Part of the Computing fundamentals glossary:

Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment. On a computer, virtual reality is primarily experienced through two of the five senses: sight and sound. 

The simplest form of virtual reality is a 3-D image that can be explored interactively at a personal computer, usually by manipulating keys or the mouse so that the content of the image moves in some direction or zooms in or out. More sophisticated efforts involve such approaches as wrap-around display screens, actual rooms augmented with wearable computers, and haptics devices that let you feel the display images.

Virtual reality can be divided into:

  • The simulation of a real environment for training and education.
  • The development of an imagined environment for a game or interactive story.

Popular products for creating virtual reality effects on personal computers include Bryce, Extreme 3D, Ray Dream Studio, trueSpace, 3D Studio MAX, and Visual Reality. The Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML) allows the creator to specify images and the rules for their display and interaction using textual language statements.

This was last updated in June 2009
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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