What Is True Immersive Virtual Reality? – Definition & Examples7 min read13/12/2019
True immersive virtual reality is an immersive VR technology that enables users to experience 3D computer-generated environments in the same way they perceive real surroundings. While experiencing a digital environment, users have 6 degrees of freedom that include moving up and down, right and left, forward and backward, rotation about three perpendicular axes, also known as pitch, yaw, and roll. Within this environment, they also can interact with dynamic virtual objects and physically feel their impact.
True immersive VR is the most unclear virtual reality type because it’s often confused with fully-immersive VR since both technologies provide similar capabilities. For example, Intel provides a so-called true VR technology that actually refers to a system that enables sports events visitors to watch matches in a panoramic view from anywhere inside the arena using a head-mounted display. The system includes multiple camera pods with 12 cameras per each pod located around the arena. These camera pods record stereoscopic 360-degree video that allows visitors to enjoy a match from any point of view.
In fact, true immersive virtual reality offers a more realistic experience because of the body feedback and capability of exploring virtual environments by physically moving in three directions. That’s why Intel’s technology only bears a resemblance to the term called true immersive virtual reality that involves a larger set of hardware.
True immersion in VR becomes possible through such components as visual content, interaction, user movements and orientation identification as well as auditory, haptic, and body feedback. The key to true immersion is in the accurate synchronization of all these aspects managed by software usually written in Java, C++, and C# programming languages. To perceive virtual environments designed in frames of software, users interact with various devices that provide visual, sound, and other types of content.
A head-mounted display (HMD) is an inherent part of any VR experience including true immersion. This device provides both auditory and visual content via headphones and two stereoscopic lenses. VR headsets are designed in the way to completely fence users off the real world and allow them to focus on computer-generated content, thus experiencing true immersion. In this case, high-quality graphics plays a key role in ensuring a smooth and realistic virtual reality.
Controllers are typically wireless devices that enable users to interact with 3D objects within virtual environments. They have built-in motion sensors to capture user hand movements and a number of buttons for actions predefined by a particular VR application. VR controllers also provide users with haptic feedback that can include force, vibrotactile, electrotactile, ultrasound tactile, and thermal feedback. An advanced version of VR controllers is VR gloves that offer a deeper sense of true immersion.
VR treadmill is one of the key components of true immersive virtual reality. This device is what turns fully-immersive technology into true immersion. VR treadmills and platforms allow users to seemingly walk with a virtual environment in two or more directions while remaining within the same area in real life. In other words, these platforms project user walking, jogging, and running in place into a computer-generated environment. Such VR treadmills as Infinadeck and Cyberith Virtualizer even provide a 360-degree movement capability.
VR treadmills rely on inertial sensors to track user position, speed, and length of the stride. Platforms send collected data to a computer which then transforms it into movements in a virtual environment. True immersion is achieved by accurate tracking user movements and their proper interpretation combined with smooth virtual image generation. All VR treadmills have body limiters like fencing or a waist harness connected to the platform with hard bars to keep users in place and protect them from falling out of the platform.
The other component of true immersive virtual reality is a VR suit, also known as a haptic suit. This is a wearable full-body device that provides haptic feedback to almost a whole body, unlike smart gloves or VR controllers that ensure haptic feedback only to the user’s hands. Appeared in 1994, the first haptic vest designed by Aura Interactor revolutionized the gaming industry by enabling gamers to see the sound from video games and TV shows through the conversion of bass sound waves into vibration.
Today’s VR suits are far ahead and have more advanced capabilities. They imitate touch, heat, water, cold, wind, strikes, shots, and other effects of the real-world environment by sending electric impulses to a human body, thus stimulating muscles, using an embedded control unit and set of transmitters.
Equipped with a motion capture system, such haptic suits as NullSpace VR and Rapture enhance a traditional perception of virtual reality by allowing users to physically feel sensations generated in a computer-generated environment. The technology behind VR suits relies on neuro-muscular stimulation which is well-known from the healthcare industry. Some haptic suits, for example, Teslasuit, also can collect various body parameters like blood pressure and body temperature.
The main challenge of haptic suits is that they take a lot of space. They are definitely not what you can buy and place in your small bedroom. Along with their price within $1,500-$3,000, the size is a major barrier for VR suits to become mass production products. Bearing in mind these disadvantages, Google has patented VR shoes, a pair of skates with treadmills instead of wheels. Equipped with a set of sensors, this motorized footwear transmits user moves into a digital signal, thus enabling the person to explore virtual environments while physically moving within a limited area.
True immersive virtual reality is a key element of the Ready Player One movie directed by Steven Spielberg. It describes the society that prefers a virtual world where people can have unlimited capabilities over reality full of poverty and misery. This movie tells a story of Wade Watts that uses an HMD, VR suit and treadmill to explore a computer-generated environment. True immersion is similar to hyper reality. Instead of relying on an omnidirectional treadmill and smart gloves, the latter immersive technology allows users to interact with physical objects and move across a real-world game area.
True immersive VR is not only about gaming. It’s also an important part of modern rehabilitation techniques. Cleveland Clinic uses a VR treadmill to help patients deal with Parkinson’s by encouraging them for physical activity in a virtual environment through gamification. Patients have to walk and hit computer-generated butterflies thus stimulating their nervous and musculoskeletal system. This approach is more intuitive than traditional therapy and it helps patients ignore their pain in a more effective way.
True immersive VR hardly differs from other types of virtual reality, but it brings new benefits in comparison with typical immersive experiences allowing users to stay immobilized for hours. Motion is what makes true immersion that deep you can even lose the sense of reality.