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How Does Virtual Reality Work? The Technology Explained

There’s a reason why the virtual reality market is worth an estimated $15.81 billion. Virtual reality isn’t just a novel concept anymore, it’s a working piece of technology that’s expanding the way we think about video games and social spaces.

However, despite its increasing popularity, many individuals are still unfamiliar with how virtual reality works in practice. So, exactly how does virtual reality work? We know that VR is a lot for the average person to grasp. After all, you’re literally creating an entirely digital world.

That’s why we made this crash course to explain what the technology is and how it works. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert on the inner workings of virtual reality. Let’s get started!

How Does Virtual Reality Work?

Virtual reality, when you break it down, is tricking the brain into thinking that its setting and environments are real. To make this work, developers need to understand how our brains develop a picture of the world that surrounds us.

There could be entire books written about how our brains interpret the world around us. However, simply put, it’s about figuring out and exploiting the rules by which we interpret the world around us. What are some of these rules?

They are all based on our experiences in the real world. For instance, when you see an image of the sky you know that the sky represents an up direction. Similarly, when you see an object you can judge by its size how big and far away it is from you.

And, we can figure out where a light source is coming from based on the shadows it casts off. Using these rules and experiences developers can create an environment that conforms to our expectations regarding reality.

The Technical Basics of the VR Headset

We’ve gone over the ways that developers use our experience to make virtual reality work. However, what about the more technical aspect? What are the elements and functions of a VR headset that make us feel like we’re in a digital environment?

In this section, we’ll go over some of the technical basics that can bring virtual reality to life.

1. Field of View

Field of view is one of the biggest challenges facing virtual reality. The problem is that humans have a depth of field that operates in a 220-degree arc. Of this arc, there’s only a 114-degree area in which we can register 3D.

Sadly, there are no headsets out there that can fully accommodate the field of view that the average person has. However, developers are close to reaching a full 180-degree field of view.

If this can be achieved, then it will yield a much more high-performance viewing experience for virtual reality.

2. Sound Effects

You might think that sound effects aren’t that important to VR. However, you’d be wrong. Sound plays a huge role in determining where things are about ourselves. Think about horror VR games.

If you don’t hear a bad guy behind you, then how do you know how close they are to you? As such, it’s a vital element that developers need to exploit to create a realistic environment.

The most difficult part of this process is simulating the echoes and reverberations in real-time. However, advances in binaural audio show promising results for mimicking the exact sensations that sound has on our perception of space and time.

3. Frame Rates

Frame rates are a bit of a controversial topic in the VR world. This is because there’s no decision reached regarding the best frame rate for mimicking real-life conditions. We know that our eyes are capable of seeing up to 1,000 frames per second.

However, most of the information is believed to be lost in translation. Some people think that only 150 FPS can be perceived. As such, a consensus needs to be reached before progress can be made.

It’s known that anything below 60 FPS with VR makes people disoriented. For the time being, most developers settle on 90 FPS as the sweet spot for virtual reality.

Where Is the Future of VR Heading?

In the short term, we can expect all the elements that are currently being used for VR to be enhanced. That means things like better audio and field of view tech. However, we’re also on the verge of breakthroughs that could change the game.

One example is gloves that mimic the sensation of touch, or graphic processors that create images that are indistinguishable from the real thing. However, the real breakthroughs will be in business applications.

We’ve already seen the Facebook turned Meta company embarrass VR as the future of social media. But, this and video games are far from the only practical applications. Soon, doctors will be able to practice surgery using an entirely digital environment.

It can also be used for therapy related to people with PTSD. The possibilities are endless. And, to make it possible we will need a lot of specialized workers and developers to make it possible.

Luckily, companies are springing up left and right that do everything from VR testing to training. As such, VR is far from the latest fad. All evidence suggests that it’s here to stay.

Want More Content? Keep Reading

We hope this article helped you answer the question, How does virtual reality work? As you can see, we’re still a long way from being able to download your consciousness entirely into a virtual space.

However, all of the fundamentals of VR have already been established. As such, we can expect some exciting developments from the field in the next few decades.

Did you enjoy this article? If the answer is yes, then you’re in the right place. Keep exploring to find more topics that you’re sure to love.

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