Virtual reality or virtual realities (VR), also known as immersive multimedia or computer-simulated reality, is a computer technology that replicates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user’s physical presence and environment to allow for user interaction. Virtual realities artificially create sensory experience, which can include sight, touch, hearing, and smell.
Most up-to-date virtual realities are displayed either on a computer monitor or with a virtual reality headset (also called head-mounted display), and some simulations include additional sensory information and focus on real sound through speakers or headphones targeted towards VR users. Some advanced haptic systems now include tactile information, generally known as force feedback in medical, gaming and military applications. Furthermore, virtual reality covers remote communication environments which provide virtual presence of users with the concepts of telepresence and telexistence or a virtual artifact (VA) either through the use of standard input devices such as a keyboard and mouse, or through multimodal devices such as a wired glove or omnidirectional treadmills. The immersive environment can be similar to the real world in order to create a lifelike experience—for example, in simulations for pilot or combat training—or it can differ significantly from reality, such as in VR games.
The affordable and accessible Google Cardboard standard.
In 2001, SAS3 or SAS Cube became the first PC based cubic room, developed by Z-A Production (Maurice Benayoun, David Nahon), Barco, Clarté, installed in Laval France in April 2001. The SAS library gave birth to Virtools VRPack.
By 2007, Google introduced Street View, a service that shows panoramic views of an increasing number of worldwide positions such as roads, indoor buildings and rural areas. It also features a stereoscopic 3D mode, introduced in 2010.
In 2010, Palmer Luckey, who later went on to found Oculus VR, designed the first prototype of the Oculus Rift. This prototype, built on a shell of another virtual reality headset, displayed only 2-D images and was noticeably cumbersome to wear. However, it boasted a 90-degree field of vision that was previously unseen anywhere in the market at the time. This initial design would later serve as a basis from which the later designs came.
In 2013, Nintendo filed a patent for the concept of using VR technology to produce a more realistic 3D effect on a 2D television. A camera on the TV tracks the viewer’s location relative to the TV, and if the viewer moves, everything on the screen reorients itself appropriately. “For example, if you were looking at a forest, you could shift your head to the right to discover someone standing behind a tree.”
In July 2013, Guild Software’s Vendetta Online was widely reported as the first MMORPG to support the Oculus Rift, making it potentially the first persistent online world with native support for a consumer virtual reality headset.
On March 25, 2014, Facebook purchased a company that makes virtual reality headsets, Oculus VR, for $2 billion. Sony announces Project Morpheus (its code name for PlayStation VR), a virtual reality headset for the PlayStation 4. Google announces Cardboard, a do-it-yourself stereoscopic viewer for smartphones.
Since 2013, there have been several virtual reality devices that seek to enter the market to complement Oculus Rift to enhance the game experience. One, Virtuix Omni, is based on the ability to move in a three dimensional environment through an omnidirectional treadmill.
In 2015, the Kickstarter campaign for Gloveone, a pair of gloves providing motion tracking and haptic feedback, was successfully funded, with over $150,000 in contributions.
In February–March 2015, HTC partnered with Valve Corporation announced their virtual reality headset HTC Vive and controllers, along with their tracking technology called Lighthouse, which utilizes “base stations” mounted to the wall above the user’s head in the corners of a room for positional tracking of the Vive headset and its motion controllers using infrared light. The company announced its plans to release the Vive to the public in April 2016 on December 8, 2015. Units began shipping on April 5, 2016.
In July 2015, OnePlus became the first company to launch a product using virtual reality. They used VR as the platform to launch their second flagship device the OnePlus 2, first viewable using an app on the Google Play Store, then on YouTube. The launch was viewable using OnePlus Cardboard, based on the Google’s own Cardboard platform. The whole VR launch had a runtime of 33 minutes, and was viewable in all countries.
Also in 2015, Jaunt, a startup company developing cameras and a cloud distribution platform, whose content will be accessible using an app, reached $100 million in funding from such sources as Disney and Madison Square Garden.
On April 27, 2016, Mojang announced that Minecraft is now playable on the Gear VR. Minecraft is still being developed for the Oculus Rift headset but a separate version was released to the Oculus Store for use with the Gear VR. This version has everything that’s in the Pocket Edition of Minecraft.