Last update: 2023/06/26
- What is foveated rendering?
- What is Mixed Reality?
- Mixed Reality Headsets
- What is the metaverse?
What is Virtual Reality? What VR headsets are out there? How does tracking work? We answer these and other questions about VR.
In this guide, you learn:
- what Virtual Reality is,
- what VR headsets are available,
- what you can do in Virtual Reality,
- whether VR will make you sick,
- and how VR is used in business, research, medicine, and beyond.
Virtual Reality is more accessible today than ever before. But, even six years after the market launch of consumer VR, newcomers still have many questions about VR. It is still a niche technology and there is a lot of inaccurate (or even deliberately misleading) information circulating. In our VR guide, we are therefore telling you what you basically need to know about Virtual Reality.
Virtual Reality – brief and compact
- “Virtual Reality” is an experience simulated by computers.
It is a 360-degree virtual environment in which you can move freely and interact with virtual content.
- “Immersion” is the feeling of being part of a virtual world.
When the VR user is fully engaged in the virtual interaction, VR experiences feel close, immediate, and believable.
- VR tracking captures real movements and transfers them to the virtual world.
This is achieved with the help of cameras and sensors built into VR headsets, controllers and accessories. Mostly, the head and hands are tracked, but eye tracking or even full-body tracking are also possible. This will depend on the headset and accessories used in a given experience.
- VR controllers are usually used for interaction in VR.
Some VR headsets also support hand tracking; there are VR gloves and research is even being done on “neural input” through brain-computer interfaces.
- Haptic feedback simulates physical sensation in VR.
Vibrations and impulses are used to simulate physical contact. Temperature or even smell can also be integrated into the VR experience with respective accessories. Haptic feedback may come through the controllers or through elaborate gloves, vests, and suits.
- Leading manufacturers of VR headsets are currently Facebook/Meta, Sony, Valve, and HTC.
Many other start-ups and tech companies such as Pimax, HP, Varjo, or StarVR also offer VR headsets.
- VR headsets are either standalone or non-standalone.
Standalone VR headsets have all the technology in the headset and usually have an integrated battery. Non-standalone VR headsets have to be connected to an external computer (PC, laptop, console, smartphone) via cable for operation. Many stand-alone headsets can be connected to an external computer via hard cable or wireless connection, but this is not required for most experiences and applications.
- VR experiences without much movement and games without a first-person perspective are good for getting started in VR.
Every person reacts differently to VR. We recommend that everyone first gets used to the technology with simple VR games and then slowly increase the intensity.
- Motion sickness can affect the VR experience.
VR nausea occurs when the eyes see something different than what the inner ear perceives. There are methods to avoid or mitigate the discomfort. Choosing the right VR headset and applications is critical.
- In addition to games, there are also movies, concerts, art, and social opportunities in VR.
Concerts by famous musicians performing entirely in VR, operas, art exhibitions, VR movies, and VR cinemas are just some of the diverse content available aside from VR games.
- VR is being used in business, research, medicine, and education.
Companies train employees in VR applications, medical students practice precarious procedures in VR, and specialized therapies are performed in VR.
What is Virtual Reality?
VR pioneer Jaron Lanier explains the origin of the term “Virtual Reality” in his book “The Dawn of the New Everything”. Lanier’s company VPL Research developed the first commercial Virtual Reality applications in the 80s.
He wanted to create a medium in which people could communicate virtually and that would expand the possibilities of human expression – a social version of a virtual world. Lanier’s work was instrumental in coining the term Virtual Reality.
Today, dictionaries define Virtual Reality as a computer-generated reality. A simulated reality, an artificial world into which users place themselves with the appropriate technical equipment.
There are many factors that define Virtual Reality. It often includes a 360-degree environment in which users look around freely, with 3D depth effects and spatial audio. More or less sophisticated motion control for virtual hands can be part of Virtual Reality, allowing interaction with an immersive artificial world. VR movies (which the user watches but does not actively engage in) are also part of VR.
