Virtual reality

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US Navy parachutists practicing virtually parachuting with a head-mounted display ( HMD ).

As virtual reality , shortly VR , the presentation and simultaneous perception is reality and their physical properties in an in real-time computer-generated, interactive virtual environment called.

The term virtual reality was coined by the author Damien Broderick in his SF novel The Judas Mandala , published in 1982 . In 1987 the term first appeared as a theoretical concept in the Oxford English Dictionary .

Mixing of virtual reality and physical reality is mixed reality (Engl. Mixed Reality , and Augmented Reality ) called. The immersion in the VR can lead to temporary disorders of seasickness are similar and VR's disease or simulator sickness hot.


When creating a virtual world, one can define some requirements that should be met. Some possible requirements are, for example, immersion , plausibility , interactivity, and fidelity.

Immersion describes the embedding of the user in the virtual world. The perception of oneself in the real world is reduced and the user feels more like a person in the virtual world. This can be achieved through a sophisticated and exciting design of the virtual world, for example through a high number of possible actions in the system.

A virtual world is considered plausible if the interaction in it is logical and coherent. On the one hand, this concerns the user's feeling that their own actions have an influence on the virtual environment, but also that the events in the environment influence the user's senses, i.e. he can act in the world. This interactivity creates the illusion that what seems to be happening is actually happening.

Fidelity is achieved when the virtual environment is designed accurately and faithfully. This happens when the virtual world depicts properties of a natural world, it then appears credible to the user.

A common problem with VR is motion sickness : Users can get dizzy if the acceleration felt in reality differs from the acceleration seen virtually. This can be the case when the real space available is smaller than the virtual space in which a user can move.


Visual strategies of today's illusion techniques can be paradigmatically pursued from antiquity to the present. For example, there is a picture frieze in the Villa dei Misteri in Pompeii from the year 60 BC. A 360-degree round picture completely surrounding the viewer. Round panoramas were also very popular mass entertainments in the 19th century.

The first draft of a VR system comes from Morton Heilig (1956), who developed a device called Sensorama, which was to become the "Cinema of the Future".

In 1965, the Harvard student Ivan Sutherland developed the “Ultimate Display” concept, which described the basis for today's VR technology. Three years later, Sutherland published the book "A Head-Mounted-Three Dimensional Display" which was fundamental to the development of head-mounted displays. He realized this with the so-called "Sword of Damocles", a visual output device worn on the head, which displayed images generated on the computer on a screen close to the eye and was intended to suggest a window into a virtual world.

An alternative to the head-mounted HMDs was developed in 1992 with the Visual Experience CAVE at the University of Illinois. However, due to the high costs, the large amount of space required, the high computing effort and the restricted freedom of movement of the user, they were only used by large companies in the field of product design.

Nintendo brought the “ Virtual Boy ” onto the market in 1995 , but the insufficient computer capacities and low-performance graphics cards caused major problems, so that the attempt failed because of poor image quality and resolution. In 2012, the startup Oculus VR ushered in a new era in virtual reality development with the introduction of the Oculus Rift.


Virtual reality headsets

In order to create a feeling of immersion, special output devices called virtual reality headsets are required to represent virtual worlds . The Oculus Rift , HTC Vive giant screens and the CAVE are particularly well known . In order to convey a spatial impression, two images are generated and displayed from different perspectives ( stereo projection ). Various technologies exist to bring the respective image to the right eye. A distinction is made between active (e.g. shutter glasses ) and passive technologies (e.g. polarizing filters or Infitec ).

Special input devices are required for interaction with the virtual world. These include the 3D mouse , data glove and flystick as well as the omnidirectional treadmill with which walking in virtual space is controlled by real walking movements.

The Flystick is used for navigation with an optical tracking system, whereby infrared cameras permanently report the position in the room to the VR system by detecting markers on the Flystick, so that the user can move freely without wiring. Optical tracking systems can also be used to record tools and complete human models in order to manipulate them in real time within the VR scenario.

Some input devices provide the user with force feedback on the hands or other parts of the body ( force feedback ), so that people can use the haptics and sensors as a further sensory perception to orient themselves in the three-dimensional world and carry out realistic simulations.

360 degree camera

VR cameras give the user the option of packaging what they have experienced in a 360-degree panoramic film. This can be played back afterwards using smartphone VR glasses or gaming glasses on the PC. It gives the viewer the feeling of closeness to the action. 360 degree cameras have been available on the German market since 2015. Virtual films have also arrived in the film industry. In film trailers and short clips, 360-degree camera recordings are mixed with virtual elements. It is also possible to edit real video excerpts with programs such as aftereffects and to merge reality and fiction.

