Communication in the Age of Virtual Reality

By Frank Biocca; Mark R. Levy | Go to book overview

4 Immersive Virtual Reality Technology

Frank Biocca University of North Carolina

Ben Delaney CyberEdge Journal

This chapter steps inside virtual reality (VR) to examine the technology that makes this novel interface possible. In chapter I of this volume, Biocca and Levy defined communication interfaces as:

Communication Interface = (physical media, communication codes, information) + sensorimotor channels (see Fig. 4.1.).

In this chapter we pick up each component of the "physical media," examine it, describe how it works, and suggest how it might evolve. The emphasis is on trends in the development of VR's physical media.

VR technology takes many forms. Like the computer itself, it is a protean technology. There will be no single type of VR system and no paradigmatic virtual environment. We are more likely to see tailored combinations of components and applications, each capable of producing various levels of sensory experience. Table 4.1 lists the more common types of virtual environments. This chapter focuses on the last and most sensory-immersive type of virtual environment technology.

Figure 4.2 shows a classic system first built for NASA and presents an array of components characteristic of highly immersive1 systems. These highly immersive systems tend to envelop the senses with computergenerated stimuli. The components are discussed later, but for now we should describe virtual reality technology as a whole.

____________________
1
Immersive is a term that refers to the degree to which a virtual environment submerges the perceptual system of the user in computer-generated stimuli. The more the system capivates the senses and blocks out stimuli from the physical world, the more the system is considered immersive.

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