden, the word virtual is explained as something that is “not real” or “apparent”. In the technological environment, this term has been used for a long time to describe something that is not physically present but has functionality or effect, such as a virtual drive. This is a functional replica of a CD drive including a data carrier, which does not exist as hardware, but from the user's point of view works just like a physical drive.
The definition of reality already occupied great philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato or Kant, but an exact description would go beyond the scope of this article. In simple terms, the word reality, which is a synonym for “reality”, describes the (physically) real world into which a person is born and which is perceived by him through his sensory impressions. (Cf. Sherman / Craig 2003, p. 6) Accordingly, it could be assumed that if reality describes the perception of the real world, the compound term Virtual Reality describes the perception of a virtual world that is not real, but in its functionality or Effect exists and can therefore also be experienced.

Where does the term virtual reality come from?

A general basic understanding of virtual reality is created by Gartner, one of the leading market research institutes in the field of information technology, who defines virtual reality as a computer-generated 3D environment that surrounds the user and reacts as naturally as possible to their individual actions. Head-mounted displays (HMDs), which are colloquially known as VR glasses, are mostly used for this. In the literature, the term virtual reality was first used in 1989 by the computer scientist Jaron Lanier, who summarized various innovative device developments and research work in the field of 3D real-time computer graphics. (Cf. Bormann 1994, p. 24) The real-time capability enables virtual reality to react in real time to individual actions of a user and to adapt accordingly. While, for example, a film can be paused in real time or the playback speeded up or slowed down, the content played back always remains the same. In virtual reality, on the other hand, the content of the virtual world can vary depending on the interaction of the user.

Virtual Reality definition approaches

Claudia in the virtual world © omnia360

Due to the natural possibilities for interaction, virtual reality is also referred to as the human-machine interface, "[...] which, compared to traditional user interfaces, enables particularly natural or intuitive interaction with the three-dimensionally simulated environment." (Dörner et al. 2013, p. 15)

Later research work also takes into account the mental aspects of virtual reality and dealt with the question of what effects VR has on the processes of human perception if virtual reality can no longer (or can hardly be) distinguished from physical reality. (Cf. Dörner et al. 2013, p. 18) Howard Rheingold, a well-known social scientist who primarily dealt with the socio-cultural effects of modern technologies on society, pointed out that the focus of virtual reality is the experience, "[...] the experience of being in a virtual world or in a strange place." (Rheingold 1995, p. 54) Sherman and Craig, pioneers in the field of VR research, described VR in an initial definition approach in their reference work Understanding Virtual Reality as follows: “To simplify things for our purposes, let's say it is a place that exists and that we can experience. " (Sherman / Craig (2003), p. 6) In this approach, the “place” is a core element (“[…] is a place […]”), by which the virtual world is meant, as well as the fact that it can be experienced (“[…] and that we can experience.”) Thus, similar to Rheingold, the focus here is on the experience of experiencing a virtual world. For these reasons, literature and science often speak of a VR experience.

Generation of a virtual reality

However, these approaches do not allow any conclusions to be drawn about the generation of virtual reality. In this sense, the definition by Carolina Cruz-Neira from 1993, which is still widespread today, is more informative: “VR refers to immersive, interactive, multi-sensory, viewer-centered, three-dimensional computer-generated environments and the combination of technologies required to build these environments. ”(Cruz-Neira 1993: Virtual Reality Overview.) From this it becomes clear that VR is a computer-generated phenomenon and different technologies are required to achieve it generate ("combination of technologies required to build these"). In addition, other core elements of virtual reality are mentioned, such as the user-centered view ("viewer-centered") through which the three-dimensional environment ("three-dimensional") automatically aligns itself to the new perspective of the user, the multi-sensory addressing of the user ("multi -sensory ") as well as interaction and immersion (" immersive, interactive ").

The following video is intended to give you a little insight into what virtual reality can look like and feel like. The user is completely in the virtual world thanks to the head-mounted display:

The previous approaches did not take into account the suitability of virtual reality for communication. In addition to some of the elements mentioned above, Sherman and Craig bring this into their final definition by defining Virtual Reality as a medium: "Virtual Reality - a medium composed of interactive computer simulations that sense the participant's position and actions and replace or augment the feedback to one or more senses, giving the feeling of being mentally immersed or present in the simulation (a virtual world). " (Craig / Sherman (2003), p. 13)

Final “Virtual Reality” definition

As part of our master’s thesis, we (Claudia Berger and Reza Kiani) created our own definition of “Virtual Reality” based on the definition approaches presented above, which is as follows:

Virtual Reality is a medium that consists of a computer-generated, interactive world that completely surrounds the user and can be experienced particularly immersively by addressing one or more senses using suitable systems.

Accordingly, virtual reality represents a digital medium that can be viewed both as a technology and as a medium. Since the suitability of virtual reality for communication was in the foreground in the context of our scientific examination, the ability of VR to convey content and messages was particularly emphasized by the definition as a medium. The technological origin is taken into account insofar as it is emphasized that the virtual world is computer-generated and addresses one or more senses of the user via suitable systems. This virtual world completely surrounds the user and hides physical reality. The core elements are interaction and immersion, which can create a strong feeling of presence in the user and are particularly suitable for separating virtual reality from other information and communication media.

More about virtual reality

Now that you know what virtual reality actually is, we recommend that you learn more about it in the following articles:

Also on the question What is Augmented Reality? and for the development of augmented reality we have contributions in the area of ​​360-degree know-how.

Too much VR theory? How about a practical workshop!

Sources of literature for the virtual reality definitions:

    • Bormann, Sven (1994): Virtual Reality. Genesis and Evaluation. Addison-Wesley, Bonn.
    • Cruz-Neira, Carolina (1993): Virtual Reality Overview. SIGGRAPH 1993, Course No. 23, pp. 1.1-1.8.
    • Dörner, Ralf / Broll, Wolfgang / Grimm, Paul / Jung, Bernhard (eds.): Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR / AR). Basics and methods of virtual and augmented reality. Springer Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg. Pp. 1-31.
    • Rheingold, Howard (1995): Virtual Worlds. Travel in cyberspace. Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbek.
    • Sherman, William R. / Craig, Alan B. (2003): Understanding Virtual Reality. INTERFACE, APPLICATION AND DESIGN. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, San Francisco.