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Virtual reality, what it is and how it works

The virtual reality is a simulated reality, a three-dimensional environment constructed on the computer that can be explored and with which you can interact using computing devices - vision goggles, gloves, and earplugs - that project wearer in a scenario so realistic it seems real.


Virtual reality VS augmented reality


Unlike augmented reality that enriches, enhances, "increases" our perception of the world with a series of digital content, virtual reality is immersive, isolates the user from the external environment, transporting it into a parallel reality that absorbs it completely. With augmented reality, this does not happen, as this does not build parallel realities but allows us to live better, with a series of additional inputs, that surrounds us.

Virtual reality is not just video games. The virtual reality is applied in various fields from video games to cinema, from archeology to medicine, from tourism to the military sector. Everything becomes possible, there are no limits: shoot in the front line, fly a jet, swim with sharks, and visit the White House. In virtual reality, there is nothing too dangerous or expensive that cannot be done.


Virtual reality, what a 3D viewer is and how it works.


When we talk about virtual reality, the first object we think of is the 3D viewer, a device in the shape of a helmet or glasses that allow you to live a sensorial experience in a "parallel" but tangible world. In this field the largest companies in the technology sector have played in advance, developing some models designed for entertainment.


Samsung Gear VR, for example, is a virtual reality viewer that lets you play, view photos and videos at 360 degrees. It weighs about 300 grams and is equipped with a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and a proximity sensor. To function, the Gear VR must be connected to a smartphone. Just like Google Cardboard, a cardboard viewer compatible with IOS and Android devices. By downloading a dedicated app, you can "enter" the photos and videos you have made, visit the Palace of Versailles or see other monuments and works of art directly from the sofa in your home.

The Oculus VR Company, recently purchased by Facebook, has created a viewer - with integrated microphone and headset - that does not need the smartphone instead. It's called Oculus Rift and must be connected to the PC or a video game console.


In the gaming sector, Sony proposes virtual reality for PS4: a viewer for Play station 4 that will make the gaming experience even more realistic. 


Full immersive 3D view


The goal of VR viewers is to create a sort of new dimension, something very different from the 3D offered by TV or less special glasses. Indeed, this is also a virtual environment in three dimensions but that has no limits or "blind spots" because the screen of the viewer covers every possible movement of the eyes and head. The video, or game, is sent from the computer to the viewer via an HDMI cable (high definition). Some models come with an LED screen for the eye with the addition of lenses, while others even allow you to adjust the distance between the screens and the eyes for even better vision. In other products, instead, like the Google Daydream and the Samsung Gear VR, is the smartphone to act as a screen, but inserted in a special housing.


Head Tracking:


Other technologies also come into play when we talk about virtual reality, such as head tracking, that is the system that monitors the movement of the head, in practice, moves exactly following the movements of the head: top-down, sideways, back and forth. It's called” six degrees of freedom", or" six degrees of freedom ". Head tracking requires the presence of instruments such as a gyroscope, an accelerometer and a magnetometer inside the viewer. Sony uses, for example, nine led lights positioned on its viewer which, communicating with an external video camera, offer 360-degree tracking. Oculus offers a similar system, but not comparable to the PlayStation VR. 


Oculus Rift:


Now everything (or almost) is under control. Finally, head tracking goes hand in hand with eye-tracking. The technology, in this case, to monitor the movement of the eyes uses an infrared sensor that offers, the further advantage, to make the depth of field even more realistic. In standard viewers, however, the images are all in focus, which is not how reality is seen. Not surprisingly, the high-end models are instead able to play with the "fire", so to speak, blurring, for example, the images in the distance leaving clear those in the front.


Motion tracking:


The motion sensor always knows where the user is in space, as Microsoft Kinect has been doing for years. Here, however, we enter the field of optional accessories. Among the few models that offer this technology, there are the usual Oculus and Sony. But there are also other devices that many manufacturers are combining with virtual reality viewers like controllers or joysticks, voice commands, smart gloves, and even treadmills.


How does virtual reality work?


Well, how does it work? There are various types of Virtual Reality implementation.

PC Virtual Reality

A computer is used for processing the virtual environment to be recreated and a VR viewer connected to it to visualize this environment. In general, you also have at least one controller to interact or move around in the digital world. This solution allows today to get the maximum performance and realism as a PC can perform many complex calculations in fractions of a second, in fact, what the user sees through the viewer is nothing but a real-time render of the virtual world. The most famous solutions are also the most expensive, namely Oculus Rift and HTC VIVE, whose viewers can be purchased for just under $ 1100 and offer an optimal resolution of the images recreated and high-quality lenses. The VR Desktop has the advantage of always guaranteeing top performance but remains very expensive and is not portable at all.

Virtual Reality Play station VR

It represents an optimal solution for gaming, is less expensive than a PC solution and is the ps4 virtual reality. The viewer is comfortable, not too heavy and integrates inside a screen but has a low resolution: just 960 × 1080 per eye. In essence, it is an excellent solution for gaming.

Virtual Reality Smartphone

The virtual reality viewers for smartphones allow you to use this technology using a normal app. The technologies available for these applications are:

- Google Cardboard: this technology can be used both on Android and iOS and allows a smartphone inserted in an inexpensive viewer to live virtual reality experiences

- Gear VR: Samsung technology designed to be used on Samsung GALAXY devices.




Virtual reality and robots

What does virtual reality have to do with robots and robotics? It has to do with it. We will now show you a video in which a humanoid robot, Romeo robot, learns new behaviors thanks to virtual reality or can execute a series of commands in certain, particularly difficult situations.

Thanks to this system, the remote control of the robots can be of help in all cases in which the android does not know how to deal with particular situations. If it is a caregiver, for example, we may have to intervene in particularly complex or delicate situations after the automaton has informed us of what is happening or an ill elderly person, alone at home with the humanoid. Always through virtual realityVirtual reality, we can teach robots a series of behaviors that they will then have to perform independently.

Author: Vicki Lezama

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