Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Caleb. Caleb Wonders, “How does VR work” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Caleb!
On some days, your reality might go something like this: you wake up tired, go to school all day, take multiple tests, go to band or soccer practice after school, and finally head home with loads of homework. Whew! It's no WONDER some kids want to escape reality some days.
On those days, some kids might take a break before eating dinner and starting on homework. Relaxing on the couch, they don a futuristic headset and grab a video game controller, ready to slip into another world entirely. What's going on here? It's an escape into virtual reality!
Virtual reality refers to the use of computer technology combined with a variety of electronic devices to create a three-dimensional virtual environment that can be explored in some way such that a person's senses perceive it as if it were reality. The term "virtual reality" was first coined in 1987 by Jaron Lanier.
Virtual reality research and development took off in the 1990s. A variety of products were developed during that decade, but it soon became clear that the technology of that time could not duplicate reality effectively.
As technology continued to improve at a rapid rate, virtual reality research and development continued. Today, a wide variety of sophisticated devices exist that can indeed duplicate reality in ways once thought impossible.
Modern virtual reality environments combine hardware and software components in a way that makes it possible for users to interact with a virtual environment with multiple senses, including sight, hearing, touch, and sometimes even smell and taste. This is called sensory synchronicity.
When this occurs, a user becomes fully immersed in the experience, achieving something called sense of presence. This means that the user feels like he or she is actually experiencing the virtual environment.
Many kids have probably seen or even used virtual reality headsets that make their favorite video games more realistic. These headsets present visual and audio information in a way that makes content seem three-dimensional and quite realistic.
More advanced virtual reality systems might include all sorts of devices, including body suits and gloves, which allow a person's senses to be stimulated in many different ways at once. These advanced systems also contain sensors that allow the virtual environment to change rapidly to interact with the user's movements.
Virtual reality can be very fun when it's incorporated into various forms of entertainment. However, it can also have important practical applications. Some of the earliest forays into virtual reality were in the area of flight simulation, which allowed future pilots to gain skills that would be too dangerous to acquire in the air with no previous experience!
Architects and engineers can use virtual reality to create virtual models of future products, from buildings to automobiles. Virtual reality also continues to be an important component of training in the military and space programs. Even medical students can use virtual reality to gain experience on virtual patients.