Understand the science behind Virtual Reality – how do we perceive our surroundings and how does VR manipulates our vision to alter our perceived surroundings.
What is reality?
Our perception of reality can be credited to our five senses: taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight. Our nervous system has a specific sensory nervous system and “sense organ,” or sensor, dedicated to each sense. The brain uses the feedback collected by these sensors to monitor, understand, and react to our environment. VR headsets manipulate the feedback collected by the brain to create a virtual landscape.
The Five Senses
Taste: Our perception of taste comes from the small bumps on the top of our tongue, known as the papillae. These papillae contain our taste buds, which, in turn, contain sensory receptors that are activated by the food we eat. Our taste buds allow us to taste four main flavors: salty, sweet, sour, and bitter.
Touch: The biggest organ of our body is the skin, which also happens to be the organ that facilitates our sense of touch. Specialized receptor cells and nerve endings embedded in the 3 layers of the skin can detect a tactile sensation (e.g. cold, hot, and pain) and relay signals regarding this sensation to the brain. The presence and location of different types of receipts make certain body parts more sensitive and help to detect contact, pressure, and vibration.
Smell: Smell is detected with specialized nerve receptor located at the top of our nasal cavity. When we sniff or inhale through our nose, the chemicals in the air bind to these receptors and triggers a signal that ultimately lead to our sense of smell. Our nose is able to identify 7 different types of scents: camphor, musk, flower, mint, ether, acrid, and putrid.
Sound : Our sense of sound comes from our ears. The ears use bones and fluid to transform sound waves into sound signals. Sound is one of the senses that is manipulated by VR technology, allowing for a completely immersive experience.
Sight: The eyes give us our perception of sight. Situated in the orbits of our skull and protected by bone and fat, the eyes translate light into image signals that are carried by the optic nerve to the brain for processing. Sight is the main sense that is manipulated by VR technology. VR headsets take advantage of how our eyes perceive its surroundings and present an altered image that is the foundation of the Virtual Reality environment.
What is stereoscopic vision?
We visually perceive our surroundings through our two eyes. With this binocular vision, the views through the two eyes are nearly identical, but different enough to give us a visual advantage when assessing our surroundings. The slight differences in these views give us the ability to perceive depth. Our perception of depth and our ability to see our 3D environment is called stereoscopic vision.
How does Virtual Reality manipulate our stereoscopic vision?
To create a fully immersive experience, VR headsets eliminate any interaction with the real world by enclosing our eyes in a stereoscopic display that projects different images to each eye. Most VR headsets use a smartphone or a computer connected via a HDMI cable that projects a 2D scene onto our eyes. Each eye receives the same scene, but the image one eye receives is projected at a slightly different angle than the image the other eye receives. By displaying a scene at slightly different angles to each eye, VR headsets are able to simulate depth. These projected images coupled with motion tracking sensors allow for the VR headset to create a 360 degree artificial environment that seems realistic.
The Evolution of Virtual Reality
Although turning 2D scenes into 3D artificial environments may seem like a new concept, the ability to create 3D images from 2D images has bee around since the 1800s. The first attempts at creating an artificial 3D image include paintings, stereoscopes, and anaglyphs. Check out the links below to learn more!
3D Paintings: https://mymodernmet.com/hyperrealism-history/