Imagine being able to point into the sky and fly. Or
perhaps walk through space and connect molecules together.
These are some of the dreams that have come with the
invention of virtual reality. With the introduction of
computers, numerous applications have been enhanced or
created. The newest technology that is being tapped is that
of artificial reality, or "virtual reality" (VR). When
Morton Heilig first got a patent for his "Sensorama
Simulator" in 1962, he had no idea that 30 years later
people would still be trying to simulate reality and that
they would be doing it so effectively. Jaron Lanier first
coined the phrase "virtual reality" around 1989, and it has
stuck ever since. Unfortunately, this catchy name has
caused people to dream up incredible uses for this
technology including using it as a sort of drug. This became
evident when, among other people, Timothy Leary became
interested in VR.
This has also worried some of the
researchers who are trying to create very real applications
for medical, space, physical, chemical, and entertainment
uses among other things.
In order to create this alternate reality, however, you
need to find ways to create the illusion of reality with a
piece of machinery known as the computer. This is done with
several computer-user interfaces used to simulate the
senses. Among these, are stereoscopic glasses to make the
simulated world look real, a 3D auditory display to give
depth to sound, sensor lined gloves to simulate tactile
feedback, and head-trackers to follow the orientation of the
head. Since the technology is fairly young, these
interfaces have not been perfected, making for a somewhat
cartoonish simulated reality.
Stereoscopic vision is probably the most important
feature of VR because in real life, people rely mainly on
vision to get places and...