What Is a Virtual Reality Simulator?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2019
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A virtual reality simulator is an array of electronic devices that function together to allow someone to experience audio and visual input in order to simulate a real setting or event. This type of simulator typically functions through visual displays that may be located on a headset, as well as audio cues. There are many different uses for this type of simulator, including athletic and vehicular training as well as simulations for medical procedures. A virtual reality simulator usually takes feedback from the user of the simulator in some way, either through physical movements or from some type of input device.

Different methods and pieces of technology can be used to create a virtual reality simulator, though most simulators provide certain common functions. Visual and audio displays are typically used to allow someone within the simulator to feel as though he or she is within a virtual environment. Three-dimensional computer generated imagery (CGI) can be created in real time and displayed on monitors on a headset or on the walls around a person to allow him or her to feel as though he or she is within a different environment. Audio can also be created within a virtual reality simulator to provide sounds that further complete the user’s sense of immersion.


There are a number of uses for this type of virtual reality simulator, though they are typically meant for recreation or training. Recreational simulators can include anything from complex video games played within a realistic virtual environment to practice devices used for athletic activities or sports like baseball or golf. Training simulators can be used to provide someone with virtual training in something difficult or dangerous, without presenting the trainee with real risks. This type of virtual reality simulator can be used to help someone learn to fly a plane, drive a car, pilot a spacecraft and even perform complex and delicate surgical procedures.

The user within a virtual reality simulator can typically interact with the digital environment in many ways, depending on the technology used. Most simulators include some type of feedback device or input controller that can be used by the person to indicate movement or other actions within the environment. Simulators that include a headset might allow someone to look around and track the motion of the user’s head, changing the images displayed to reflect this movement. A virtual reality simulator used in medical training might utilize a stylus to replicate a scalpel and track the movements of the virtual surgeon during training.


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