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What Are the Different Types of Virtual Reality?

Science fiction movies often feature immersive virtual reality.
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  • Written By: Alex Newth
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2014
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There are many types of virtual reality, from those not even considered to be virtual reality to those that are overtly so. The most well known virtual reality system is immersive virtual reality, in which users put on gloves and a headset to interact with a computer-generated "reality". Augmented virtual reality superimposes itself over physical reality and highlights certain objects or areas. Mirror virtual reality is seen in third person, though the user still controls the virtual model. Of all the types of virtual reality, many users do not recognize through-the-window, or desktop, virtual reality as true virtual reality, because it is not as immersive as the others.

Many science fiction movies and science exhibits use immersive virtual reality, making this one of the most recognized types of virtual reality. With immersive virtual reality, the user is placed into the world through the use of a headset that projects a computer-generated world. Gloves also are used to simulate hand movements in the virtual reality, allowing the user to interact with the virtual world and its objects. Some immersive systems also simulate sound and tactile perception to make the virtual world more realistic.

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With augmented virtual reality, the world is not computer-generated, though a headset is often used. This is one of the types of virtual reality that are most often used with job training, because the headset superimposes colors and graphics onto the real world. Objects of importance are highlighted, so the user knows exactly what to use. For example, if an airplane pilot in training uses augmented reality, then controls that are important for take off or maintaining flight altitude will be highlighted, helping the pilot to know exactly what control to use.

Mirror virtual reality is often used with games, though it also can be used for scientific experimentation. Unlike many other types of virtual reality, which use a first-person view, the mirror world is viewed from a third-person perspective. The user sees a model, and the user’s bodily movements control the model; a camera is often used to place the user’s face onto the model, as well. As with immersive virtual reality, users can often interact with virtual objects.

Through-the-window virtual reality is often not recognized as virtual reality at all, because there are no cameras or special hardware devices required to interact with this type of virtual world. Instead, the user looks at a computer screen and goes through a computer-generated world. Aside from being used in video games, this is used by architects to walk through a virtual building to ensure the plan meets the customer’s standards.

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