Virtual reality is still quite misty for many people; we explain what it is and how it works!
Virtual Reality is carrying a futuristic image for a technology that is well anchored in the present. A lot of content is available for this technology, including here at RTBF, with the very first VR project that puts a premature baby in the shoes of a new-born baby. But what is RV, or virtual reality, what is it? How does it work? And how do we look at it?
How to watch virtual reality?
Once this has been established, let us now move on to practical applications. Virtual reality requires adapted equipment, but not necessarily a heavy installation. We can, of course, play the big game with a headset worth several hundred euros connected to a computer worthy of NASA, but we can also make it simple. If you are interested, visit immersive-display.com and learn more about HTC vive accessories.
Virtual reality ways can be divided into two main categories, let’s call them “mobile” and “fixed”.
The first, mobile, is used with a smartphone. It is the smartphone that will do all the work, serve as a screen and computer. The only equipment you will need is a VR headset. The advantage is that this type of headset does not cost much; it is even possible to make one with a piece of cardboard.
In major electronics stores such as FNAC or MediaMarkt, you can find VR headsets for around twenty euros. Place your smartphone, and you’re done.
Opposite is the “fixed” approach with real VR headsets, such as the PSVR, linked to the PlayStation, the famous Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. Each time, these headsets integrate a screen, a battery of sensors and require a “base”, often a game console or a computer. The bill can quickly rise to around €1,000 to fully equip itself, but they have the advantage of creating a more intense and immersive experience than a simple smartphone.
Virtual reality, a place for the digital world
In terms of digital reality, there are two main trends today; Virtual reality and augmented reality. The first one plunges you into a completely virtual universe; you are cut off from the physical world and placed in a pixel bubble. It is a way to immerse yourself in the centre of a narrative, or in the heart of the action of a video game.
Augmented reality, on the other hand, increases our reality. The idea is to project virtual elements onto the real world. Google Glass was the emblematic object of this format. Using a transparent screen placed in front of the eye, information entered your field of vision, overlapping.
In short, virtual reality (VR) puts you entirely in a digital universe, while augmented reality (AR), superimposes the virtual on the real world.
The smartphone, the key to RV for all
But to get back to our smartphones, it’s pretty easy to get equipped for a few euros. There are then applications to be able to use headphones and smartphones together; the best known is certainly, and simply, YouTube. The video platform includes a “Cardboard” mode (named after Google’s VR cardboard headset) where it is possible to play a 360° video at the touch of a button.
Let’s take the example of RTBF’s fictional report, “Life to come in 360°”. It is hosted directly on YouTube. So all you have to do is open it in the YouTube application on Android or iOS place the smartphone in a VR headset, plug in headphones, press the Cardboard logo and you’re there.
It is also possible to follow this kind of video without a VR headset, by watching the video at 360° on a computer or smartphone.
The video will be displayed normally, but you can move around the player with your computer cursor or finger on the touch screen. It’s less immersive, but it allows you to enjoy the beginning of the RV experience.
Why do you do RV?
Virtual reality does not suit all content. A virtual reality film does not seem to be really suitable, but in the case of reporting, short fiction or event recording (such as a concert, a show…), the VR has a real added value. It has the advantage of completely immersing us where the subject is, of being able to interact with this world.
Video games also seem to be particularly well suited to this technology. Immersed in the virtual world, you quickly lose your footing to find yourself completely absorbed in the mission entrusted to you in the game. Extreme entertainment is perhaps still a little too extreme for those who are not used to playing.