What is virtual reality or VR? Definition and examples

Virtual reality or VR is a technology that creates a virtual environment. People interact in those environments using, for example, VR goggles or other mobile devices. It is a computer-generated simulation of an environment or 3-dimensional image where people can interact in a seemingly real or physical way. To interact, you need special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or goggles. To get the full effect of virtual reality, the user wears gloves or a suit with special sensors.

Put simply; virtual reality is a type of computer technology that makes you feel like you are somewhere else. Special software produces images, sounds, and other sensations to create this other place. Users, therefore, feel like they are part of this other place. However, the whole thing is a simulation.

We typically refer to the other place as the ‘environment.’ The environment could be a café, a mountain, the beach, or a place where people are playing a game.

Virtual reality - definition and example
According to Kids.Kiddle.com: “Virtual reality (VR) is the name for computer technology that makes a person feel like they are somewhere else. It uses software to produce images, sounds and other sensations to create a different place, so that a user feels like he or she is really part of this other place.”

Virtual reality vs. augmented reality

Do not confuse the term with augmented reality. Although the two terms are found in many texts together, their meanings are quite different.

Augmented reality

Augmented reality or AR is technology that presents us with virtual objects in our natural environment. A mobile phone, for example, can give us additional information about things in our field of vision.

If I look down a street and point my smartphone down that street, my device’s screen may tell me that a building on the left is Cafe Paris. It may also tell me that a door further down on the right is the entrance to ACME Gym, etc.

Virtual reality

Virtual reality technology creates a virtual or pretend environment. In other words, a simulation. I can go inside that environment and do things in there. For example, I can talk to other people, play games, or just go for a walk and enjoy the view. I can do anything I like in that environment, as long as the software has made it possible.

Augmented reality - definition and example
As you can see in this image, augmented reality is software that gives you information about the things in your field of vision. It is completely different from virtual reality.

Virtual reality will transform many sectors

A team of German researchers predicts that augmented and virtual reality will drastically transform seven different sectors of the economy. The sectors are retail, manufacturing, automotive workshops, communications, IT services, education, and the music industry.

In online retailing, for example, with VR we will be able to try on garments using an avatar. Sellers will have lower costs because there will be fewer returns of fashion items.

Imagine going into a virtual reality when deciding what furniture to buy for your home. You will be able to walk around in a virtual living room, bedroom, kitchen, etc. In those simulations, you will be able to try out different items of furniture.

In the music industry in the future, fans will be able to get tickets for virtual concerts. Bookings for real-life music concerts will probably suffer.

Companies will need to work with partners

Regarding augmented and virtual reality, Prof. Hutzschenreuter, from the TUM School of Management, said:

“Virtual and augmented reality are disruptive technologies: They will relentlessly and rapidly eliminate existing products, business models, and production processes. This process will be moving full speed ahead in just a few years.”

“To remain competitive, companies in the industries we have identified will have to develop new strategies. Most of them will need to find partners because they lack the necessary expertise in virtual and augmented reality. Those that succeed will have excellent chances of achieving growth by boosting productivity while lowering their costs.”