Similar to your imagination, there are theoretically no limits to Virtual Reality. According to VR researcher Jeremy Bailenson, its use is particularly worthwhile when the real experience is expensive, dangerous, impossible, or rarely occurring in the physical world.
Virtual Reality is particularly well suited for:
- experiences that are expensive and otherwise only available to a small audience
- experiences that are high-risk and dangerous
- extraordinary events that cannot be experienced in reality (flying like a bird, walking through Alice’s Wonderland, or flying to the moon with the original crew of the Apollo 11 mission)
- experiences that are rare and cannot be reproduced at will in the physical world. For example, the appearance of a rare humpback whale in the sea. Your own memories of special moments that you save in a 360 format can also count among these rare events.
How does Virtual Reality work and what does immersion mean?
Immersion is the feeling of being immersed in a virtual world. In contrast to experiences on the monitor, which we only experience through a more-or-less distant window, in VR things seem to be happening around us. They seem close and immediate, sometimes realistic, especially when your own body is fully involved in the interaction.
So VR headsets transmit a simulated reality right before our eyes. In the following video, meta-tech consultant John Carmack explains the concept of VR.
When you meet a person in Virtual Reality, it feels like you are really face-to-face with them – which is why Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is also investing billions in VR. He is betting that we will eventually shake hands in person on the Internet instead of just sending messages.
With Horizon, Facebook/Meta is dabbling in “the Metaverse.” In this social VR experience, people slip into comic avatars they create themselves and meet in different virtual worlds. It’s significantly cheaper to transport data instead of people, according to Zuckerberg. For this VR future, Facebook/Meta is researching realistic telepresence avatars, among other things.
The better the technology used and the more creative the generated environment, the higher the immersion effect. High-resolution displays with stereoscopic image reproduction and high frame rates try to make the representation as real as possible.
VR headsets usually contain two displays, one for each eye. Each eye is thus supplied with its own image, which is minimally different from that of the other eye. This creates the impression of spatial depth and the brain assembles the images into a three-dimensional world.
3D sound supports visual perception and adapts to your actions and position in the virtual world. Image and sound together create the impression of a real world. Users experience perfect immersion, for example, when they forget that they cannot support themselves on a virtual table – and then simply fall over.
Tracking in VR: What is it, why is it necessary and what variants are there?
In VR tracking, your real movements are recorded by sensors and transferred to the virtual world. The required sensors are sometimes integrated into the VR headsets, and they record head movements among other things (so-called head tracking).
There are two tracking options to determine your position in the room:
External VR tracking
External tracking means that there are additional devices set up next to the VR headset and PC, which “observe” movements in the tracking area. The Valve Index base stations can be mounted on the wall or on tripods, for example. This system is known as SteamVR tracking (formerly Lighthouse) and was developed by Steam’s operator Valve.
Base stations transmit a dense network of infrared laser beams into the room at millisecond intervals. These class 1 lasers are harmless to humans. The infrared beams meet photoresistors on the VR headset and motion controllers. Based on the difference in time between the laser beams hitting the sensors, the computer determines the exact position of the VR headset and VR controller as well as the movements.
The VR headset and the PC software continuously synchronise the motion data in real-time. In this way, the real movement is converted virtually and you can walk through a computer world as if walking through a physical environment. Valve’s SteamVR tracking currently delivers the most reliable and accurate external tracking on up to 20 square metres. With SteamVR tracking version 2.0, even much larger tracking areas can be covered.
The biggest disadvantage of this tracking system is the quite complex installation. You have to place the boxes at certain points in the room and supply them with power individually. It is also difficult to take the system to other places, such as friends’ homes.
For consumers, SteamVR tracking is currently the only relevant external tracking system. All others are integrated directly into the VR headsets.
Internal VR tracking
In this variant, the tracking is built directly into the VR headset. External devices are not necessary. The tracking of Meta Quest 2, for example, works via cameras in the VR headset that track the user’s position and movements relative to the environment.
