Beginners Guide to Virtual Reality

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Human history has been punctuated by revolutions. Looking back as far as 60,000BC the so-called Cognitive Revolution saw the emergence of language, allowing knowledge to pass from person to person reliably and cumulatively. Every subsequent lurch forward has accelerated the pace of change, with at least one major revolution marking each of the last few centuries. Scientific in the 17th, agricultural in the 18th, industrial in the 19th and digital in the 20th. Respectively enabling the scaling and distribution of discovery, production, manufacture and information. The 21st century is already seeing a similar shift, this time towards something more wide spread and personal. A Virtual Revolution.

Due to this ever growing virtual revolution, virtual content has dominated conversations across businesses and public services especially in recent years. Whether being used for virtual training, as a virtual sales tool or adding virtual content to a website, virtual reality is being used more than ever.

In this blog we will look into the beginners information you should know at this stage, and flag important points to be aware of.

What is virtual technology

Virtual technology refers to any technology that enables a user to experience a simulated, virtual environment that may be similar or different from the real world. Virtual technology typically uses computer-generated sensory inputs, such as sight, sound, and touch, to create a simulated environment.

Virtual technology can be used in various forms, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR).

What is Virtual Reality (VR)?

Virtual reality (VR) refers to a technology that allows users to immerse themselves in a computer-generated three-dimensional environment. Using specialized hardware such as headsets, controllers, and sensors, VR creates a sense of presence and interaction in a virtual world that simulates a physical space or experience. VR can be used for entertainment, such as gaming and movies, as well as for educational, training, and therapeutic purposes. It has the potential to transform various industries, from healthcare and education to real estate and tourism.

How does that compare to virtual tech as a whole?

It’s worth noting that Virtual Reality (VR) and virtual reality as a whole are often confused. Virtual technology which creates virtual reality experiences do not always have to be consumed and experienced by Virtual Reality (VR) headsets, sometimes they can be viewed on mobile, desktop or tablet. The key difference is that VR headsets provide a fully immersive experience whereas wider virtual tech will give a sense of it, but without being fully immersed.

What is Mixed Reality (MR)?

Mixed reality (MR) technology combines aspects of VR and AR to create an interactive, immersive environment where digital and real-world elements can coexist and interact with each other.

What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

Augmented reality (AR) technology overlays digital content onto the real world, typically viewed through a smartphone or tablet. This can be used to enhance real-world experiences, for example, by providing information about a product or location.

VR Hardware Types

There are many virtual reality devices on the market, here are some of the different types you can get your hands on:

  1. Head-mounted display (HMD): A device that users wear over their eyes and ears to create an immersive VR experience. Examples include the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR.
  2. VR controllers: Specialized controllers that enable users to interact with the virtual environment. Examples include the Oculus Touch, HTC Vive wands, and PlayStation Move.
  3. Motion tracking systems: Sensors that detect the user’s movement and translate it into the virtual environment. Examples include the Oculus Constellation, HTC Vive Base Stations, and PlayStation Camera.
  4. Computer hardware: A powerful computer is needed to run VR applications smoothly. The computer should have a fast processor, high-quality graphics card, and plenty of memory. Examples of recommended computer specifications include the Oculus-ready PC, HTC Vive-ready PC, and PlayStation VR-ready console.
  5. Mobile VR headsets: A lower-cost alternative to HMDs that use a smartphone as the display and processing unit. Examples include the Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream, and Google Cardboard.

5 common misunderstandings about VR

  1. VR is just for gaming
    It is true that gaming has taken off technologically, ever since the first gaming consoles came onto the market. And it’s true that gaming has become more and more sophisticated, as technology has advanced. And lots of gaming platforms use VR or virtual tools to enhance their in game experience. But is VR just for gaming? Absolutely not! VR is quietly revolutionising several industries. The military are using it to better train troops. The medical profession are using it to practice intense surgical operations. Virtual tourism has taken off. There are so many applications for VR. It’s not just for gaming.
  2. VR is expensive and complicated
    This misunderstanding was rooted in truth, which is now a little outdated. But like the majority of products, the price point ranges from budget friendly options to budget busting. So joining the virtual revolution doesn’t have to mean missing out on your family holiday! How much or little can you expect to pay for a VR headset? You can pick up one for as little as £29.99. Some headsets come with hand controls, or you can buy these separately. And is it complicated? If you can use a phone, you can use VR. You need to make sure your computer or device are VR compatible, but most product manufacturers clearly state what their devices are compatible with and provide advice. Depending on how confident you feel with tech, it might take a while to get the hang of (anyone remember how many Wii controllers went flying unexpectedly through the air in the early days?!) but it’s very user friendly.
  3. VR is antisocial
    Like everything, using VR can be a solitary pursuit. In essence, you wear a headset and block out the world. But through that headset, you then enter another world which can enable us to have sociable experiences. VR can be used for interpersonal networking, holding VR meetings, discovering new places, playing games as teams. It’s about how you choose to use it. Facebook have started suggesting that they have hopes for VR as the future of social media communication. Exciting stuff!
  4. VR is bad for your health
    When the first VR headsets came out, headaches and motion sickness were two frequently heard complaints. Every time a new headset comes onto the market, it aims to work better than the last version. This means that the comfort level has increased and there’s a wider range of settings available for you to customise to get the most out of your experience.
  5. VR is a passing fad
    Inventions prove most useful when they are widely accepted by a variety of people, and VR is already at this point. Rather than being a passing fad, it is growing more important as the days go by. Heavyweights such as Google, Facebook and Sony are investing in virtual and VR technologies, which points to the importance of this for the future. To those outside of the virtual world, the technological future may still seem hazy, but those on the inside trust that VR is travelling in one direction – and that direction is forwards.

