This History and Evolution of Virtual Reality

This History and Evolution of Virtual Reality

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4960-5.ch001
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Virtual reality (VR) is a continuously evolving technology that is gradually being integrated into the teaching-learning process, within institutions of higher education. VR has the potential to transform the instructional process, enhance student learning, and engage students in a more interactive manner than has occurred historically. While technology integration within the instructional process has been initiated within institutions of higher education, mass adoption among faculty has not yet occurred. This chapter provides an introduction to VR, discusses the evolution of VR, applications in higher education and other fields, and a progression of features, tools, and functionality that can be used to innovate learning in higher education.
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An Introduction To Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer-generated environment designed to simulate three-dimensional (3D) physical environments that provide user interaction. Three-dimensional immersive virtual worlds are one of the most exciting emerging technologies being used today and have been shown to improve learning satisfaction while providing opportunities to practice and apply professional skills (Hodgson et al., 2019). While these emergent technologies offer a unique venue to enact learning and practice skills, they also require training, support, and opportunities for experimentation. Therefore, it is important to understand the broad scope through defining VR, identifying characteristics of VR, and describing VR in practice.

Defining Virtual Reality

While there are countless uses for VR in education and industry, there are equally as many definitions; definitions of VR have shifted as the related hardware and software applications have evolved, moving from a single user interface to massively multiplayer online worlds (MMOW). For example, in 1996 Schroeder first posited that computer-generated display allows or compels users to have a sense of being present in an environment, other than the one they are actually in, and to interact with that environment (Schroeder, 2008). By 2003, Sherman and Craig expanded the definition of VR when they defined it as “a medium composed of interactive computer simulation that senses the participant’s position and actions and replaces or augments the feedback to one or more senses, giving the feeling of being mentally immersed or present in the simulation (a virtual world)” (p. 13). In 2010, Kapp and O’Driscoll defined a virtual world as an “immersed 3D virtual environment in which a learner acts through an avatar to engage with the other avatars for the explicit purpose of learning” (p. 55). As time and technology progressed, the concept of immersive learning in VR expanded significantly to represent the user being physically present in a non-physical world (Freina & Ott, 2015).

More recently, Sherman and Craig (2018) defined VR as having elements that include: “the virtual world, immersion, interactivity, as well as people on the creating and receiving sides of the medium” (p.6). Immervisive Virtual Reality (IVR) often uses head mounted displays and integrates motion sensors to bridge the gap between the simulation environment and real-world conditions (Frederiksen et al., 2019). Hence, as the capabilities and applications of the VR and IVR functions have expanded, definitions and instructional uses for VR have changed. Often, visual, auditory, manipulation and other perceptual stimuli are incorporated within software and hardware applications of technology in a sequence of programmed events to which a person is expected to react and with which to engage directly through a complete sensory experience.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Esports: A form of competition sports using video games. Esports often take the form of organized, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players, individually or as teams.

Virtal World (VW): Computer-based simulated environment which may be populated by many users who can create a personal avatar and simultaneously and independently explore the virtual world, participat in activities and communicate with others.

Virtual Reality Simulators: The equipment used for human immersion in virtual reality with the purpose of entertainment, education or training of the public. (examples include a virtual amusement ride, virtual gaming simulator, virtual motion simulator).

Mixed Reality (MR): The merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations, where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time.

Immersive Virtual World: Immersion into a virtual reality is a perception of being physically present in a non-physical world. The perception is created by surrounding the user of the VR system in images, sound or other stimuli that provide an engrossing total environment.

Extended Reality (XR): Refers to all real-and-virtual combined environments and human machine interactions generated by computer technology and wearables. It includes representative forms such as augmented reality, mixed reality, and virtual reality and the areas interpolated among them ( ).

Head-Mounted Display (HMD): A display device, worn on the head or as part of a helmet, that has a small display optic in front of one or each eye. HMD has many uses including gaming, aviation, engineering and medicine. HMD’s are the primary components are virtual reality headsets.

Virtual Reality (VR): An artificial environment which is experienced through sensory stimuli (such as sights and sounds) provided by a computer and in which one’s actions partially determine what happens in the environment.

Augmented Reality (AR): An enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device. It is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): Intelligence demonstrated by machines. The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.

Three Dimensional (3D): A solid figure or an object or shape that has three dimensions – length, width, and height. They have thickness and depth.

Wearables: Electronic devices that can be incorporated into clothing or worn on the body as implants or accessories. (These might include smartwatches, fitness trackers, google glasses, and VR.)

Virtual Learning Environment (VLE): The environment created through virtual reality. Any networked application that permits both interaction with the computing environment and the work of other users. (email, chat, web-based document sharing applications are all examples of virtual environments. It is a networked common operating system.

Two-Dimensional (2D): A flat, plane figured or shape that has two dimensions – length and width. They do not have any thickness and can be measured in only two faces.

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