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Virtual reality (VR) is the use of a computer to create an artificial environment that appears and feels like a real environment and allows users to explore a space and manipulate the environment. In its simplest form, a VR application displays what appears to be a three-dimensional view of a place or object, such as a landscape, building, molecule, or red blood cell, which users can explore. For example, architects can use VR software to show clients how a building will look after a construction or remodeling project.
In more advanced forms, VR software requires that users wear specialized headgear, body suits, and gloves to enhance the experience of the artificial environment (Vance and Reed 34-58). The headgear displays the artificial environment in front of the users eyes.i[A] The body suit and the gloves sense motion and direction, allowing a user to move through, pick up, or hold items displayed in the virtual environment. Experts predict that sooner or later the body suits will provide tactile feedback so users can experience the touch and feel of the virtual world.
Many gamers, such as flight simulators, use virtual reality. In these games, special visors allow users to see the computer-generated environment. As the user walks around the game’s electronic landscape, sensors in the surrounding game machine record movements and change the view of the landscape accordingly.
Companies increasingly are using VR for more practical commercial applications, as well. Automobile dealers, for example, use virtual showrooms in which customers can view the exterior and interior of available vehicles. Airplane manufacturers use virtual prototypes to test new models and shorten product design time. Many firms use personal computer-based VR applications for employee training (Shelly Cashman Series® Microsoft Word 2000 Project 2). As computing power and the use of the Web increases, practical applications of VR continue to emerge in education, business, and entertainment.ii[B]iii[C]
Holloway, April I. “The Future of Virtual Reality Applications.” Computers for Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond Sep. 2001: 46-52.
Shelly Cashman Series® Microsoft Word 2000 Project 2. Course Technology. 3 Sep. 2000. http://wwwscsite.com/wd2000/pr2/wc3.htm.
Vance, Dale W., and Karen P.
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i[A]i[A] According to Vance and Reed, patients in one dental office wear VR headsets to relax them during their visit with the dentist.
ii[B]ii[B] Henry Davidson, a developer of VR applications, predicts that in the future, moviegoers will be able to pretend they are on of the movie’s characters. In this environment, the VR technology will connect the moviegoer’s sensory system (sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch) to the character’s sensory system (Holloway 46-52).