The biggest advantages of internal tracking are ease-of-use and high mobility: Meta Quest (2), for example, works in any room and – if the lighting conditions are right – even outdoors.
However, depending on the system, tracking dropouts can occur when the controller is moved outside the camera’s field of view – behind the back, for example – or when it is very bright or too dark. But developers are getting better at minimizing these dropouts, for example with AI-powered motion predictions.
Eye tracking in VR
Some VR headsets can track eye movements. Eye tracking captures the position of your pupils and movements of the eye and eyelids. Your gaze thus becomes an additional interface with the VR world. For example, looking at a button or blinking could be enough to activate it.
If the VR application knows your exact gaze direction, it can dynamically adapt the environment and flow of a VR app to it. In social VR apps, you can make eye contact with another avatar, which brings an important aspect of human communication into the virtual world.
What is foveated rendering?
VR graphics can also benefit from eye tracking when used in conjunction with foveated rendering. This technology is designed to optimize the performance of VR headsets and provide smoother rendering. According to Nvidia and Swedish eye tracking company Tobii, foveated rendering can increase performance by up to 57 percent.
The technology is based on the way one of our sensory organs works. The human eye achieves its maximum central visual acuity only when the gaze is precisely focused on the desired object (foveal vision). The rest of the visual field around the focused object can also be perceived, but remains blurred (peripheral vision).
Foveated rendering takes advantage of this by computing the highest level of detail only in the area where the eye is directly focused. The area around the sharply focused center is rendered with less detail.
VR applications use foveated rendering to achieve higher image quality with less computing power by avoiding the costly computation of details outside the focus area.
What’s the difference between 3DoF and 6DoF?
You’ll often read the terms “6DoF” or “3DoF” in the tracking specs of VR headsets. These are the degrees of freedom in which the respective headset allows tracked movement.
3DoF is so-called “head-turning” VR. You cannot go into the depth of space, your movements are limited to tilt, pan, and rotation.
6DoF offers full freedom of movement in VR. In addition to tilt, pan, and rotate, you can move in the depth of the virtual space, i.e. forward and back, right and left, and up and down.
These two metrics are important for your decision on which VR headset to buy. We recommend always going for 6DoF headsets for a true VR experience. Controllers should also support 6DoF to make interaction in VR as natural as possible.
How do I interact in VR?
Almost every common VR headset has its own VR controllers adapted to the respective tracking system. They simulate finger, hand, and arm movements, and allow interaction with Virtual Reality at the touch of a button or via analog sticks or touchpads.
For its motion controllers, “Move” for PlayStation VR, Sony relies on light balls which are detected via the PlayStation Camera. The tracking is quite error-prone because the purely optical tracking via the camera can easily be disturbed and Sony only uses one relatively low-resolution camera. Thus, PS VR does not offer real 360-degree experiences with spatial movement. Nevertheless, Move serves its purpose of displaying the user’s hands in VR.
However, the Move controllers will no longer be used in the already announced PS VR successor. The Sense controllers for Sony’s Playstation VR 2 will work with infrared tracking.
The Meta Touch controllers are reliably detected via at least four cameras integrated into the VR headset. Additional sensors in the controller detect movements and whether the index finger or thumb is resting. This enables rudimentary interaction via gestures.
Valve’s Index controllers go one step further. They not only detect the position and degree of curvature of the fingers, but also how hard you squeeze. Thus, VR conveys an authentic gripping feeling and hand interaction is almost possible like with a glove. Thanks to SteamVR tracking (see above), the detection is reliable and precise.
Third-party manufacturers are also developing VR controllers with various specialized functions. In March 2020, for example, the XR controller Etee with finger tracking was released. It replaces conventional push buttons with a touch surface.
With the 3D Rudder or Cybershoes, you control VR movement with your feet. Researchers at Microsoft are tinkering with a VR controller that simulates physical forces through a lever. There are many other examples.