Other Jargon to remember

  1. Digital: describes ‘digital’ as electronic technology that generates, stores, and processes data in terms of two states: positive and non-positive. Positive is expressed or represented by the number 1 and non-positive by the number 0. Our digital experience is often viewed online through means such as Zoom, social media and office software.
  2. Immersion/ Immersive: When we refer to immersion in the context of our work and virtual reality, it usually refers to a virtual reality experience whilst wearing a headset, meaning the user is completely immersed in the virtual reality environment, rather than the physical environment around them.
  3. Interactive: When we use the word ‘interactive’ in this context, we mean any virtual experience with clickable options – computer or headset
  4. 360 Photography & Videography: These terms refer to how content is viewed. Pictures and videos are taken of every angle to ensure the user has a full experience and that everything is as ‘real’ as possible. The users can then spin around, whether in a headset or on a screen, to see the full 360 view.
  5. HMD: Short for “head-mounted display,” an HMD is a VR headset that allows the user to experience a simulated environment by replacing their natural vision with computer-generated images.
  6. 6DoF: This stands for “six degrees of freedom,” which refers to the ability to move in six different directions: forward and backward, up and down, and left and right. VR systems with 6DoF tracking allow the user to move around and interact with a virtual environment more naturally.
  7. VR controller: A handheld device used to interact with virtual objects in a simulated environment. VR controllers can include buttons, triggers, and motion sensors.
  8. Presence: The feeling of being fully immersed in a virtual environment, to the point where the user feels as though they are actually present in that environment.
  9. Teleportation: A common method of moving around in a virtual environment, where the user can “teleport” to a different location by selecting it on a menu or map.
  10. FOV: Short for “field of view,” this refers to the area of the virtual environment that is visible to the user through the HMD.
  11. Latency: The delay between a user’s movements in the real world and the corresponding movements in the virtual environment. High latency can cause motion sickness and reduce the feeling of presence.
  12. Room-scale VR: A VR system that allows the user to move around and interact with a virtual environment in a physical space, often using external sensors to track the user’s movements.

the impact of virtual content on marketing

Virtual content is a critical component of the marketing mix in today’s digital age. Some benefits of virtual content in the marketing mix include:

  1. Increased brand awareness: Virtual content can be shared easily and quickly on various digital platforms, reaching a wider audience, and increasing brand awareness.
  2. Cost-effectiveness: Creating virtual content is often less expensive than traditional marketing methods, such as print ads or television commercials.
  3. Enhanced engagement: Virtual content, such as videos, infographics, and interactive experiences, can be more engaging and memorable than traditional marketing methods, which can increase brand loyalty.
  4. Measurable results: Digital marketing allows for real-time monitoring of campaigns, enabling marketers to measure the effectiveness of their efforts, make data-driven decisions and optimize their strategy to achieve better results.
  5. Better targeting: Digital marketing allows for more precise targeting, as the data generated from online behaviour can be used to deliver personalized messages to specific audiences.
  6. Improved customer experience: Virtual content can provide customers with valuable information about products and services, improving their overall experience and building trust with the brand.

Overall, the benefits of virtual content in the marketing mix are numerous and can help brands reach and engage with their target audience more effectively.

How can virtual tech be used in business

Virtual technology can be used in various ways to improve business operations and enhance the customer experience. Here are some examples:

  1. Virtual meetings and collaboration: Virtual technology can be used to conduct meetings and collaboration sessions remotely, saving time and travel expenses.
  2. Virtual events and trade shows: Companies can host virtual events and trade shows to showcase their products and services, reaching a wider audience and reducing costs.
  3. Virtual training and education: Virtual technology can be used to provide employees with training and educational opportunities, allowing them to learn at their own pace and location.
  4. Virtual tours and product demonstrations: Virtual technology can be used to provide customers with virtual tours and product demonstrations, enhancing the customer experience and increasing sales.
  5. Virtual customer service: Virtual technology can be used to provide customers with 24/7 customer service, answering questions and resolving issues promptly.
  6. Virtual reality and augmented reality: Virtual technology can be used to create immersive experiences, such as virtual reality and augmented reality, allowing customers to interact with products and services in a more engaging way.
  7. Virtual product design and prototyping: Virtual technology can be used to design and prototype products, saving time and costs associated with physical prototyping.

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