How Does Virtual Reality Work?

Virtual reality works by tricking your brain into thinking that the computer-generated images the headset shows you are real. Think about how 3D works when you go to the movie theater. The movie is filmed in a certain way to make objects appear as though they are going to come flying at you.


Just watching a 3D movie without the special glasses on is only going to give you a headache and makes you watch a blurry film. Not a lot of fun there!  But when you add in the special glasses, your brain can interpret the movie as three dimensional so that some of the objects seem like they are coming right at you.

This is a very similar concept to what’s happening in virtual reality – only amped up. In fact, it blows 3D viewing out of the water.

is virtual reality like a 3D movie?

The device that you use to see a virtual reality world will make your mind interpret this computer-generated world as the same size as you.   There are no boundaries that you can see.  A virtual reality headset displays two slightly different angles of the scene to each eye.  This is referred to as stereoscopic imagery and it is what simulates depth in virtual reality.

How we see virtual reality

There are two lenses that create the 3D image that is stereoscopic using the two feeds of the 2D images.  Some of the headsets offer the personalization to change the distance between the two lenses to help you focus the VR scene. The field of view is larger to help create this immersive effect that makes you feel as though you are within the action.

2D version of a stereoscopic image used to view virtual reality

Many VR headsets offer head tracking. This means that when you move your head, the view that you have within the virtual reality world will shift with it. You’ll be able to look up, down, and all around to explore the reality that has been created.

Virtual reality motion and eye tracking

Some of the exciting new developments in virtual reality include both motion tracking and eye tracking navigation.  In motion tracking navigation, according to the patent, the system tracks your head using a camera which to follow your head movements, and a computer connected to the camera that is programmed to read and respond to your head moving.

FOVE is leading the way in developing a VR headset that can track your eyes to know what you are focusing on.  This will let you look a VR character in the eye and focus the quality of the VR world exactly where you are looking.  What is really cool is you can add a layer of control to virtual reality that will let you view additional content about whatever it is your are looking at.

Video found here – FOVE

A Brief History of Virtual Reality

1938:  According to Wikipedia, the term virtual reality was first coined by a French writer named Antonin Artaud.  He was using the term “la realite virtuelle” when describing the theater.

1935:  The first reference to the concept of virtual reality occurred in a short story called “Pygmalion’s Spectacles” written by Stanley G. Weinbaum.

1968:  The first ever virtual reality/augmented reality head-mounted display was created by Ivan Sutherland and Bob Sproull.

1985:  One of the first VR devices, created by VPL Research, was called the Eye Phone.

2010:  Palmer Luckey invented the first prototype of the Oculus Rift.

Today:  There are several big names moving the virtual reality market forward, namely Sony, Microsoft, Facebook, Samsung, Google and more.

Imagine what might be coming next when you have our modern day technology titans quickly pushing virtual reality forward.

Author: Becky DeForest

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