Additionally, there are some prototypes for data and VR gloves, such as Senseglove Nova, HaptX Glove DK2 or Manus. Most recently, Meta showed new haptic gloves and Apple also patented a tracking glove for VR and AR. Both companies want to use specially developed synthetic material.
However, it does not make sense for private users to buy them: the price is high and good applications are missing. The devices are primarily intended for businesses.
Hand tracking in VR
Unlike VR gloves, optical hand tracking already works reasonably well. Your own hands in VR could eventually become interaction standard, as hand tracking for Meta Quest 2 shows.
Mind control / brain-computer interface
In the future, however, VR control could go much further. With VR accessories from Nextmind, you control VR games with brain signals. Valve is also looking into brain-computer interfaces for gaming and VR. Valve’s CEO Gabe Newell is even convinced that we will be able to manipulate our brains via external impulses in the future.
The start-up CTRL-Labs is developing an AI that can match electrical brain signals to appropriate computer commands. Facebook/Meta bought CTRL-Labs and announced that the mind control will be integrated into future VR and AR systems. Facebook/Meta reportedly paid about $1 billion for the acquisition.
What is haptic feedback?
To achieve a higher level of immersion, some input devices rely on haptic feedback. The user receives physical feedback via impulses or vibrations. You feel what is happening in the virtual world, perceive resistance, and even feel the textures of objects.
Haptic gloves like the HaptX Glove or the Dexmo Glove from Dexta Robotics let you feel VR right down to your fingertips. Force feedback controllers convey different surface textures to a certain degree in the Manus Prime Haptic. The Woojer Edge haptic vest focuses on tangible sound in games, movies and music. The pitch determines the intensity of the vibrations.
The Teslasuit haptic full-body suit simulates temperature fluctuations. The South Korean manufacturer bHaptics offers the Tactsuit X16, an inexpensive haptic vest with a total of 16 vibration motors.
Which manufacturers offer VR headsets?
Nearly every major tech company has dabbled in Virtual Reality. Meta (formerly Facebook), Sony, Valve and HTC are currently the major players in the field. Meta in particular leads the consumer market with Quest headsets.
Some approaches proved to be less successful or were only pursued half-heartedly. Google’s Daydream is unlikely to return. Samsung’s Gear VR headset also failed after a decent start. Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality spawned a few VR headsets from different manufacturers. Despite successful hardware like HP Reverb, Microsoft had seemed to abandon Windows VR headsets.
However, with the market launch of HP Reverb at the end of 2020, another PC VR headset for Windows MR was released, which even received a technical upgrade with HP Reverb G2 (review) in 2022. It primarily shares the market with Valve.
In 2016, the partnership of Valve and HTC brought forth the then high-end VR headset HTC Vive. Since 2019, Valve has gone its own way and created arguably the best overall PC VR headset on the market with Valve Index (review).
HTC, on the other hand, struggles with many small shortcomings in comfort and user-friendliness with the Vive Cosmos platform. Even the new HTC Vive Pro 2 (review) did not bring any significant development, despite the super-sharp display. In contrast, Varjo Aero (review) from the Finnish manufacturer Varjo was convincing in many areas.
Facebook bought Oculus VR in 2014 and launched successful PC VR headsets with Oculus Rift and Oculus Rift (S). It is now clear that Meta is abandoning PC-only VR headsets and sees the future in standalone VR headsets (see next chapter) like Meta Quest 2, released in 2020. That has sold more units in just a few months than all previous Oculus VR headsets combined, according to Meta’s XR CEO Andrew Bosworth.
The VR leader sat in Japan for a long time – at least in terms of sales figures. At the turn of 2020, Sony announced it had sold over five million PlayStation VRs. With PlayStation VR 2, a successor headset has been announced for 2022.
What are standalone VR headsets?