360 degree camera techniques

Virtual reality cameras come in different formats. The decisive factor is the number of lenses that are built into the camera. Cameras with one lens use the fisheye principle. The cameras film at an angle of 360 ° x235 °, so that a complete 360-degree image is not created and a black spot can be seen in the image on the VR glasses. Other camera models have 2 lenses, which are installed close to each other. These VR cameras create a fully spherical and gapless image. With this technique, the images are combined using special software. 360-degree cameras with two lenses currently still have problems when it comes to sewing the two recorded images together. This means that the seam that is supposed to join the two pictures together is unfortunately often still visible.

Other camera models have more than two lenses. Models like the Panono have a variety of camera lenses. These are as Lense dual cameras via camera software gestitched . The first 3D 360 degree cameras also provide VR views in 3D , which makes the recordings look even more realistic. In addition, 360 degree images can be created by connecting several cameras. Camera rigs are usually used to attach 6 conventional action cams . GoPro made one of the first camera rigs. This is available in different versions and connects several individual cameras. These are built up like a cube. The cameras are placed in this cube and record the surroundings in all directions. If several "normal" cameras are connected in a network, one speaks of mosaic-based cameras. Each of these cameras records a small area of ​​the environment. Then the individual images are put together like mosaic stones, so that an omnidirectional overall picture is created. The number of cameras to be used depends on the focal length of the lenses used. The smaller this is, the larger the viewing angle and the fewer cameras have to be used.

Manufacturer overview with models


Interaction with Flystick and 6DoF Force-feedback in multi-side projection

To create virtual reality, you need software specially developed for this purpose. These programs must have complex three-dimensional worlds in real time, i. H. can calculate with at least 25 frames per second, in stereo (separately for left and right eye). This value varies depending on the application - a driving simulation, for example, requires at least 60 images per second to avoid nausea (simulator sickness).

In the 1990s, the computing power and the hardware were mostly insufficient for productive use and for realistic simulations, which is why special graphics workstations were mostly used here. At the beginning of this millennium, the possibilities for interaction in the scenarios have increased significantly due to significantly more powerful computers and graphics processors.

Programs such as Maya, 3D Studio Max, Blender , SketchUp , Softimage XSI, Cinema 4D , LightWave 3D and other CAD or 3D programs are used to model three-dimensional, virtual objects . Additional software is required for image and sound processing. In order to combine the objects modeled there into interactive simulations, authoring systems such as B. World Tool Kit or World Up .

The computer language VRML / X3D and the JavaScript API WebVR are used to display interactive, graphic 3D scenes on the Internet .

Applications in the technical field

A 3D Powerwall from Daimler
Flight simulator

Virtual reality can be used in many areas. A very well-known area of ​​application is pilot training in flight simulators. This technology is also used increasingly in industry, especially for creating virtual prototypes, production planning, virtual training, for ergonomic assessments and spatial studies in geology. Further areas of application are visualizations in architecture, medicine, chemistry, energy and edutainment (e.g. virtual cultural heritage). The therapeutic use of virtual reality is examined under the heading of virtual rehabilitation . In industry, both “Powerwall” as a stereoscopic 3D wall and multi-side projections such as CAVE are used to completely immerse themselves in the graphic simulation. In recent years, a number of companies have established themselves in Germany and France that offer virtual reality software for industrial companies, such as ICIDO , VISENSO and others.

Applications in spatial planning

Another application example is the use in the planning of infrastructure measures that change the landscape. The environment can be simulated in such a way that citizens can not only see, but experience what changes as a result of a project. You can decide for yourself which point of view you want to take the view, either via gamepad or, in the Internet version, with arrow key navigation. You can see:

  • the exact location and, if applicable, alternatives
  • the surroundings with the existing buildings, the transport network and the sights for orientation
  • Roads with flowing traffic, adjustable according to time of day (based on traffic counts or forecasts)
  • Shadows cast over the course of the day, month and year.

The 3D display is suitable for stationary use, for example. in events for public participation or for explanation in political committees and as a tool for information and consultation (e.g. for approval procedures) on the Internet.

Application in the advertising and real estate industries

The virtual inspection of rooms is another application and can be carried out in its simplest form as a 360 ° VR tour. For new construction projects or for the sale of real estate, such a virtual tour can be used for marketing purposes as another form of the classic synopsis. The user is given the opportunity to "view" an object from home. Shops and hotels also use such tours for advertising purposes, for example on Google Street View . Virtual 360 ° tours can almost completely replace a complete website or a classic real estate expose; This is made possible by embedding contact forms, PDF files, videos and other media.

