What is virtual reality? Definition is subject to controversy.

What is virtual reality? Virtual reality can be confusing, extrapolating, or even fantasizing. It is also an oxymoron, that is, an ambivalent expression that contains two semantically opposite terms, a contradictory formula and a figure of speech, with precedents known as Camus’s “deafening silence” or “sublime”. In fact, the definition of virtual reality is still the subject of much debate, and this issue has not yet been resolved. In particular, we must distinguish between virtual reality devices (software or hardware, such as, for example, a video cache), the user’s perception or psychological experience (and a known sense of “presence”, the impression of being “there” in this other virtual universe ) or in the scientific field of virtual reality, which relates to models, methods and tools related to the first two points and which is strictly interdisciplinary (referring, in particular, to computer science, mechatronics, psychology, etc.).

We can start with what is NOT virtual reality. In particular: can the visualization of a 360-degree film or video with a camera mounted on the head be considered a virtual reality experience? NO, watching these films is not considered by researchers as virtual reality, but rather as the possible use of video headphones, which are currently sold under the name “virtual reality.”

In fact, this configuration lacks several components, mainly the ability to directly interact with content. In addition to turning his head to change his point of view, the user cannot really move, select or manipulate objects, or trigger events in the environment and control its development. In addition, virtual reality refers more to three-dimensional content, that is, to a three-dimensional graphical environment simulated and synthesized by a computer in real time, rather than images or real video.

Finally, in virtual reality, 3D content is most often visualized stereoscopically (or to weaken vision: for each eye, a different image is calculated taking into account a certain interpupillary distance), which is rarely the case with 360 films. Thus, virtual technology peculiarities most often includes: a three-dimensional environment synthesized in real time by a computer, with which the user can interact, and in which he can immerse himself using sensory feedback. (most often visual and stereoscopic, but also auditory and / or tactile, that is, on the touch channel).

For informational purposes, augmented reality (AR) differs from virtual reality in that it includes the visualization of a real image (usually the user’s immediate physical environment) on which virtual objects are superimposed. Therefore, virtual reality consists only of virtual elements, where augmented reality combines real images with virtual synthetic elements. The special complexity of augmented reality is associated with the limitation of the need to ideally position these virtual objects inside real images (we are talking about “tracking” technologies in English or position monitoring).

There is also the concept of a continuum between virtual and real and, therefore, between representations in reality (real environment) and in virtual reality (virtual environment) (Milgram and Kishino Continuum). The term “Mixed reality” covers all possible representations mixing real and virtual elements. different ways.

History of virtual reality devices or virtual technologies in everyday life. The very first immersive virtual reality system dates back to the 1950s with the famous and avant-garde SENSORAMA Morton Heilig, which already displayed stereoscopic images, sound, smells and effects. movements, for a multi-sensory user experience. The first visokask was developed and popularized by Ivan Sutherland in the 1960s, and the first patent dates from 1968. Concepts, terminology and scientific and technical foundations were laid in the 70s / 80s. with pioneers, especially in the United States, such as Jaron Lanier or Thomas Furness. The first sales of headphones and data gloves date back to the 1980s with products from the American company VPL. Virtual reality then slowly turns into commercial success and begins to convince large industrial groups, such as, for example, in the automotive or aviation industries, in the 90s and 2000s. Only today applications are possible and useful virtual reality for SMEs or the general public.