Virtual reality video games have seen exponential growth in popularity in the last few years. The development of new technologies such as VR headsets has popularized virtual reality in the field of leisure and entertainment. In particular, there are more and more rooms with VR games, which create a 100% immersive experience in a realistic virtual environment.
Even though the concept of metaverse has put virtual reality on everyone’s lips, many people are still unfamiliar with the concept. This article will explain what virtual reality is and how it is applied in video games.
What is virtual reality?
Virtual reality can be defined as the artificial creation of an environment of appearance realistic in three dimensions. Through the use of a virtual reality device – usually glasses or headset – the user is introduced to that alternative reality and can move around and interact with it.
Of course, the immersive experience that virtual reality offers depends on several factors. Among them, the most important is technological capacity: professional simulators and VR rooms have more powerful tools to generate the illusion of a virtual environment, although there are also virtual games for mobile phones and home platforms. On the other hand, design of virtual reality plays a vital role as well: improvements in 3D design tools have permitted the creation of fictitious environments that have a much more credible feel while they are being used.
It is obvious that the different forms of virtual reality have reached their greatest development today, but in what year was virtual reality invented? The concept dates from 1935: in his science fiction story “The Pygmalion Glasses”, Stanley Weinbaum described glasses that introduced the protagonist into a fictional world.
Twenty years later, Morton Heilig created the first VR prototype, but it was in 1965 that Ivan Sutherland conceived the idea of using computer hardware to update the virtual environment in real time, similar to how virtual reality applications work today.
In the 1990s, video game companies such as Sega and Nintendo used virtual reality technology for consoles such as the Sega VR-1 simulator or the Famicom 3D System. However, they were unsuccessful, and the ultimate popularization of the technology would not happen until 2010, with the invention of the Oculus Rift.
Virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality
Although we use the term virtual reality as a global concept, there are several different forms of virtual reality depending on the interaction they offer between the digital and the real world. In the case of virtual reality, the environment it creates is 100% fictional, while augmented reality and mixed reality combine virtual elements with the physical environment that surrounds the user.
In the case of augmented reality, virtual objects are added to the physical environment. This is the case of the popular Pokémon Go video game, in which users can move around their city and interact with the game’s characters. Another example of augmented reality is in the Instagram filters, which allow adding accessories to the image itself, such as dog ears.
And what is mixed reality? It can be considered an advanced form of augmented reality: digital objects are “anchored” to physical reality and can be interacted with as well as with real objects. In other cases, the virtual world replaces the physical, but maintains an exact correspondence with it, unlike the completely fictional environment of virtual reality.
How is virtual reality created?
Creating a virtual reality depends on two fundamental aspects: the design of the digital space in which the user will move and the integration of the user in that environment. The first aspect is resolved as in any traditional video game: through the design of a three-dimensional setting and the creation and programming of 3D objects that respond to the player’s movements.
For the second aspect, it is necessary to have two devices: a video device that generates the environment, like a computer or a smartphone, and an interaction device that allows the user to interact with the environment, like a 3D glasses or headset. This last tool isolates the user and projects the same image at two different angles for each eye. With this it is possible to simulate the depth of field of a scene that surrounds the user completely.
In addition, the headsets have sensors that detect the player’s movements and can change what they see depending on where they are looking. When it comes to interaction, each VR tool has different controls to interpret what the user wants to do: from buttons to additional sensors to show arm movement.
Virtual reality in video games: how does it feel to play a virtual reality video game?
Virtual reality is used in many areas, but its most prominent application is in the entertainment sector. From immersive videos created on YouTube to virtual roller coasters, to activities such as playing Minecraft in virtual reality, there is a wide range of VR experiences that allow the user to interact with digital environments through compatible devices.
Video games have been responsible for one of the biggest developments in virtual reality. The reason is obvious: the degree of immersion that this technology allows makes the player experience much more complete. Thanks to the virtual glasses, the player feels that he is in a totally different world with depth, 360º vision and all the possibilities of interaction that physical reality offers: picking up objects, throwing them, turning them or leaving them somewhere else.
Although virtual reality has made significant improvements in the last few years, it still has some challenges ahead. One of the most important is the limit of 30 minutes, after which the experience can disorient the user and become unpleasant. Furthermore, VR is not yet fully immersive, limiting itself only to the visual and sound sense.
As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, it is possible that virtual reality will experience an even greater boom in the upcoming years. With the Facebook metaverse and emerging VR tools, we can easily imagine virtual reality becoming a popular form of entertainment and offering gaming experiences unimaginable to us today.
Video games are a highly innovative sector within new technologies and this innovation is expected to grow exponentially, not only in virtual reality but in new ways of creating communities and keep people entertained even when they are not playing. That’s the case of the eSports, competitions which we dedicated a Mobile Talks sesion that you can revive here.