This post was originally published on toky.com.
Virtual Reality has most likely been brought up in your office, almost no matter what field you work in. You may have heard the term in strategy meetings, content meetings, or project meetings (and possibly all of the above). Many companies are successfully using VR to achieve business goals, and it’s possible that yours will pick up on the trend too. Whether you’re the one with the big idea or just along for the ride, it’s important to know the basics and terminology.
Virtual Reality Vs. Augmented Reality
The terms “virtual reality” and “augmented reality” seem to be interchangeable, always talked about in the same space. But they are not the same thing and it is important to know the difference.
Virtual Reality is an immersive experience. When you are experiencing virtual reality, your entire surroundings have been replaced. You can look up, down, and around 360 degrees and it will be different than what you’re actually standing in.
Augmented Reality mixes graphics with the real world. When you’re experiencing augmented reality, you’re seeing your own surroundings with a graphic or information interacting with it. You’re always viewing these graphics through a screen or a device.
For the rest of this post, we will be strictly talking about Virtual Reality.
Non-Immersive Vs. Fully Immersive
While all VR experiences are technically “immersive” because you are completely cut off from the real world, there are two variants on what that means.
While non-immersive experiences still cut you off from your physical surroundings, they are limited in how you can interact with supplied virtual surroundings. In an experience like this, you can look around – up, down, completely around yourself – and view your new environment. But you cannot make changes to that environment. You cannot move through it, move objects, or make decisions. You’re at the mercy of the creator of the experience. A good example of non-immersive experiences are 360 videos. While you can enjoy the ride, you cannot change how the director shot the experience or edited it together.
The opposite of that, a fully immersive experience, is when you can interact with your virtual environment. Sometimes it’s as simple as feeling a vibration when you touch an element but sometimes the interactions are the experience. Fully immersive is used for gaming, creating art, exploring spaces, and so much more.
Non-immersive and fully immersive vary greatly when it comes to the equipment they use and how they are created.
Real-World vs. CGI
The difference between Real-World videos and Computer-Generated Images in VR is the same as it is in film and easy to understand. Real-World is the real world, shot with a camera. CGI are graphics created by a computer. Sometimes these overlap, but it’s not as common.
Fully-immersive VR is almost always CGI. While there are a few real-world fully-immersive VR experiences, the options for interacting with the environment is limited. You may be able to choose which direction you go or make a simple decision, but you cannot interact with objects or have free range. CGI is limited only by the creator’s imagination.
Simple Equipment vs. High-Powered Equipment
There is a wide variety of equipment out there for VR experiences. For our purposes, we’ll stick to the two most popular and accessible devices on both sides of the spectrum: Google Cardboard at its simplest, and the VIVE as one of the most high powered devices.
Google Cardboard and other simple equipment like the EVO require only a smartphone and a VR video, many of which you can find on YouTube for free. These simple devices are limited to non-immersive experiences only because they lack the hardware and controllers that fully immersive experiences require.
With the VIVE, you’re going to need to dish out a good $600 for the equipment, but you’ll also need to invest in a high-powered PC Computer. Not any computer will do. These experiences require high resolution rendering at an enormous scale and a computer not up to the task will create a lagging and poor experience. You’ll also need to buy each experience independently. While the free YouTube VR videos still work, the fully immersive experiences are not.
In VR, equipment is everything. When you’re wearing Google Cardboard and EVO, you’re very aware that you’re looking through goggles. You can see everything, look around, but you can’t interact and the view is cloudy and lacks peripheral vision and realistic sound.
Strap on a VIVE or Oculus and you’re in a whole other world, (almost) literally. This equipment, and the experiences it provides are so real it tricks your brain on primitive levels. Your entire vision, including peripheral, is taken over. Peripheral vision is the space in which media has never successfully mastered until this type of VR. This equipment also masters sound, which is what takes an experience from cool to convincingly realistic. With surround sound headphones, a noise behind you sounds like a noise behind you, and a distant noise sounds a like a distant noise. This equipment also comes with complex controllers that allow you to move around, pick things up, throw, draw, and anything your imagination can come up with.
Whether you like it or not, Virtual Reality is apart of our world. And unlike movies or video games, this technology is becoming a huge part of business. It can be simple to understand but the best way to learn it is to experience it. At the very least, buy a Google Cardboard and discover what’s available on YouTube. And in the meantime, start using the knowledge you now know to impress your co-workers.