A 3D immersive virtual reality is a digital environment, a fruit of the imagination, in which an attempt is made to make the user feel totally ‘immersed’ and involved. Obviously, it is an “other world” than the real one in which the user is.
Multiple sensors and 3D viewers such as Oculus Quest, HP Reverb, PlayStation VR, Samsung Gear VR, etc. are often used for the development of immersive virtual reality. The scope of application can vary: it ranges from videogames and films to education and rehabilitation.
However, let’s take a step back: before talking about immersive virtual reality and how to develop your tech project thanks to PMF Research, it is good to have in mind the concept of the reality virtuality continuum developed in 1994 by researchers Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino.
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Reality virtuality continuum: what it is
The reality virtuality continuum is the “range of realities” that places real reality on the left, virtual reality (VR) on the right, and mixed reality (MR) in the middle, comprising augmented reality (AR) and augmented virtuality (AV).
Let’s go step by step.
Trivially, it is the world in which we live, what exists, the tangible and the liveable.
Virtual reality (VR)
Technically speaking, virtual reality is an immersive technology capable of creating a “reality other” than the ordinary one. Thanks to a 3D visor, in practice, it is possible to ‘overwrite’ the world around you and replace it with one made in computer graphics (CG).
Mixed reality (MR) o extended reality (XR)
Mixed or extended reality consists of the insertion of digital elements within reality; in other words, there is a co-presence of real and virtual. MR includes AR and AV.
Augmented reality (AR)
Augmented reality is an “enrichment” of existing reality; think about the AR filters of Instagram, Snapchat and Messenger, instant translation or the additional information provided by the Google Lens app.
Augmented virtuality (AV)
Augmented virtuality is about photorealism and user experience (UX) techniques that are so advanced that they make a digital environment seem real. It is as if, instead of simulating “digital surrogates”, AV can recreate reality.
Application areas of immersive virtual reality
We will now turn to immersive virtual reality and immersive augmented reality. They can have more than one field of application, such as surgery, psychology, marketing, entertainment and training.
Medicine and surgery
Thanks to virtual reality, it is possible to “perform” a surgical operation before it takes place or to screen internal organs onto patients’ bodies. Although, most of the time, these are still experiments, AR in medicine promotes the empowerment of doctors.
In psychology, VR can be used to design therapies based on dialogue with oneself and to increase proprioception (the ability to perceive and recognise one’s self in space).
Immersive augmented reality can be useful for product placement, immersing buyers in customer journeys. AR in marketing is a valuable asset, as it enables greater interaction between products/services and the target audience. The AR industry is estimated to be worth around USD 3 billion in 2022.
Virtual try-on refers to the possibility for customers to try on products before they even buy them. In reality, the products are not actually tried on, but visualised thanks to cleverly designed AR applications. A paradigmatic example is the Swedish giant IKEA, which has developed an app that not only allows customers to view the entire catalogue in 3D, but also to “place” furniture inside their homes.
This is perhaps the area where AR has been most successful; just think of the Pokémon Go app, developed by Niantic, distributed for free and downloaded by over 1 billion people. The app allows users to visualise Pokémon to be caught in the real world.
Staying on the gamification theme, the PlayStation VR visor combines gaze detection with controller movement to give players immersive sensory and emotional experiences.
AR can be very useful for continuing professional education or corporate training. Indeed, immersive technologies make it possible to structure learning paths based on the learning by doing methodology. In such contexts, the “additional” information of AR assists the learner in carrying out assigned tasks.
Immersive virtual reality is closely linked to the concept of the metaverse. The term, coined by Neal Stephenson in the cyberpunk book Snow Crash (1992) and now in the limelight thanks to Facebook, which has chosen it as the name for its holding company (Meta), prefigures a hyperconnected virtual world populated by avatars.
Convergences between metaverse and immersive virtual reality
The metaverse is accessed through 3D virtual reality viewers that allow immersive experiences: in the metaverse one can create avatars, meet other users, buy properties, objects, etc.
The concept of the metaverse may seem very similar to that of a videogame, but it actually expresses something more complex; the metaverse is an extension of the real world, it is a non-place where one can develop one’s identity and do anything and everything.
Immersive virtual realities and the metaverse are not composed of matter, but of endless sequences of 1s and 0s, of bits, data and information related to the physical universe. The metaverse is a composite structure, different from cyberspace (a 2D universe made up of global communication networks).
The metaverse is a three-dimensional place that allows us to see and above all ‘feel’, through the visor and other sensors, a fictional reality created specifically for avatars (our alter egos).
A metaverse, moreover, can only be in the cloud: as long as there is an Internet connection, one must be able to access it anywhere. Cloud computing is thus configured as yet another one of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) at the service of immersive virtual reality.
If you want to enter the metaverse, live an immersive virtual reality experience, develop AR or VR software, contact us. We at PMF Research will be happy to answer you, dispel all your doubts and try to develop your tech project.