What Is Virtual Reality | How VR Headsets Work

Blurring the lines between the real and virtual has now become the modern trend and to most companies it seems to be the future.Virtual Reality puts the user into a computer simulated environment allowing them to experience being in a different surrounding, instead of the one they are actually in. It uses auditory and visual stimulations to achieve this. At the outset this technology has a lot of obvious use cases,gaming being the biggest emerging field in this sector.This technology allows for an immersive experience to be created for a plethora of environments,the only limit being that of one’s imagination.virtual reality

Immersion is key here,the auditory and visual effects must be effective enough to convince the mind that it is truly in another place.

As stated the two factors that will determine the depth of immersion into the virtual environment are visuals and auditory effects.

Let’s take a look at how the visuals are set up. In a typical VR headset we have an arrangement of Frensel lenses. These type of lenses have the same curvature as regular lenses but they are segmented. Allowing for the visuals to be maintained,keeping the weight low.

Frensel lens

This does however come with compromises,having the lenses segmented means that at the peaks the lens does not possess the correct curvature leading to the  formation of a less sharper image.This can be overcome by increasing the number of segments,but then again more the segments,more the weight.

Manufacturers must find the right balance in order to produce images that have certain sharpness and quality without the addition of extra weight on the headset,as the extra weight will spoil the immersion.

That in brief covers the visual aspect. It’s still only one half of the coin.Flipping to the other side we find the next component for a good VR experience, Audio.

A key technique that is used to create the audio is binaural audio.which is technique that creates spatial sound. To go deeper into this subject we need to understand the need for “rotational audio” as the user will not be stationary during a VR experience. Here inputs need to be taken from  physical sensors to produce spatially aware sound.


A lot of products claim to guarantee this experience ranging all the way from a $10 Google cardboard to a $499 Oculus Rift. The underlying principle although is the same throughout.


A different approach to blur the lines between the virtual and real world world is to augment it.Rather than an experience that completely transports the user to a different environment we augment the natural surrounding around the user to create an immersive experience.The technology used to do this slightly differs from the technology used for complete immersion.

Here a technique called as SLAM(Simultaneous Location And Mapping) is used to render virtual images over the objects present in the real world. This algorithm at its heart basically solves multiple localization and mapping problems. There is also another approach which relies on the GPS,accelerometer and others sensors to feed information about location in order to augment it.

AR & VR is being developed by some big companies like Microsoft with their Hololens and Oculus with their Rift headsets which shows that some of the most forward thinking companies believes that this could be the future. Interest shown by these companies in the development of this technology will pave the way for greater advancements. Leading to a day where there lies no line between the virtual and real.


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