Although virtual reality is undergoing a marked evolution at the moment, a beginner in the field can still have a hard time knowing what it is without a guide. If you are one of the uninitiated when it comes to VR, you need to know why this is both exciting and out of the ordinary. Here is everything you need to know about this special world.
Virtual reality is starting to make a place for itself in the daily life of a large number of people. In addition, it is currently found in several sectors, mainly in video games and science. And yet, many people still don’t know what it really is. Here is a guide to enlighten them on this subject.
Virtual reality: what is it concretely?
For any beginner in virtual reality, it is necessary first of all to know that this term can be abbreviated in VR (from English Virtual Reality). It is therefore a new technology allowing people to be fully immersed in a manufactured and unnatural environment.
In most cases, this environment is provided by hardware (a VR headset) installed on the user’s head. VR headsets are generally made up of two display panels, one for each eye, which serves as a screen.
These panels are placed in a frame that will be attached or adjusted to your head. It should be noted that, in most cases, a pair of lenses is attached between your eyes and these famous panels. This blocks the outside world. Thanks to it, you will then have the impression that what you see through the helmet is your whole world.
Headsets that follow your movements
In general, VR headsets follow your movements so that the image you see adjusts accordingly. However, it should be noted that some helmets register more movements than others.
It is also worth pointing out that VR experiences have a particular method for selecting or controlling elements in the simulated environment. In the majority of cases, you have controllers in both hands to interact with them.
These controllers can in some cases provide virtual representations of your hands in order to manipulate the environment and the objects it contains as if you were in the real world.
Some terms a virtual reality newbie should know
That’s it! Now you have an idea of the basic definition of virtual reality. However, there are still some terms related to this universe that you absolutely need to know in order to understand it better. To guide you, here are these famous terms.
FOV (Field of View)
FOV is the abbreviation of Field of View or field of vision in French. If we refer to our eyes, our field of vision is all that we can see at any given time. In the case of VR headsets, the FOV is all we can see in the virtual world at any given time, when we’re wearing one.
In general, the types of VR headsets available to consumers have a Field of View that is smaller than what you can see with your eyes. When using such equipment, the VR environment therefore does not fill or correspond to the field of vision of your eyes.
This is the reason why you may notice a black “border” around the lenses when using virtual reality. In fact, this is just the space around the lenses inside the helmet.
What if the Field of View is wide enough?
In case the field of view is wide enough, you can have the impression that you are looking through a pair of glasses in the virtual world thanks to the rim. You will then easily forget that the limit exists.
Note that the Field of View can be measured in different ways.
Additionally, some manufacturers may not accurately represent what you can see compared to other VR headsets.
Degrees of freedom or DoF
The term “degrees of freedom” or ddl (Degrees of Freedom or DoF in English) is also to know absolutely if a beginner wants to know more about virtual reality. In fact, users refer to DOFs when they talk about motion and tracking in VR.
So when there is more DOF, more of your physical movements will be tracked by the VR headset. They will also be more mapped to your simulated representation.
When reading the degrees of freedom, you will see two common terms including 3DoF and 6DoF which mean 3 and 6 degrees of freedom respectively.
3DoF and 6DoF: the details
To put it simply, VR headsets that provide only 3DoF will only follow your head movements. Those of its position in space (x, y, z coordinates) are not then taken into account.
In the case of headsets providing 6DoF, they are able to simultaneously track the movements of your head and its coordinates in a physical space.
Currently, the majority of VR headsets offer full 6DoF position tracking. Older standalone and mobile headsets use 3DoF. There are, for example, Google Daydream, Google Cardboard, Oculus Go, and Gear VR.
Tracking Types or types of tracking
Any VR headset needs a way to track the movements of the individual wearing it. The most common form of tracking at the moment is known as “Inside Out”. This is a system that generally relies on cameras integrated into the helmet. This, in order to follow the movements directly from the device on the user, without going through external trackers.
In this case, “SLAM” or advanced simultaneous localization and mapping algorithms monitor the characteristics of the physical environment surrounding the person. The HTC Vive Cosmos and the Oculus Quest 2 and Rift S use, among other things, this means of tracking.