Virtual reality in occupational safety

Virtual reality can simulate natural work systems. Employees experience realistically working with simulated systems, machines and work equipment in a virtual work environment. The virtual working environment appears in its natural size, technical processes run continuously and in real time . Movements in this environment can be controlled directly by machines and / or people. Perspective, viewing angle and acoustics change depending on where the person is standing and how they move.

With VR, all phases of the product life cycle can be simulated, analyzed and optimized: from construction to use and disposal. With VR in occupational safety you can

  • the usability ( usability ) Check of products and processes already during their development and design and improve. This avoids undesirable developments and subsequent changes.
  • Systematically and empirically investigate design solutions for human-system interaction and their influence on human behavior. This reduces machine modifications and time-consuming field studies.
  • Test potentially dangerous products, processes and protection concepts safely. This prevents actual hazards during human-system interaction.
  • Determine cause-effect relationships after accidents on and with products. This saves material, personnel, time and money for on-site examinations

Virtual Reality in Entertainment Media

Virtual reality can also be found increasingly in the entertainment market. There are fitness devices with VR support and simulators that enable virtual flights through cities. In addition, there are roller coasters where the participants wear VR glasses while driving. In 2019, according to a representative survey, 32 percent of the population aged 16 and over tried out VR glasses. VR glasses are most commonly used for computer and video games: 70 percent of their users use them for this. 49 percent of users travel to places with them, 42 percent watch films with them.

There are also numerous considerations in trade and industry to win or retain customers using virtual reality. According to a study by the management consultancy Deloitte, German companies want to invest around 850 million euros in virtual or mixed reality solutions in 2020. Areas of application could be:

  • Shopping : According to a survey by an opinion research institute, more than half of Germans can imagine that VR experiences are useful when shopping. For example, you could try on items of clothing virtually, stroll through virtual showrooms or get additional information about the respective product.
  • Events : As the first professional sports league, the US NBA has been offering live games in VR for its paying viewers since the 2016/17 season. In the future, it would even be conceivable that millions of VR tickets for a game will be sold, but the audience will take their place on the sofa at home. The same applies to music concerts or other major events.

The branch of virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR) and augmented reality (AR) is a young branch. The investments listed for 2020 therefore need time for healthy growth in particular. The future prospects are very positive, this is the result of a study by the TH Köln, in which this branch of industry was scientifically examined for North Rhine-Westphalia for the first time.

Virtual Reality in Films (selection)

Different concepts of virtual reality form the basis for numerous films. In the film adaptations of the novel Simulacron-3 - Welt am Draht (1973) and The 13th Floor (1999) - the lines between reality and virtual reality are blurred. Both films ask about the possibility that life itself is just a simulation. In the 1982 Disney production Tron , the main actor is physically drawn into a virtual reality inside a computer and has to fight for his survival in it. His opponents are personalized functional units of the computer. The 1992 film The Lawn Mower Man shows Pierce Brosnan as a scientist who tries to make the mentally retarded community gardener smarter using VR. In the films Last Action Hero (1993), Unveiling (1994), Brainscan (1994) or Networked - Johnny Mnemonic (1995), protagonists immerse themselves in VR. The film eXistenZ (1999) is based on a narrative structure that shows its protagonists increasingly disoriented in a heavily nested virtual reality. In 1999 the first part of the Matrix series appeared. Almost the entire population of the world lives in VR, although people do not know that they only live in a simulated world; Virtual worlds can be seen in Animatrix , especially in the episode "Matriculated". In the trilogy, the Zion reality is superordinate to the matrix of another reality. In the Canadian B-movie Tribulation , a sect guru missionises more "sheep" by letting them immerse themselves in a VR using a helmet display. The book adaptation Ready Player One from 2018 takes place for the most part in a virtual reality.

Virtual reality for video games

Sony PlayStation VR (Virtual Reality) at the Gamescom trade fair

The use of graphics, sound and input technologies in video games can be implemented with the help of virtual reality. Several virtual reality head-mounted displays (HMD) were brought onto the market for game consoles for this purpose during the early 1990s. These included the Virtual Boy developed by Nintendo , the iGlasses developed by Virtual IO, the Cybermaxx by Victormaxx and the VFX1 headgear manufactured by Forte Technologies. Despite many efforts to establish virtual reality as a profitable market, it failed due to the fact that the technology for the consumer market was not yet mature. Early designs were not only very expensive, they were also too big and controls were not very intuitive for gamers. More modern and successful examples of virtual reality in the video game industry include the Wii remote control , the Microsoft Kinect and the PlayStation Move / PlayStation Eye, all of which are capable of displaying gesture and movement inputs from the player on the game console. Nevertheless, these conservative implementations of virtual reality were still a long way from the basic ideas that were striven for in the 1990s.

