Techsplained: What is virtual reality and how does it work

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Published: April 27, 2020 2:40:45 AM

The real gains are for the gaming industry, which stands to benefit from this innovation.

Virtual reality is the presentation of a user interface in 3D. (Representative image/ Reuters file photo)Virtual reality is the presentation of a user interface in 3D. (Representative image/ Reuters file photo)

Coronavirus has certainly put the spotlight on video-calling apps and services. As per a report from research firm Kalagato, Houseparty and Zoom have seen a meteoric rise in downloads and daily active users, it is also bringing another technology in vogue. The long-forgotten world of virtual reality is gaining pace. However, it will still be months before the world sees some real innovation, probably years. But the possibility of being locked again has catapulted many into working on this front. The real gains are for the gaming industry, which stands to benefit from this innovation. However, it will be still a few years before we can use the technology to its full potential.

What is virtual reality?
Virtual reality is the presentation of a user interface in 3D. While monitors and TV screens only allow a limited 3D experience, virtual reality can be a 360-degree immersive experience, where computer-generated graphics help create things as close to reality as possible.

How does it work?
Processing of virtual reality is a combination of both hardware and software. The hardware part is used for viewing purposes, while the software can help create the environment. A simple example of this are the games, where a headgear attached with HDMI cables help transfer images from the box. This enables you to play a game of tennis with friends. In some cases, the phone becomes part of the hardware, as the smartphone gets clipped in a VR headgear and project images. But a phone needs to have a 60fps framerate or higher so that the picture is not grainy and over pixelated.

How does it provide a 360-degree view, when human visual field is 120?
The VR glasses use a technology called head-tracking, which changes the field of vision as a person turns head. The technology may not be perfect, as there is latency if the head moves too fast. Still, it does offer an immersive experience. There is also eye-tracking which uses infrared to determine eye movements and helps determine depth in the picture. The motion tracking feature is still in development and will allow a person to walk around in the virtual world.

What are the applications of virtual reality technology?
The gaming industry is betting on VR to transform the industry. Once prices of headsets crash, VR will be implemented on a wider scale. Education is another critical sector. VR will have implications for the events industry and consumer business to showcase products.

Techsplained @FE features weekly on Mondays. If you wish to send in queries that you want explained, mail us at ishaan.gera@expressindia.com

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