In 1938, French avant-garde playwright Antonin Artaud described the illusory nature of characters and objects in the theatre as "la réalité virtuelle" in a collection of essays, Le Théâtre et son double. The English translation of this book, published in 1958 as The Theater and its Double, is the earliest published use of the term "virtual reality". The term "artificial reality", coined by Myron Krueger, has been in use since the 1970s. The term "virtual reality" was first used in a science fiction context in The Judas Mandala, a 1982 novel by Damien Broderick. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/INQMEGA-HD-960P-IP-VR-Camera-Home-Security-WiFi-FishEye-360-degree-Panoramic-camera-Baby-Monitor/32819129301.html
In 1999, entrepreneur Philip Rosedale formed Linden Lab with an initial focus on the development of VR hardware. In its earliest form, the company struggled to produce a commercial version of "The Rig", which was realized in prototype form as a clunky steel contraption with several computer monitors that users could wear on their shoulders. The concept was later adapted into the personal computer-based, 3D virtual world program Second Life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-keAwnqwRQ&t=1s
According to CEO Stanislas Chesnais, the 3DRudder was designed for "existing games where two hands aren't enough [for] VR, where you don't actually have any solutions today to move in a nice way while sitting." A circular device that you control with both feet by tilting in the direction you want to move, the 3DRudder's latency-free design means that response to your movements is instant and requires little thought. "It's like in real life," says Chesnais. "When you do something [like] set the table… you don't think about your feet moving around. Your hands are what matter." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNOT_feL27Y&t=1s
Despite being one of the big three in high-end VR, the PS VR is a noticeable step down from the Rift and Vive. It's got a 120Hz refresh rate, which is higher than the others, but it's not as crisp with its 1920 x 1080 resolution, which means things are a little more blurry. Plus, its PS Move controllers feel very long in the tooth; they're repurposed motion controllers from the days when the Nintendo Wii was popular, and feel very outdated when compared to the Rift's Touch controllers.
There remains a significant amount of confusion about the differences between Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality. (Check out our exhaustive primers on Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality for an in-depth look at the differences.) The public seems to think that AR is a phone experience, while only VR requires an HMD. Mixed Reality devices like the Microsoft Hololens use a headset to overlay 3D imagery on top of the real world. Very cool, but not Virtual Reality. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/ASINA-360-iPhone-7-8/32842312698.html
But the competition is closer than ever. Vive is also excellent (and still offers the best room scale), while the Sony PlayStation VR is a big seller thanks to its significantly lower price and the ubiquity of PlayStation 4 consoles ready to run it. There are now better standalone VR headsets too if you want a hassle-free route to the immersive realms. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrAd-c1ZQ6g&t=1s
Virtual reality is most commonly used in entertainment applications such as video gaming and 3D cinema. Consumer virtual reality headsets were first released by video game companies in the early-mid 1990s. Beginning in the 2010s, next-generation commercial tethered headsets were released by Oculus (Rift), HTC (Vive) and Sony (PlayStation VR), setting off a new wave of application development. 3D cinema has been used for sporting events, pornography, fine art, music videos and short films. Since 2015, roller coasters and theme parks have incorporated virtual reality to match visual effects with haptic feedback. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/360-Rotating-Case-Cover-for-Samsung-Galaxy-Tab3-10-1-Tablet-GT-P5200-GT-P5210-p5220/1880128544.html
Everything that we know about our reality comes by way of our senses. In other words, our entire experience of reality is simply a combination of sensory information and our brains sense-making mechanisms for that information. It stands to reason then, that if you can present your senses with made-up information, your perception of reality would also change in response to it. You would be presented with a version of reality that isn’t really there, but from your perspective it would be perceived as real. Something we would refer to as a virtual reality.
In 2010, Palmer Luckey designed the first prototype of the Oculus Rift. This prototype, built on a shell of another virtual reality headset, was only capable of rotational tracking. However, it boasted a 90-degree field of vision that was previously unseen in the consumer market at the time. Distortion issues arising from the lens used to create the field of vision were corrected for by software written by John Carmack for a version of Doom 3. This initial design would later serve as a basis from which the later designs came. In 2012, the Rift is presented for the first time at the E3 gaming trade show by Carmack. In 2014, Facebook purchased Oculus VR for what at the time was stated as $2 billion but later revealed that the more accurate figure was $3 billion. This purchase occurred after the first development kits ordered through Oculus' 2012 Kickstarter had shipped in 2013 but before the shipping of their second development kits in 2014. Zenimax, Carmack's former employer, sued Oculus and Facebook for taking company secrets to Facebook; the verdict was in favour of Zenimax, settled out of court later. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MB-ROjqPiUM&t=1s
Modern virtual reality headset displays are based on technology developed for smartphones including: gyroscopes and motion sensors for tracking head, hand, and body positions; small HD screens for stereoscopic displays; and small, lightweight and fast computer processors. These components led to relative affordability for independent VR developers, and lead to the 2012 Oculus Rift Kickstarter offering the first independently developed VR headset. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwHBpykTloY&t=1s
While audio-visual information is most easily replicated in Virtual Reality, active research and development efforts are still being conducted into the other senses. Tactile inputs such as omnidirectional treadmills allow users to feel as though they’re actually walking through a simulation, rather than sitting in a chair or on a couch. Haptic technologies, also known as kinesthetic or touch feedback tech, have progressed from simple spinning-weight “rumble” motors to futuristic ultrasound technology. It is now possible to hear and feel true-to-life sensations along with visual VR experiences. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPUDZPWhiiE&t=1s
Modern VR headsets now fit under one of three categories: Mobile, tethered, or standalone. Mobile headsets are shells with lenses into which you place your smartphone. The lenses separate the screen into two images for your eyes, turning your smartphone into a VR device. Mobile headsets like the Samsung Gear VR and the Google Daydream View are relatively inexpensive at around $100, and because all of the processing is done on your phone, you don't need to connect any wires to the headset. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlkwYqVLIac&t=1s
Standalone headsets were at first a useful novelty that offered a taste of VR without an investment into a gaming PC or a flagship phone. The Oculus Go and the Lenovo Mirage Solo are both capable headsets that work well on their own, but they have the same limited controls as mobile headsets. The recently released Oculus Quest, however, has really sold us on this category. The Quest uses similar outward-facing cameras to the new Rift S to provide 6DOF motion tracking, and uses the same Oculus Touch motion controls. Combined with a faster Snapdragon 835 processor compared with the Oculus Go's Snapdragon 821, the Quest offers a much more compelling and immersive VR experience, all without the unwieldy cable or PC requirement of the Rift S. We hope to see more standalone 6DOF, dual motion controller headsets in the future, like the upcoming HTC Vive Focus Plus.
One of the cool things about VR and 360 video is that it can put you in an experience you wouldn't be able to get before. In the case of this video from MythBusters, that's a couple yards away from a postal van filled with explosives. Not only do you get to experience the explosion from the safety of your own home, the video guides you through the explosion frame by frame, millisecond by millisecond.
Because of just how expensive it is to invest in high-end VR, companies have worked hard to bring us affordable VR that can run on those handy supercomputers we all carry around in our pockets. Thus, here are the best headsets you can slip your phone into. They're generally wireless and many are under £100, so it's a whole different ball game to the beasts above. Be careful though, certain devices only work with certain phones, so check before putting down any cash. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHBcWHY9lN4&t=1s