What’s VR?

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Virtual reality is a technology that creates immersive environments on a computer, popularized by books and movies like The Matrix. It has potential benefits such as allowing people to meet virtually and visualizing complex molecules. Brain researchers are attempting to create brain jack-like devices to enhance the experience.

Virtual reality is a technology that allows the user to interact with an environment that exists only on a computer. Usually the word is reserved for immersive technologies like HMDs (head-mounted displays) or small rooms whose walls are covered with screens, rather than simpler computer games like World of Warcraft. The term was coined in the early 1980s, when computer technology was improving to the point where it was able to create virtual worlds with at least a superficial sense of reality.

The concept of virtual reality has been popularized by dozens of books, movies, and TV shows, most notably the 1999 film The Matrix. The Matrix features a virtual reality so compelling that its inhabitants don’t know it’s not the real world. In one of the most famous scenes of the film, the protagonist is “disconnected” from the Matrix and discovers that he is only one of the billions of people who live in special capsules created by artificial intelligences. In the film, instead of conveying the virtual reality experience through awkward goggles or gloves, sensory signals are sent directly to the user via a “brain,” which connects to the user’s occipital lobe. Although The Matrix is ​​just a movie, numerous brain researchers have attempted to create brain jack-like devices, and it’s only a matter of time before the technology becomes viable.

The potential benefits of virtual reality are numerous. In a futuristic virtual world, a poor man could live like a king, enjoying virtual riches and even virtual sex. More simply, interaction through virtual reality could allow businessmen or friends to meet “face to face” even if separated by thousands of kilometres. Virtual reality has been suggested as a visualization tool. For example, chemists could enter a virtual room filled with complex molecules and perform “chemical tests” by manipulating these objects with their hands, much like someone might pick up a Lego® set and play with it.

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