Virtual reality (VR) allows users to wear a headset that puts them into virtual space. There are a number of headsets and systems that allow you to experience virtual reality. The Discovery Lab has an HTC Vive, an Oculus Rift, and a Google Daydream with Pixel phone. In addition, many personal phones can be used to experience VR in conjunction with a cardboard headset, available at the lab.
The differences between these experiences depend on the information being passed between the application and your positioning.
- Your phone may be used alone to view an experience in 360 degrees. Open a VR app, turn your phone into landscape mode, hold it out from your body, spin your body around.
- Your phone may also be used with a cardboard headset. Many 360 or VR applications compatible with cardboard use will post a cardboard icon that you can press to provide a split/binocular view suitable for viewing through the cardboard. Cardboard-based applications use the rotational tracking of your head. The application doesn’t know where your body is, but it knows when you turn or tilt your head. Many applications also let you click by aligning your view with targets on the screen and then pushing the button on the cardboard.
- Headsets such as the Google Daydream work the same way as the cardboard but a headstrap provides additional comfort that will support a longer viewing session than when holding the cardboard to one’s head. The Daydream also has a clicker that can be tracked by the phone and used to trigger targets upon click.
- Oculus Rift provides a more premium headset experience. In addition, it uses sensors to track the position of your body and the two controllers. This is referred to as positional tracking. It works within a small scale. The Discovery Lab uses the standard two-sensor setup for the Oculus, so the Oculus is not able to track you accurately when you turn around or if a controller’s line of sight to the sensor is blocked by your body.
- HTC Vive Pro provides a premium headset experience, along with two controllers and room-scale positional tracking. Sensor trackers are positioned on either side of the room diagonally, so the Vive is best able to track your position in 360 degrees.
Applications for virtual reality may be created in a number of applications, including Unity and Unreal. Assets for use in virtual reality can be created in many of the standard graphics and design applications that designers are already familiar with. If you would like to get started developing virtual reality, there are a number of pathways.