understanding what VR is

Understanding What VR is Like Without Trying It

I got into virtual reality a week ago. My last experience was with Google Cardboard and Mobile VR a few years ago. Since then I was focusing fully on Augmented Reality technology.

After trying a modern VR headset, the Oculus Quest 2 for the first time, the experience was time fold better than what I remember experiencing back then. When I tried VR for the first time, it was nothing like I could have imagined.

By that I mean, I couldn’t really understand what emotions, reactions, and how my mind will react to the fact that the reality around me suddenly changes. Things get even more bizarre if you include hand-tracking and seeing your real hands moving in the virtual reality world. Even understanding the sense of the scale of things in VR is mind-bloging. A building in a regular game that you experience on a regular monitor looks tiny, in VR, it’s a real-size building!

It’s not for nothing that many say that the only way you can understand what VR is all about is by experiencing it yourself. Although true in many aspects, problem is, that this really doesn’t help us understand what we can expect from VR and how it is like if we haven’t tried it out—So is there a way we can understand except by just trying it yourself?

Well, yes, to some degree. The best way I could, retrospectively understand what VR is, is by trying to mimic the same experience that I had in real life. The way it worked for me is trying to literally blur my reality to make it appear less real. Making it appear more computized.

So how exactly I do that. Well?—I close my eyes just a bit until I see things a bit blurry and my peripheral vision gets narrower with some “natural vignetting”.

Of course, there are VR headsets with very high-resolution displays. The reason I do that is that I can’t disconnect from my reality and make it look fake by just looking at it as it is.

Then I do a slow movement with my hands and try to reach objects in the world and pick them up. Doing simple interactions. This results in me getting a similar experience that I got using Oculus Quest 2 and a similar headset with roughly the same visual experience.

I also try not to let my eyes focus on my arms. I put them closer to my body so it will look more like seeing just my hands. Of course in some VR apps, you can see virtual arms, but again, the goal is to try to imagine how it is like for the first user experience with current modern VR hardware and trying a common VR application with hand interaction.

hole in the floor in Half-Life Alyx game
I really felt that I can fall through that hole, need to walk slowly (Image from Half-Life: Alyx game)

Speaking about photorealism. The thing is, with high-quality VR headsets and with photorealistic visuals, the VR experience shouldn’t be different than seeing things in real life, theoretically speaking. Having said that, it doesn’t mean the VR world will look like real life, as in VR, everything is possible. You can have your entire world look like in a Minecraft game made of blocks. There are also experiences where you don’t interact with anything. Again, when you can change anything in the world, your “new reality” can be just about anything that you can and cannot imagine.

As the technology becomes more advanced, that gap will shrink, and eventually, we wouldn’t able to tell the difference at all. VR will also be mixed with the real world in a mixed reality experience that each one will have some degree of mixing with virtual content and that of in reality.

So although in this post I gave you a technique that enables you to grasp how VR feels with current modern VR headsets, in the future, what you perceive as a 100% convincing view of reality, can be completely or partially virtualized in a way that you won’t know the difference. Yeh, literally, an app can change your reality in a very mind-deceiving way.

Half-Life Alyx vista
I was there, in that place, watching this magnificent view on a top of a building. It felt real. I can say that I was in “Half-Life country” because I was.

Having said all that, you need to understand that moving in virtual reality is different as unless an experience is built around a large scale that replicated the free movement that you have in the replicated real environment, we do have limitations. Many of the VR experiences designed for seated, standing, and even room-scale VR applications require a relatively small play area. Still, we can just physically move freely in the real world as there are obstacles that we can bump into.

That being said, there are technology where a person can actually walk on a walking VR platform. Which means that you are physically feeling you are moving in the real world, I mean, moving distances, but actually you are just walking in place, kind like a treadmill. So there are ways to overcome that and many other technique to make the virtual world feel close to how we feel in reality.

Yeh, current modern VR, by that I mean, the popular VR headsets, are far from being perfect. They will get better, but right now, using the Oculus Quest 2, there is still pixelation (you can see individual pixels), the field of view is limited, there is a screen door effect, and other “interferences” that impair immersion.

Still, if you are thinking buying a virtual reality headset, you will experience something truly special. That virtual worlds can be anything. You can turn to be something else, get into different roles, do things that otherwise you wouldn’t dare to do in real life. You can visit fantasy worlds that you can only dream of. You can meat with people around the world and interact with them no matter where you are in the world. You can have physical capabilities that are taken from superhero movies. You can visit places that you always wanted to visit by just sitting in your room at home.

There are endless creative opportunities for developers to play with your reality in such a fascinating and exciting way. By doing so, you will learn more about yourself, about the world, an about others.

For me, it’s like being able to live several times, as I can be so many things, a new me–every single day. I can learn new things in a way that I wouldn’t be able to without this technology. The experience itself will grow on you more and more each day, the more unique VR experiences you discover that you connect with and love.

This is something of course that you MUST try VR to understand, as this is not about understanding the concept of how it is like being in VR in general, but experiencing new realities as created by many talented VR developers from all around the world that want you to feel something new, something different, to let your inner desires flourish. Let you relive some of your fantasies instead of dreaming or just imagining how they will be like.

I want to live in 1800., I want to be there. It’s a fantasy of mine. Until now I could only imagine, but with VR, it’s possible—everything is possible!

P.S.

As a last note, I do recommend for anyone who want to try VR without actually committing to an expensive headset, try mobile VR. Even a Google Cardboard like headset with a mobile phone will give you an idea.