Standalone VR headsets do not require any external tracking sensors or computing devices. The VR headset takes over all tasks itself.
With these standalone systems, you can get into Virtual Reality quickly and easily: put on the VR headset and get started. The installation is no problem even for absolute laymen in technology.
Meta’s first standalone VR headset was the now-defunct Oculus G0. It was primarily suitable for videos and movies on a big screen or in 180 or 360 degrees, as well as simple games. However, it lacked the motion in space that turns a 360-degree impression into a full VR experience.
This is what Meta’s Quest headsets offer, particularly the new Meta Quest 2. Motion-intensive VR games like Superhot VR or Beat Saber in particular become a real adventure with it. The special feature is the complete freedom to enjoy VR wherever you want without cables or other restrictions.
If you still want to access PC VR content, you can connect Quest (2) to the computer via Oculus Link (guide). This turns the standalone VR headset into a fully-fledged PC VR headset. It doesn’t get more flexible than that. Quest is also interesting for professional users and companies. Infinite Office is a productivity app for Quest 2 that Meta wants to use to realize its vision of the next-gen office.
However, Meta introduced a requirement for a Facebook account for Oculus devices with the market launch of Quest 2. Since it is forbidden in Germany to simply merge user accounts of two services, Facebook stopped selling Oculus headsets in Germany for the time being. Clarification is still pending. If you dislike Meta’s Facebook in general, Pico Neo 3 Link (review) might be an interesting standalone alternative.
VR headsets for PC: What are the system requirements?
Those who do not want to compromise on tracking, resolution and graphics will go for PC-bound VR headsets. High-end VR headsets like Valve Index or HP Reverb G2 offer the highest-quality and most complete VR experience currently available.
However, this comes at a price. In addition to the purchase price of the VR headset, you need a good PC. You can find out if your PC is ready for VR in our VR system requirements overview. There we have compiled the system requirements of all PC VR headsets.
Which VR headsets are available for game consoles?
Since Microsoft rejected VR on Xbox Series X, the selection of VR headsets for consoles remains limited. With Nintendo Labo, Switch owners make their own VR headsets including controllers out of cardboard. The Labo VR kit is more in the direction of smartphone VR and is similar to Google Cardboard – except that you use the Nintendo Switch instead of a smartphone.
This is more about short VR moments, for example, the VR modes of Super Mario Odyssey. Watch out: Nintendo’s Switch Lite does not support Labo VR.
Nintendo aims at a young target group that still enjoys tinkering and wants to get a first impression of VR. This is not real VR. It only gets serious on consoles with Sony’s Playstation VR.
PS VR is the best-selling VR headset to date. Sony’s VR headset offers excellent comfort and solid technology for a comparatively low price. Sony has sold more than five million units so far.
PS VR is also compatible with Playstation 5. You will need an adapter, which Sony provides for free. Meanwhile, Sony has already announced that it will release a Playstation VR 2 with new controllers. You can read all the information in our collection article about PlayStation VR 2.
What is smartphone VR and why should I avoid it?
With smartphone VR, Google and Samsung, among others, tried to unite two technology worlds together with Oculus. Combining a VR headset with a smartphone was supposed to make Virtual Reality more accessible and mobile: Simply slide the smartphone into the VR headset and immerse yourself in VR.
Mobile VR headsets are mainly suitable for 360-degree videos or pictures. Samsung hoped that the collaboration with Oculus would be an additional selling point for its smartphones in the competition with Apple.
The plan did not work out: Apps and games usually lacked depth due to technical limitations. VR support for Gear VR ended with Samsung Galaxy Note 10, and Oculus has also finally buried Gear VR. Even the Android makers are giving up on smartphone VR: Google stopped selling its VR headset Daydream View at the end of 2019.
Dying smartphone VR is not a reason for mourning. The possibilities of simple smartphone VR headsets are too limited compared to sophisticated devices for PC and console – or even standalone. Smartphone VR headsets simply cannot offer the great advantage of Virtual Reality, the physical presence in a virtual room with diverse interaction possibilities – which is why we can only recommend not to start with them at all.
