The 9 Best VR Glasses
9. Samsung Gear
8. Pansonite 3D
7. Google Cardboard
6. Google Daydream View
5. Merge VRG-01P
4. Sony PlayStation VR
3. Oculus Rift
2. ETVR 5.0
1. HTC Vive
What Is Virtual Reality
The term virtual reality refers to the creation of an artificial environment which is presented to the user in a fully immersive manner. The key to believable virtual reality is to block out the sensory input from the real world and recreate as many of these sensory inputs through the virtual world. The more senses which can be introduced artificially, the easier it is for the user to become immersed in the virtual world. For example, a VR system that utilizes eye goggles and earphones, is more effective than one which only makes use of eye goggles. Adding another sensory element such as a wind gust from a fan or a slight misting when the user is experiencing a boat ride in the virtual world makes it even more immersive and believable.
Some newer VR systems make use of special gloves and body suits which can apply pressure or vibrations at precise moments. If your virtual incarnation experiences an impact, you will feel a sudden startling vibration. In addition to helping provide a multi-sensory experience, these gloves and body suits aid in tracking the user's movements and actions so they can be appropriately applied to the virtual world.
The concept of virtual reality is simple, but the execution has proved considerably more difficult. VR systems have been in the works since the early 1980s, but have failed to capture the user in a truly immersive experience, or proved too costly for the home user. The advent of newer technologies has allowed the creation of immersive, cost-effective systems, which are finally emerging into the consumer marketplace.
History Of Virtual Reality
While the use of home virtual reality systems is a relatively recent development, the concept of virtual reality dates all the way back to a 1935 short story named "Pygmalion's Spectacles" by Stanley G. Weinbaum. In it, the author describes a VR system that makes use of goggles and a holographic recording system.
The first immersive, multi-sensory VR system was created in the 1960s by Morton Hellig. It was called the Sensorama and made use of a wraparound screen viewed through a binocular-like device to display a stereoscopic 3-D image. It also had a moving seat and vents to direct short bursts of air at the viewer as they watched films.
From the 1960s to the 1990s, there were a few other notable VR systems that are worth mentioning. In 1968, Ivan Sutherland and Bob Sproull invented the first head-mounted VR system. It was so heavy that it actually had to be suspended from the ceiling and the primitive graphics were simple wire-frame models. In 1978, MIT students developed the Aspen Movie Map. It was a virtual simulation of Aspen, Colorado that allowed the user to walk the streets. The user could choose from a summer or winter scene, which were both based on actual photographs or a polygon mode, which was a basic 3-D model of the city.
In the 1980s, Atari toyed with virtual reality and opened a dedicated lab focused on experimenting with the concept. Unfortunately, it closed just two years later during the video game crash of 1983.
Virtual reality experienced renewed public interest in the 1990s from movies like Johnny Mnemonic, Virtuosity, and the Lawnmower man. This led to a surge in companies working on the development of the technology. Sega, Apple, and Nintendo all jumped on the bandwagon alongside many lesser known names like Electronic Visualization Laboratory and Forte Technologies. All of the devices released were relatively expensive and none had staying power as they all disappeared from the marketplace quickly. In the last few years, new technology has made home VR systems affordable and increasingly realistic with devices like the Oculus Rift and Sony's Project Morpheus.
How Virtual Reality Glasses Work
The two most basic components needed for a VR system to function are a display and some kind of input. In budget virtual reality glasses, the display is often your smartphone, while the higher end models have integrated display screens inside of the head-mounted unit. The inputs can range from head and eye tracking devices to hand controllers.
If using a model with integrated display screens, the video is sent to the device via an HDMI cable. The better systems use two display screens and two feeds. They will also have a lens placed between your eyes and the screen that is designed to slightly angle and reshape the 2D images, recreating the natural variations in how your two eyes see the world.
For virtual reality glasses to be truly effective, they must track your movements in some way. They can utilize eye tracking, head tracking, or motion tracking. The most basic systems will utilize one tracking method, while the more expensive models will track all three.
Head tracking allows VR glasses to display an image that moves as you tilt your head. This plots the pitch, yaw, and roll of your head on the X, Y and Z axes using the six degrees of freedom system.
Motion tracking allows the movements of your body and hands or a controller to be recorded so your virtual incarnation can perform similar actions. Eye tracking makes depth of field more realistic. This brings items that you are looking directly at into pinpoint focus, while peripheral objects will be slightly out of focus, just like real life.