What is Virtual Reality ? It’s Key Characteristics, Types and Applications

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Virtual Reality utilizes computer technology to provide users an experience of objects or situations that actually do not exist. Using VR, a user can experience swimming with dolphins, flying a spaceship, riding a roller coaster ride and visit a newly constructed building without leaving their comfort zone. In this article we will discuss what is virtual reality, its key characteristics, types and applications.

We suggest you to also read this article on Augmented reality vs Virtual Reality.

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality is extended reality technology and changing the way we interact with computers. It utilizes computer technology to create simulation environments and convince human brain in different environment. VR provide users immersive experience by simulating various human senses such as vision, touch, hearing and motion. 

Higher the number of senses a VR device can controls, better will be the user experience. To experience VR, user need to wear various VR devices.

Virtual Reality (VR) Key Characteristics

To make VR experience more realistic, a VR system shall have following key characteristics.

Believable Virtual Word

Virtual world is computer generated responsive 3-Dimensional virtual environment, where real world rules are applied. Therefore to make VR experience more realistic, 3D virtual world should be closer to real world, responsive, interactive fast and bug free.

For example, if you create a virtual world where human can fly, or jump 20 meter wall that is not realistic. 


To ensure user believe he is physically present in the real world being in virtual environment. VR need to interact user body and mind.


To make VR more realistic, virtual word should be interactive. If virtual environment responds to user action naturally, sense of immersive will be high.


Haptic feedback is a key factor in evaluating VR performance. When VR systems respond to user action, it becomes more realistic.

For example if user is playing boxing is VR environment. When other player hits the user, he should feel some physical feedback.

Key Devices for Virtual Reality System

To create VR experience more realistic and simulate human senses, following devices are used.

Virtual Reality Headset

High end VR headset consist of display unit and earphone for audio simulation. They get input from computing devices such as X-box or playstation etc.

Whereas low cost VR device utilize smartphone screen as display and  smartphone vibrations are used to provide hepatic feedback.

HTC Vive (Head Mounted Display)

Some of popular virtual reality Headset (head mounted display) includes:

Based on features offered by Virtual Reality Headset, their price varies from $800 to $50.

Computing Device (Commuter / Smart Phone)

To run virtual content in 3D environments high computing power is required. This requirement is fulfilled using personal computers, play stations, workstations or smartphone.

Input / Output Devices
VR input devices are used for users interaction with virtual environment. Whereas output devices helps in convincing users that they are in real environment. 

VR input and output device includes:

  • Joysticks
  • Force Balls/Tracking Balls
  • Data Gloves
  • Trackpads
  • On-Device Control Buttons
  • Motion Trackers/Bodysuits
  • Motion Platforms (Virtuix Omni)

Types of VR Technology

Based on type of experience VR offers, Virtual Reality technologies are classified in three categories:

Fully Immersive Virtual Reality
Fully immersive VR technology provides realistic user experience. It gives users a perception of living in another world.

To experience a fully immersive VR, users require VR headset, motion detection sensors and feedback devices.

Matrix world is the best example of fully immersive virtual reality. Existing technologies are not advanced like matrix world. But they are improving with time.

Non Immersive Virtual Reality

In Non-Immersive VR, only a subset of user sense is simulated. User senses are affected by outside word.

For example in 3D cad tools, engineers visualize a virtual product from various aspects but they are not immersed in it.

Semi-Immersive Virtual Reality

Semi-immersive VR lies in between fully immersive and non-immersive VR. In this users are partially immersed in VR system.

For example in car driving simulator, the driver sits in a cabin and road pictures with obstacles come up in 2D screen. Therefore, driver is fully aware of what is happening around him.

Applications of Virtual Reality

It is a common misconception that VR is limited to gaming industry only. But this is not true. VR also has applications in education, healthcare, scientific research, product design sports and entertainment industry as well.

Education Sector
VR is changing the way students learn. Students are using VR tools to visualize difficult concepts and improve their understanding.

Fully immersive VR simulators are also used to train fighter pilots for his next mission, Surgeons and car drivers. 

A sportsman can also train himself in VR simulators to improve performance on ground.

Entertainment Industry

VR is completely revolutionizing the entertainment industry. 360 degree view and 3D movies are becoming more affordable.  

It is also changing the way we experience the outside world. For example, VR technology is used to experience a roller coaster ride or walking on moon surface without actually being there.

Product and Industrial Design

VR helps designer and customers in visualizing products before actually building them. Therefore it offers following advantages to companies.

  • Improving Product Design.
  • Getting customer feedback
Sports and Games

Sports persons can be trained in virtual simulator for different scenarios. As a result their performance improves. 

Virtual Reality has also revolutionized the video gaming industry. VR games are very popular because they provide more realistic experience. 

Scientific Research

Previously, micro level structure analysis was done using microscopes. But with the evolution of VR technology and high quality camera, researchers can analyse micro-structures using VR head mounted devices. This helps them to analyse things more effectively.


To sum up, virtual reality creates a virtual environment presented to our senses in such a way that we experience it as if we were really there. This technology is becoming cheaper and more widespread. It is changing the way we communicate and work.

we suggest you to read article on Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality.

Got Questions?  We will be happy to help.

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