What are the different types of virtual reality?
Over the years, various types of virtual reality have emerged. They all can be classified into different schema as suggested by various researchers, but only one of them, Brill (1993; 1994b) will be explained in detail.
Some categories as presented by Brill belong to the physically immersive category while others are not. The most important factor common to all these virtual reality systems is that their programming offers a kind of environment where the user is physical, perceptually and psychologically immersed.
The VR system helps us become part of the inhabitants of artificial worlds as created by the computer. One thing to note is that all virtual worlds are three-dimensional. That is interaction is possible in the first person, second person and even third person, but this does not interfere with its capability of providing a wonderful experience.
Brill’s model classified VR into the following:
This type of virtual reality offers a first-person experience. A treadmill interface is made available through the use of some applications, making the user feel like he or she is walking through a virtual space. There is a BOOM viewer from Fake Space Labs which is suspended in front of the viewer’s face to replace the head-mounted display which can be quite heavy and too tiring to wear. The user is thus placed in the image; the created images are given specific features such as tactile perception and at times aural perception to make them seem so real. Research is going on to be able to integrate olfactory perception as well. This type of technology is present in the children’s video games such as the interface on Nintendo games.
Through the window
Another name for this system is “desktop VR.” The system is a 3-D architectural design where the user views the world in a 3-D through what could be called ‘the window’ of the computer and navigates with the mouse through space. This design makes it possible to experience VR on an IBM computer or a Macintosh. This system also offers a first-person experience just like the immersive virtual reality. There are many examples of “through the window.” Many fields are already incorporating this type of VR such as the field of dance where Lifeforms, a computer program allows choreographers to create special human animations. The program supports all the processes involved in the dancing process so that the choreographers can create dances virtually on the computer. With this system, it becomes quite easy to learn much about dancing without having to rehearse.
This is another type of immersive virtual reality where layers of computer-generated images are superimposed over the real world to enhance the better user experience, understanding and to highlight specific features. An example of this technology can be found in the field of Aviation where controls are highlighted. Similarly in the medical field, where surgery can be performed through an augmented reality where a video is superimposed to help the doctor see the operation site more clearly.
This type of virtual reality offers a second-person experience unlike those earlier mentioned. Here, the user is not immersed in the created world but stands outside it to interact with the objects and characters inside it. The system uses a video camera as an input device; users can view their superimposed images on a large video monitor, then with the aid of a digitizer, the user’s images are processed to highlight their features such as positions, movements and so on.
The term ‘Waldo’ is derived from Robert Heinlein’s science fiction. It is a type of virtual reality which involves, puppeteer control in a real-time, wearing electronic body armor or mask which is equipped with sensors that are used in detecting motion, a computer robot or a screen animation. To use this type of VR, a virtual actor wears a ‘Waldo,’ this tracks the wearer’s movement such as the chin, the head, lips and eyebrows which enables them to match the generated character with their movements. For instance, when the actor nods or smiles, the character does the same. Examples of virtual actor characters are Mario in Real Time (MIRT), Eggwardo, an animation character which was developed by Loma Linda Medical Center to use in communicating with therapy patients and children who may be facing the fear of surgery or other scary medical operations.
This is a small virtual reality projection theatre which is controlled by computers which provide users with free movements in a virtual world for better immersion. The images are viewed in a 3-D projection on the wall through a head-mounted display. An example of this technology is the CAVE which was developed by the University of Illinois Electronic Visualization Laboratory. Another example is the EVE) Extended Virtual Environment, (which was developed at the Nuclear Research Center in collaboration with the Institute of Applied Informatics, both in Germany.
Cab Simulator Environment
This is a type of “first-person” virtual reality technology which is an extension of the traditional simulator. As defined by Hamit (1993) a Cab Simulator Environment is a type of VR which can be used by an individual or a group of people. The visual elements create the illusion of a presence in a computer-controlled computer base, 3-dimensional sound input and many more. “Researchers are finding many applications in entertainment and training for cab simulation, for instance, a cab simulation training system is being developed by the AGC Simulation Products for police officers to learn how to drive carefully under dangerous conditions and high-speed. Another example is BattleTech, developed by Virtual World Entertainment where players are linked together to play simulation games.
Typically, cyberspace is where you find yourself when hooked up to a computerized electronic database or when you are talking on the phone. It is a global created reality which can be simultaneously visited by many people through a network of computers. The term “cyberspace” was coined from the science fiction novel Neuromancer, by William Gibson. The novel describes a future dominated by a large number of computer networks and databases. There are, however, more electronically specialized applications where users can get hooked up in a virtual environment. These include Multi-User Simulated Environments (MUSE) as well as Multi-User-Domains. More examples of cyberspace are the army’s SIMNET system where Tank simulators are linked together electronically at different sites to play war games with the aid of battlefield designed in the cyberspace.
The idea of cyberspace originated from the concept of telepresence which is the idea of being in a location which is different from where you are. Teleoperation, on the other hand, is the process of controlling a robot or any other device from a distance. In conjunction with Telepresence- controlled Remotely Operated underwater Vehicle, NASA is using this technology to give children across the U.S the opportunity to drive the Trov in Antarctica.
Finally, the advancement in virtual reality is gradually changing the way people travel, shop and socialize. Virtual reality offers people the experience of a new world without leaving their homes.