People who stare at displays – in the living room on the TV, in the office on the computer, in bed on the tablet and on the way to the smartphone. A new technology is about to break this paradigm.

Virtual reality, VR for short, has become a generic term for a technology that could usher in a new computer age. Users put on VR glasses, the display disappears and they are right in the middle of their content. Viewers become eyewitnesses to an action that surrounds them in 360 degrees. You choose the picture itself by simply moving your head as in real reality.

The unique selling point of the new medium is called Immersion. The technical term describes the “immersion” in the virtual world. With well-made VR experiences, users feel they are in a different location. Many VR applications are not referred to in the industry as a movie or game, but as an experience.

VR is more than a game

Such experiences should potentially be beneficial in many areas. Games in which the player sits in the car himself or physically has to run away during a chase. Interactive movies in which the viewer becomes part of the plot – not just in pornography.

Physicians, architects and designers are already using Virtual Reality. A draftsman can plan entire houses virtually and clarify details directly with the customer in a virtual tour.

Surgeons can virtually plan and rehearse operations.

A neurosurgeon can pre-fabricate a 3D model of a patient’s brain and prepare for the operation in detail. Patients meditate in the glasses and thus avoid the stressful surgical situation. The medium is also used in therapy: So far it has been used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety disorders or pain therapy.

The ABC of immersive media

360 videos:

Unlike VR content, 360 ° videos are not created on the computer, but filmed. The videos bring the user closer to the atmosphere of a place, offer besides the possibility to look around but no interaction. The own position is that of the set up 360 ° camera. So far the videos suffer from a low image quality and missing ideas, how to tell stories in the new medium.

Augmented reality:

Augmented reality describes the “augmented reality”, ie the extension of our real environment with virtual elements. This ranges from a navigation system in our field of vision via virtual models that are further developed spatially to the cinema screen in your own living room. Unlike Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality does not bring the user into their own, virtual environment, but supports ours. So far, there are no AR glasses for the consumer market.

Immersion: 

Immersion describes immersion in a new, virtual environment. If a VR application works, you will feel present as a result of a successful immersion. The “immersion” is disturbed by several factors, such as the lack of own hands or the whole body.

Motion Sickness:

Many individuals experience nausea when moving in virtual reality, especially when they are sitting during an application and do not move themselves. This phenomenon is known as motion sickness or motion sickness. The body assumes poisoning and reacts with vomiting.

Social-VR:

A common prejudice against Virtual Reality is that the technology is socially isolated. But that’s only partially true. Although VR glasses can foreclose from the outside world. However, digital communication and interaction is much more personal than using messenger, email, or video telephony. In the future virtual avatars with believable facial expressions and gestures could provide this, which convey a sense of presence. You do not talk on the phone, you spend time together – virtually.

Virtual Reality:

Virtual reality or virtual reality describes a computer-generated environment with which a user can interact in real time. Unlike a movie or a video game, we are no longer separated from history by a screen, but we are supposed to be in the middle of it all. Access to the new medium give so-called VR glasses.

Filmmakers and journalists also discover 360 ° videos. In contrast to classic VR content, these are not created on the computer, but filmed with special cameras. Even if the user can only look around in these videos and can not move, a good 360 ° video conveys the atmosphere of a place and offers immersion. The goal is usually to take the viewer to places he normally has no access to, such as the operating room in a cardiac surgery or the streets of a war zone.

With the Apollo 11 crew to the moon

But why are so many users and companies investing in a new medium? On the one hand: because it is finally technically feasible. The other side is described by Clay Bavor, head of Google’s VR department, as follows: “Experience is the richest type of information.” VR allows the user to experience something firsthand – virtually only, but the feeling and memory of it are still authentic.

Of course, critics could argue that you can just leave the apartment. First and foremost, VR is about simulating experiences that you normally can not experience yourself. Stanford University VR researcher Jeremy Bailenson describes four possible types of experiences that are suitable for virtual reality. They have to be expensive, dangerous, impossible or rare.

The Apollo 11 experience shoots the user along with Neil Armstrong on the moon.

An example of this is the flight to the moon with the original crew of the Apollo 11 mission. This VR experience is used in lessons in US schools. VR media let us play the role of another person. Bailenson and his team of psychologists have found that such a shift in perspective promotes positive change in people, such as improved learning, reduction of stereotypical thinking, and interpersonal communication. Put simply, someone who puts himself in another person then encounters new ideas more open-minded and is more willing to approach strangers.

The brain believes what it sees

Of course, this proximity also carries risks. Our brain wants to believe that what it sees is real – or at least authentic. Only then does a VR experience unleash its potential. But producers and developers must be cautious, much more cautious than with ordinary monitor media. Virtual violence is violence that happens to me. If someone comes close to me virtually, I feel no physical contact, but feel emotionally distressed.

Especially children find it difficult to separate virtual and real experiences. The effects of continuous VR use are still completely unexplored. Many of the VR glasses manufacturer are based on the age rating on American Internet law and give the recommendation to use the glasses only from the age of 13 years.

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