In addition, smartphone and Cardboard VR have a comparatively high risk of motion sickness due to their technical limitations. More on that in a moment.
What VR games and experiences should I start with?
We recommend starting slowly with VR. Every person reacts differently to VR and not every VR app is suitable for every stomach (see also the section “Motion Sickness: Will I get sick in VR?” further down in this article). However, VR is definitely suitable for everyone, you just have to find the right apps.
To start, we recommend simple apps like TheBlu, The Lab, or Waltz of the Wizard. These are stomach-friendly entry scenarios that best demonstrate the potential of VR.
After that, we recommend games that can be played sitting down and don’t require a first-person perspective. Great examples are Moss (review), Astro Bot: Rescue Mission, Down The Rabbit Hole or strategy games like Skyworld, Eternal Starlight, Brass Tactics or the VR co-op role-playing game Demeo. Here, too, you won’t get sick: It’s not you who is moving, but the game character.
If you have gotten used to VR, venture into the first-person perspective and choose stationary shooters like Superhot VR or the multiplayer kitchen fun Cook-Out. We also highly recommend the rhythm game Beat Saber, which comes without any risk of an upset stomach. You can’t get sick here, since real and virtual movement always match exactly.
When you switch to games where you have to navigate through the environments, be sure to choose teleportation for movement, and switch to so-called snap turning (i.e. changing the line of sight by a certain number of degrees at the press of a button). This works best in the flagship VR title, Half-Life: Alyx, for example. If your stomach doesn’t fight it, switch to fluid motion after a while in the same game and see how you feel.
Another step, if the genre suits you, would be racing games, such as Dirt Rally or Project Cars 3. If you prefer flying with the Force, you can take a closer look at Star Wars: Squadrons. The cockpit of the car or spaceship provides the eye with a fixed reference point – this also lowers the likelihood of VR nausea. All VR games with a cockpit perspective offer this bonus.
If you notice that you can’t tolerate a certain type of VR game, don’t try to force it. Some people can slowly but surely get used to VR experiences that trigger discomfort through regular short sessions. The important thing is to always stop immediately when discomfort sets in and don’t start again until you’re completely fine.
The best VR games: Recommendations
Whether you want to dive into Virtual Reality on a PC, with Playstation VR, or with standalone VR headsets, there’s a VR game for everyone. For beginners, we’ve rounded up the best accessible VR games that will give you great VR experiences without any hassle.
From the fun life simulation Vacation Simulator to the expansive VR role-playing game Asgard’s Wrath or the physically intense rogue-lite Until You Fall, there’s a decent range of high-quality titles in numerous genres for Quest owners. Some of them are even only available in VR.
Hardcore horror fans will get their money’s worth on PS VR with Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (review) or the VR adaptation of the horror movie The Exorcist.
There are VR ports of well-known games like Skyrim VR, Fallout 4 VR or Borderlands 2 as well as VR-exclusive productions. Meta revives a classic shooter in VR with Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, and VR players can take on the role of the legendary hitman Agent 47 in Hitman 3 VR. Finally, the top hit Half-Life: Alyx and the series adaptation The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners show you the concentrated power of VR.
If you prefer to meet up with friends in VR, use social VR apps like the wildly popular Rec Room or Meta’s Metaverse endeavor Meta Horizon. Meanwhile, there are also multiplayer games that you can play with friends on different platforms.
VR experiences, movies and art: What Virtual Reality can do
Virtual Reality offers many other interesting VR experiences besides games. In free apps like YouTube VR, you can find some spectacular 360 videos of nature or sporting events.
Well-known musicians and bands are releasing their own VR experiences: The Foo Fighters performed a live concert in Meta’s VR world on Super Bowl night in 2022, and Sony staged a live VR concert with pop starlet Madison Beer a year earlier. Those who want to party in VR can do so at Cologne’s Bootshaus. The club regularly hosts VR parties with live DJs.