There is also the concept of “Outside In” monitoring. This requires external equipment for monitoring. It does this using base stations for certain VR headsets, such as the HTC Vive and the original Valve Index. These are little black boxes set up in the corners of the room.
The advantages and disadvantages of each type of tracking
Anyone new to virtual reality should know that each type of tracking has its pros and cons. For in-helmet tracking, it can operate more easily without the need for installation or mounting hardware.
When it comes to outside tracking, it can sometimes be a better option to fill in any gaps. Indeed, the equipment mounted on the head may not be able to see certain sudden bodily movements.
In any case, the tracking systems can be obscured in various ways inside and out. We must not forget that our body has so many different ways of moving. The system must therefore be chosen according to the use case.
There is more than one way to interact with simulated content in the world of virtual reality. In the case of some headsets, such as the HTC Vive Cosmos, the HP Reverb G2 and the Oculus Quest 2, they are, for example, delivered with two controllers, one for each hand.
The PlayStation VR, on the other hand, has several input systems. In any case, the best option is to use a pair of PlayStation Move controllers. Note, however, that some PSVR content does not require Move controllers. In this case, you should use a standard DualShock controller.
As for the controllers of the Valve Index, they wrap around the palm and joints. They therefore offer you complete freedom. They can also detect every movement of the fingers and some of the pressure provided by your wrist, which makes them stand out from the rest.
Room scale or roomscale, sit and stand
The VR roomscale consists of defining a zone or a game limit and being able to move freely and physically in this zone when playing a VR game. The idea is therefore to allow you to physically move around your space to interact with the simulated environment and the objects inside.
There are boundaries known as “guardians” or “chaperones” that appear to alert you when you approach the physical world.
As for the terms sit and stand, they are quite similar. In fact, they indicate when the user should stay in one place and use various motion options to simulate motion or move around a space, for example.
If a beginner in virtual reality know, there are several types of options simulated motion for VR software. Teleportation, among other things, is part of it. This is a common method of movement. It is even the most comfortable option for most users.
In the majority of cases, the
Teleportation can be summoned by pressing a button on the controller. You then need to select the location you want to immediately teleport to.
When this motion option is combined with room scale tracking, it usually allows for comfortable traversing of large simulated volumes. However, some individuals complain that the teleportation is less believable and “breaks the immersion” since one cannot teleport to the real world.
Soft locomotion: another movement in VR
Besides teleportation, gentle locomotion is also another type of movement in virtual reality. It is quite similar to traditional video games in which you must press a key (arrows up, down, left, right, or ZQSD…) and move in the chosen direction.
However, be aware that this can be disturbing for some people. It can even make them nauseous within seconds or minutes.
Nevertheless, to combat possible feelings of discomfort, developers are constantly working to provide combinations of existing systems or comfort settings. These will then allow players to tailor the experience to their liking.
As has been seen previously, anyone using virtual reality can therefore sometimes experience discomfort, motion sickness and want to vomit. In the majority of cases, this happens when the movement in the game does not match that of your body.
However, for more intense experiences, some individuals can create resistance and a much higher level of tolerance. Despite this, some longtime VR developers and enthusiasts may still be susceptible to the discomfort.
Either way, there are several factors that can influence your sensitivity to discomfort when wearing a VR headset. There are, among others, the frame rate of the screen and the software, the field of view of the visuals, the weight of the helmet, etc.
The term IPD is quite common in the world of virtual reality. It is the abbreviation of “interpupillary distance” or “interpupillary distance” in French, which therefore means the distance between the centers of your two pupils.
It is to be known that the variation of IPD between users can affect the feel of some VR headsets when they are worn. In the event that screens and lenses are not aligned properly in front of an individual’s pupil, images may appear blurry.
It can even increase the risk of nausea or a headache. In any case, some helmets offer a physical fit for the IPD. This allows you to move display panels and lenses to position them more directly in front of the pupils of a large number of people.
Overview of the different types of virtual reality equipment
A newbie to VR may ignore it, but there are different types of VR equipment for consumers. So there is standalone VR, PC VR, and console VR. Here are the details of each of these materials.
Autonomous VR: VR equipment that a beginner in virtual reality should know
The category of autonomous VR virtual reality equipment includes any VR headset that can function completely without the intervention of another device or other technology. The whole experience is therefore carried out from the material you wear on your head.
