All about virtual reality (VR)

Virtual reality, also known as VR, has become a bit of a hot topic in the past few years - and with good reason.

Last updated: 17th Dec 2018 at 10:17am

While the technology is nothing new (the first VR headset was invented in the 1960s), recent advancements in computer technology and the quality of smartphone displays have allowed VR to enter the consumer market - and our homes.

But what exactly is VR? If you’re still wondering what virtual reality is, how it works, and how you can use it, read on: we’re going to learn all about VR.

What is virtual reality (VR)?

Like the name suggests, virtual reality allows you to experience a virtual world - using a VR headset coupled with controllers, you’ll be able to view and interact with a computer-generated virtual environment. Add in headphones or a good sound system, and it’s total immersion!

But how exactly does VR work? There are a few different types of VR systems - from cheap, basic headsets which work with your smartphone, to high-end setups like the HTC Vive, and mid-tier devices such as the Sony Playstation VR- but almost every type allows you to play games, watch videos, and more. All these systems contain a display (so, either your smartphone or a display within the headset) which plays 360-degree video, so that you can turn your head any way you want and see more of the virtual environment you’re in.

What is VR used for?

While you may think VR is a recent thing, the idea for it has actually been around since the 19th century. Throughout the years, the technology has been used for many different purposes: from training pilots and surgeons, to showcasing interior design and architecture projects, and even education - for example, walking students through virtual worlds modelled after historical periods.

However, the main reason people use VR is undoubtedly gaming, and this is probably where the biggest opportunities lie. Companies such as Sony, Nintendo, EA, and Microsoft have released virtual reality games, and smaller VR studios and start-ups are popping up all over the world, creating amazing games and experiences for a wide variety of audiences.

How can I use VR on my smartphone?

Watching VR videos and experiences on your smartphone couldn’t be easier: all you need is a suitable headset. Many affordable headsets are available on the market, like the Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR, which is perfect if you have a Samsung smartphone. (Handsets compatible with the Google Cardboard include the Nokia 3.) Whatever headset you decide to choose, make sure it is fully compatible with your smartphone before purchasing it!

Once you have your headset, all you need to do is download a VR video and insert your smartphone into the headset before popping it on and stepping into a brand new world. Some VR videos are also available on YouTube - and while you won’t get the full gaming experience, it’s a fantastic taster and might just give you the VR bug!

To find out more read our article on 5G Technology and how it will affect Virtual and Augmented Reality in the future.

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