Most VR headsets have a cinema mode in which you experience VR movies on a virtual screen. The app Bigscreen Cinema extends this concept and streams well-known movies like the Indiana Jones series, Mission Impossible, or Transformers directly to the VR headset. We especially recommend the 3D versions of the movies. VR movies even won Emmy awards in 2019.
VR experiences in art show you culture from completely new angles and often even interactively. Museums like the Louvre offer interactive VR experiences. Get up close and personal with the smiling Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass, and wander through what may be the best VR museum in the world at the Museum of Other Realities.
How is VR used in business, research, medicine, and education?
Entertainment is only one side of VR. Virtual Reality also has a lot of potential in knowledge transfer.
According to a study, Virtual Reality environments can boost memory, leading to better absorption of learning content. In simulated conversation situations, you learn a language in VR in an interactive and practice-oriented way. The Virtual Speech app helps combat stage fright, and with Korg’s Gadget VR app, you’ll soon be able to make music in a VR recording studio.
Highly complex training is realized in VR: The start-up “FundamentalVR” is working on a VR training platform for surgeons. With “Fundamental Surgery”, surgical interventions are to become possible in VR. VR training is the most common application scenario in companies.
The Starlight program provides seriously ill children with the latest technology. In certain application scenarios, Virtual Reality is used to assist with treatments. According to pediatrician Joe Albietz, VR headsets work similarly to general anesthesia. There’s more: VR is being used to treat mental disorders, and VR therapies for negative consequences of the COVID-19 lockdown and phobias are also being explored.
Motion sickness: Will I get sick in VR?
Motion sickness is and remains a big issue in Virtual Reality. Researchers are always looking for new methods to combat stomach rumblings and most recently investigated diving as a possible remedy for VR nausea, or chewing gum as the final enemy for motion sickness in VR.
Every VR user reacts differently to the movements in three-dimensional space. Whether or not you get sick while playing games or other VR experiences depends on your personal constitution.
Motion sickness occurs when the eye sees something different than the inner ear perceives. VR games therefore often offer many different movement options, such as teleportation.
According to Sony manager Shuhei Yoshida, players get used to VR nausea. A gentle start with less intensive games should also help. We’ve outlined how you can go about this in the “Which VR games and experiences should I start with?” section above. Occasional breaks during longer VR sessions are recommended. First and foremost, however, you should stop immediately if you start to feel unwell or dizzy.
Once you’re used to well-tolerated VR (360-degree, diorama, stationary wave shooters etc.), you can try to get used to fluid motion, such as from a first-person perspective, through regular, short sessions. In any case, don’t try to force your VR luck.
Developers also have a role to play in combating motion sickness. A fast, stable frame rate, high resolution, and minimal latency are fundamental to a good VR experience. Wild angle changes or moving camera movements without the player’s influence are not a good idea, for example.
A camera rotation in the first-person perspective that does not correspond to the player’s head movement can be a particular sin for developers: Depending on the speed and surprise effect, it feels like getting your head turned around in VR.
What is Mixed Reality?
Anyone who deals with virtual reality or augmented reality, sooner or later you will come across mixed reality. Because some manufacturers have hijacked the term for marketing purposes in the past, there is always confusion about the definition.
- Caution: Mixed Reality is not a synonym for Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality or Passthrough AR.
In 1994, interface researcher Paul Milgram defined the reality-virtuality continuum. According to this, technologies such as AR, VR and Passthrough AR exist as a continuum. There are two cornerstones: Reality and Virtuality (Virtual Reality), which can merge to varying degrees.
In both extremes, there are no digital objects (reality) and no real objects (virtuality). When reality is extended by digital elements, it becomes augmented reality. Conversely, virtuality can be augmented with real elements to become augmented virtuality.
Milgrim defines the state of merging reality and virtuality to varying degrees as mixed reality.