The latter does not need to be connected to another external device. The Oculus Quest 2 is a concrete example of a stand-alone VR headset. It offers simplified versions of PC VR games in a device that is both standalone and portable.
With stand-alone VR, everything you need to enjoy a virtual reality experience is then provided with the device itself. However, you should be aware that some games may require the use of Oculus Touch controllers.
VR on PC
Even a newbie to virtual reality can guess this, so a VR PC is a VR headset that requires a permanent connection to a nearby PC. The latter also needs high specifications to meet the demands of virtual reality.
The Oculus Rift S, HTC Vive and Valve Index are, for example, some of the most famous PC VR headsets. The advantage with this technology is that the power of the PC can provide high graphics fidelity compared to standalone VR.
The only catch is that your VR headset has to stay connected to your PC at all times. Some wireless options are available, sure, but that doesn’t solve the problem, as they usually require more hardware connected to your computer. In addition, a battery should be worn somewhere on your body.
VR on console
Console VR currently only includes two VR headsets, namely the PlayStation VR (PSVR) and the Nintendo Labo VR for Nintendo Switch. PSVR is a complementary VR system for PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 5.
It must therefore be connected to one of these consoles to function, just like the PC VR. It also uses the PlayStation camera to provide a better VR experience. Please note that some PSVR games require an additional purchase of PlayStation Move controllers to be played.
As for the Nintendo Labo VR for Nintendo Switch, this is a cardboard headset shell that you can insert your Nintendo Switch into. You can then play some games in VR mode. Only you have to hold the helmet against your face, since it does not have a strap.
The most recommended headsets for a beginner in virtual reality
Now that you know more about virtual reality even if you are a beginner, it is time for you to offer you a VR headset. The market has a whole list of them, but to help you find the one that best suits your needs, here are our buying recommendations.
Valve Index | PC VR
This is Valve’s first solo VR headset. It offers you an almost sublime VR experience for a rather full price of 1079 euros for the complete kit. This product also offers a series of settings that allow it to maximize its field of vision.
You are also entitled to a new type of controller that attaches to the hand, which allows you to be completely free in your movements. The complete Valve Index kit consists of a headset of course, two controllers and two base stations.
In any case, we must admit that this VR equipment is expensive compared to most of its competitors. This price also reflects Valve’s desire to release a premium product and fully enter virtual reality.
Oculus Quest 2 | Autonomous VR + VR on PC: a must for a beginner in virtual reality
Among the most versatile VR headsets available on the market, a beginner in virtual reality can find the Oculus Quest 2. The headset is sold from 349 euros, in its version which has 64 GB of storage space. You then get a complete standalone VR headset that does not require any other equipment.
The only problem is that you must log into a Facebook account to use the equipment. In any case, if that’s not a problem for you, the Oculus Quest 2 has huge benefits for you.
You can, for example, use the Oculus Link to connect the VR headset to your computer via a USB C cable. This will allow you to enjoy all the experiences a Rift can run on your Quest while staying connected.
PlayStation VR | PS4
If you have a PS4 or PS5 console, the PlayStation VR VR headset is a good option for you. This is indeed a simple way to use virtual reality with the equipment you already have.
The main advantage of the PSVR system is that it has one of the best VR libraries available. In particular, you have the right to exclusivity.
However, this system also has certain technological limitations. Much of it uses very old hardware and peripherals. There is, for example, the tracking which uses a PlayStation camera. The helmet also offers a terribly old screen and visuals.
HP Reverb G2 | VR on PC
The HP Reverb G2 does not fail to capture the attention of every beginner in virtual reality. This is a good second-generation VR headset that, however, finds itself in an awkward position.
Put simply, this dedicated PC VR headset makes a great headset, but with bad controllers. It currently has the best screen on the market. It also has higher resolutions than the Quest 2 and the Index.
The HP Reverb G2 is also the best in its class when it comes to graphics. We must not forget its excellent extra-auricular speakers either. However, its controllers leave a little to be desired. Above all, its availability is not yet assured at the time of writing this article. HP has indeed fallen behind on its delivery.