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Is VR More than Science Fiction?

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When you think of virtual reality (VR), what springs to mind? Unaffordable? The stuff of science fiction movies? Something for the future? Well, you would be wrong.

For the first time, virtual reality is penetrating a myriad of sectors, from education to entertainment, sports coaching and training. In this blog we provide you with the basics to help you launch your very own VR journey.

Virtual reality (VR) simply put, is a 3D simulated environment the user can interact with. There are no limits to what you can experience in VR, want to walk on the moon? Stand at the top of Mount Everest? Or perhaps swim with dolphins? No problem. VR allows anyone to access exhilarating experiences, at any time, anywhere (subject to Internet connection) and at a fraction of the cost.

To get started, a headset, or a mechanism for our eyes to access the VR environment is needed. You would be forgiven for thinking a super computer and expensive headset are essential to enter into VR. Once upon a time you would be right. Thankfully technological refinement has yielded a wide range of cost effective VR solutions – Your first VR experience could already be sitting in your smartphone!

Many modern smartphones provide support for mobile VR, requiring little more than the downloading of an Application and investment in a low cost headset e.g. Google daydream, Samsung Gear VR, Google cardboard. Apps such as YouTube VR allow you to enjoy 360 video, or how about going on a space journey through Titans of Space?

Thankfully, there are a growing number of FREE VR apps, all ready to teleport you away from the physical world. Admittedly, mobile VR doesn’t provide the full VR experience, though it is a great way to take your first tentative steps in VR without breaking the bank.

For a more immersive VR experience you’ll need a VR designated head mounted display (HMD) e.g. Oculus Go, Oculus Quest, HTC Vive. Using built in advanced sensors, HMD tracks physical movements in the real world and translates them into VR, known as degrees of freedom (DoF). Some headsets track head movement only, providing three degrees of freedom (3-Dof) e.g. Oculus Go, Google Cardboard.

For the full immersive experience, headsets tracking not only head movement but also hand movement allow for full body movement in VR, or six degrees of freedom (6-Dof) e.g. Oculus Quest, HTC Vive, Oculus RIft. The latest headset was released on 13 October 2020, in the form of the Oculus Quest 2, a stand alone VR headset with no cables to restrict your movement.

But what really makes VR so special? Simply, co-presence. A phenomenon referring to being aware of other individuals in virtual reality, as though you were in the same physical space with someone. An extremely powerful tool in today’s socially distanced, tiered world.

Co-presence has propelled an emerging development of powerful VR experiences, all seeking to improve our confidence in the real world. Fearful of public speaking? Or, perhaps suffering with arachnophobia VR could have a solution for you. At The Learning Loop we are using this super power, to create one of the UK’s first set of formally accredited soft skills professional training courses – to say we’re excited is an understatement.

Yesteryear VR was the stuff of science fiction, but not so today. Why not take your first trip in VR, wherever you want to go – the possibilities are endless!

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