Virtual Reality Environments: Emerging Technology in the Digital Age

Virtual reality constructs an experience that simulates the user’s physical presence in another setting. Virtual reality works by offering the maximum level in an experience: total immersion. This happens by simulating all of the user’s senses in way that gets the brain to accept the virtual environment as real. In a virtual reality environment, users inhabit a completely synthetic world, which may or may not imitate the properties of a real world. The simulation of an environment in digital format is reproduced through a screen, designed in a way that causes the users to feel like they are in the place they are looking at. The stereoscopic images provide a wider field of vision and a depth perception that is superior to other traditional screens, and the user’s real environment is blocked out. There are different head-mounted devices on the market designed to achieve this experience. For example, the Oculus Rift virtual reality glasses work by using a combination of sensors that allows the application (software) to place the user in a fixed point within the virtual space and to replicate the user’s visual orientation based on his or her head movements, successfully simulating the field of vision. Sound also plays an important role because it allows a person to distinguish the origin and distance of the objects or environmental elements that generate it. This combination of the digital content that is seen, what is heard, and body movement can lead a person to confuse the real world with the fantasy world. Currently, different technologies are being integrated in order to improve these systems and achieve more complex simulations. One of these is the experience of teleportation in immersive environments. This technology, known as AoEs (Area of Elements) integrates natural elements, such as temperature, air, and humidity, into the virtual reality experience, creating two virtual environments simultaneously. Another technology that is being integrated is haptics with hanging reflex, known as hangerOVER, which causes involuntary movements in the user’s head and combines this with images of force and movement to create a simulation that makes the user feel like he or she is pushed or hit by a videogame character.
Other important projects include improving the discomforts caused by the glasses and developing dynamic refocus so the user can use an optic system that adapts to his or her [eye] prescription, thereby eliminating the use of glasses. A remote physiological monitoring application, known as “Cardiolens”, which measures and visualizes blood flows and vital signs of the human body in real time using virtual reality glasses is also expected to be used very soon.