What is Virtual Reality?

Today, during my morning coffee I was perusing the USA Today app on my iPad. I first had to update to their new version and during the App feature preview noted they have a default Virtual Reality section. "Pretty cool, I thought, VR is becoming more well known."

What is Virtual Reality?

Upon installation of the new app, I excitedly selected the Virtual Reality section. The app presented me with a bunch of "VR 360 movies."
I clicked on the first; it was a film titled "Experience the Blue Angels", I watched and rotated my iPad to rotate the view.
Then it dawned on me. This view of VR could be for many, their first introduction to "Virtual Reality." However, this is NOT Virtual Reality.
So what is Virtual Reality or VR? To quote the all knowing Wikipedia, they define Virtual Reality as:

Virtual reality or virtual realities (VR), also known as immersive multimedia or computer-simulated reality, is a computer technology that replicates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user's physical presence and environment in a way that allows the user to interact with it. Virtual realities artificially create sensory experience, which can include sight, touch, hearing, and smell.

So essentially then. Virtual Reality is a form of technology that makes you feel like you're in another place. It can trick your sight, your hearing, your touch, even your sense of smell into thinking you're somewhere else. The latest VR headsets that receive most of the attention such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive trick your vision, your hearing, and ability to manipulate objects within the virtual environment.

The USA Today Virtual Reality section is clearly NOT Virtual Reality. At best, it should be called "360-degree Video."
The term Virtual Reality has unfortunately become an overused marketing tool and serves to confuse many consumers.

How do you explain or describe VR to someone?

Describing Virtual Reality to anyone who has never tried it, is very, very, difficult. The best explanation I've seen recently has come in a form of a video from HTC that superimposes what the user is experiencing onto a green screen.

Where can I experience VR for myself?

Currently, there are very few places you can try true VR for yourself. Best Buy has demos of mobile VR using Gear VR. Gear VR is a device from Samsung where you insert your phone into a headset. It is a decent introduction to VR but not the best available.

Over the coming months, Best Buy will demo the Oculus Rift in the store and Microsoft and Game Stop will demo the HTC Vive in the store.

Related: Best Buy Starts Demo Of Oculus Rift in 48 Stores

When these become available for demos, I strongly suggest you head on over and try VR  for yourself. I think you'll like it...

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