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How Virtual Reality (VR) works

Virtual reality (VR) is soon going to be the generation’s defining technology that will completely transform the world today. It is already growing at a rapid pace.

One common question which many have, however, is: “How does virtual reality work”?

You are not alone in your confusion; the experience of putting on a headset or special glasses and exploring an entirely virtual world —which by the way, provides the same sensory experience as the real world— is a phenomenon which baffles the best of us. But first, what is this.

What is Virtual Reality?

You probably ­­realize that VR is about simulated environments, but there is much more to virtual reality than gazing at a world generated by a computer. Virtual reality is a completely computer-generated simulation, where your entire view is virtual. This means that we can manipulate this virtual world to whatever we would like it to be, and produce some really amazing things. VR can include 4 of the 5 senses, including vision, hearing, touch and possibly even smell. With this power, VR can take people for a virtual world fairly easily. Virtual Reality is a way to create a computer-generated environment that immerses the user into a virtual world. When we put on a VR headset it takes us to a simulated set-up making us completely aloof from the actual surroundings. If you ever have put on the one you would know exactly what I am talking about.

How VR Works:

The main attraction of virtual reality is to simulate the human vision. Every headset aims to perfect their approach to creating an immersive 3D environment. Each VR headset puts up a screen (or two – one for each eye) in front of eyes thus, eliminating any interaction with the real world. Two autofocus lenses are generally placed between the screen and the eyes that adjust based on individual eye movement and positioning. The visuals on the screen are rendered either by using a mobile phone or HDMI cable connected to a PC.

To create a truly immersive virtual reality there are certain prerequisites – a frame rate of minimum 60fps, an equally competent refresh rate and minimum 100-degree field of view (FOV) (though 180 degrees is ideal). The frame rate is the rate at which the GPU can process the images per second, the screen refresh rate is the pace of the display to render images, and FOV is the extent to which the display can support eye and head movement.

If either of these doesn’t work as per the standards the user can experience latency i.e. too much time gap between their actions and the response from the screen. We need the response to be less than 20 milliseconds to trick the brain which is achieved by combining all the above factors in the right proportion. Another issue that needs to be catered here is to prevent tearing (cybersickness) resulting due to the inconsistency between the frame rate and refresh rate. If the GPU’s fps is more than the screen refresh rate then the image can become distorted. To counter this issue, we limit the framerate to the monitor’s refresh rate this done using a tech called Vertical Sync (VSync).

The first way VR tricks your brain is with the stereoscopic display. This works by displaying two slightly different angles of the scene to each eye, simulating depth. This along with other ways to simulate depth like parallax (farther objects to you seem to move slower), shading and techniques create an almost lifelike experience. An example of what a stereoscopic display looks like can be found above.

Also Read : All you need to know about artificial intelligence

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