Mixed reality headsets: These devices blend reality and virtuality
The state of mixed reality can be achieved in a single device if it can handle both virtual reality and augmented reality. Mixed reality headsets can therefore:
- Display virtual reality and completely block out the physical environment, and…
- …(at least) display a digital reconstruction of the physical environment in the headset and augment it with digital elements (augmented reality).
Augmented reality is currently achieved by mixed reality headsets using pass-through technology. Put simply, the physical environment is captured by cameras mounted on the outside of the headset and projected onto the display of the MR headset.
With pure AR headsets like Magic Leap 2 or Hololens 2, users see the physical world through translucent glass or plastic instead. Digital content is projected into the field of view using waveguide technology.
The mobile VR headsets Quest 2 and Pico 4 can handle pass-through AR in a very rudimentary way. Therefore, the following three devices are currently the most relevant mixed reality glasses on the market: Meta Quest Pro, HTC Vive XR Elite, and Varjo XR 3. You can read more about these devices in the linked articles. We have also compiled the best mixed reality experiences for the Quest 2 & Quest Pro.
What is the Metaverse?
Probably the most common idea of the metaverse is that of a three-dimensional Internet. People create virtual images of themselves and enter digital worlds with these avatars. There, they interact with other users, enjoy immersive concerts, watch 3D movies in virtual theaters, visit art exhibitions, create new environments themselves, or simply play games together.
On the other hand, digital content via augmented reality enriches the everyday life around us with digital content and interaction possibilities. The vision of the metaverse is that one day a person will be able to wear a VR headset and appear as a lifelike avatar in the living room of friends on the other side of the world, while seeing and hearing them through augmented reality glasses as if they were really there.
While there are early approaches, the metaverse is first and foremost a vision. In the technology industry, there are many definitions of the metaverse.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talks about a new platform for a time when the digital and real worlds are moving closer together. For former Twitch executive Shaan Puri, the metaverse is more of a time than a place. Over the next ten to twenty years, Puri says, there will be a gradual evolution that will increasingly focus our attention on the digital.
“We will go from 50 percent of our attention on screens to more than 90 percent. That’s when the metaverse begins. Because that’s when our virtual lives become more important than our real lives,” Puri said.
The Metaverse – Who is in the driver’s seat?
The former Facebook group is driving this transformation like no other company. In October 2021, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a name change from Facebook to Meta and a paradigm shift from a social media company to a Metaverse company.
Zuckerberg is reportedly going “all in” and fully aligning Meta with the development of the Metaverse. In 2021, Meta invested ten billion US dollars in the Metaverse transformation. In France, Meta is opening the first Metaverse Academy to train professionals to develop and support future platforms. The group has also been driving the development of Metaverse technologies for years: augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
Epic Games provides one of the most important tools for the gaming and 3D industry with the Unreal graphics engine. In addition, Epic operates Fortnite, an established gaming and event platform. Together with Lego, Sony has invested nearly two billion US dollars in Epic to build a long-term metaverse partnership.
In addition to many other major tech companies, more and more companies from other industries are recognizing the potential of a three-dimensional Internet. Fashion and luxury companies such as L’Oréal and Louis Vuitton are working with developers and 3D artists to sell their products in the virtual world. The jewelry brand Bulgari even plans to build its own Metaverse.
Which metaverse platforms already exist?
The social VR platform Horizon Worlds currently offers a first impression of what Meta’s Metaverse could look like in the future. It now includes the event platform Venues, the meeting app Horizon Workrooms and the Metaverse living room Horizon Home.
The metaverse also takes place outside of VR headsets. 2D Metaverse platforms like Roblox, Minecraft, and Fortnite are popular and can be accessed via smartphone, tablet, laptop, or console. Rec Room can also be used across platforms. Meta is planning a similar expansion for Horizon Worlds.
Cover image: MIXED, benzoix – en.freepik.com