Several companies are working on a new generation of virtual reality headsets: Oculus Rift is a head-mounted display developed primarily for gaming purposes by Oculus VR , an American technology company, which was acquired by Facebook for US $ 2 billion in 2014 . After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Oculus Rift was partly responsible for a renewed interest in virtual reality gaming and several large companies are now working on their own virtual reality headsets. One of the competitors of the Oculus Rift is the PlayStation VR (code name Morpheus) from Sony Computer Entertainment , which requires a PlayStation 4 instead of a PC as a platform . In 2015 Valve Corporation announced a partnership with HTC in the form of the HTC Vive , a VR headset that can track the user's position in a 4.5 x 4.5 meter area (room-scale VR). All of these virtual reality headsets are connected headsets ( head-mounted displays ) which, through the use of special, curved lenses, enlarge and stretch a screen the size of a palm to fill the user's field of vision. Numerous other virtual reality headsets are also in development.

In cooperation with the Disney group, Lenovo launched the Star Wars : Jedi Challenges virtual reality game set in December 2017, consisting of virtual reality glasses, a lightsaber and a tracking device. Due to its great popularity, updates of the VR game are already available.

Virtual reality in exhibitions

10,000 moving cities, VR (Virtual Reality) Marc Lee

The Museum of Applied Arts shows in February 2018, the experimental exhibition Klimt's Magic Garden: A virtual reality experiment by Frederick Baker , can enter a garden where visitors using virtual reality goggles that of Gustav Klimt's work drawings for the mosaic frieze in the dining room of the Palais Stoclet inspired is.

In the Museum of Art and Cultural History Dortmund , the reconstructed memorial “Memorial to the Victims of War” by Benno Elkan can be viewed with a smartphone app . The memorial will later be seen in the public space in downtown Dortmund.

At TimeRide VR Cöln and TimeRide VR Dresden you can visit permanent exhibitions on the subject of virtual reality in combination with historical knowledge. Here you travel to other times with VR glasses. In Cologne, visitors take a virtual tram through the cathedral city around 1909. In Dresden you can find yourself in a baroque carriage (around 1719) in the suburb and in the Zwinger. In Dresden you can also try out augmented reality technology in magical mirrors and slip into virtual baroque clothing.

See also


Web links

Commons : Virtual reality  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Before the Internet came the Dungeon Telepolis, October 20, 2013 , accessed on October 21, 2013
  2. ^ Mel Slater, Place Illusion and Plausibility Can Lead to Realistic Behavior in Immersive Virtual Environment. (PDF) Retrieved January 8, 2016 .
  3. Walking in Telepresence: Motion Compression ,, November 28, 2013, accessed May 10, 2016
  4. Petra Missomelius: Digital media culture. Perception - configuration - transformation . transcript, Bielefeld 2006, ISBN 3-89942-548-0 ( limited preview in the Google book search).
  5. Review. Oliver Graus (pre) history of virtual reality. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . July 26, 2001, accessed March 10, 2019 .
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  15. 6 Virtual Reality Devices From the Past of March 25, 2015
  16. A look back at the doomed virtual reality boom of the 90s from January 28, 2015
  17. Comparison of best VR headsets: Morpheus vs. Rift vs. Vive ( Memento of the original from August 20, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. from August 14, 2015 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  20. Marc Lee: 10.000 Moving Cities - Same but Different, VR (Virtual Reality), interactive net- and telepresence-based installation, 2016 . Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  21. KLIMT'S MAGIC GARDEN: - MAK Museum Vienna. Retrieved February 21, 2018 .
  22. ↑ Culture of remembrance: Benno Elkan's memorial can be virtually experienced in the MKK - News - Museum of Art and Cultural History - Museums - Leisure & Culture - city portal. Retrieved September 21, 2018 .
  23. Benno Elkan’s war memorial that was never built becomes Germany’s most modern monument . In: RN . ( [accessed on September 21, 2018]).
  24. timeride VR - Go on a journey through time with us. Retrieved on March 28, 2019 (German).