As the name suggests, the goal of immersive virtual reality is to fully immerse the user within a computer-generated world. Immersive VR gives the impression to the user that they have stepped inside a virtual environment that’s as real as their own world.
You might remember the animated series “Johnny Quest” in the late 1960s, where young Johnny could enter a virtual world in a computer-generated environment. The series captured people’s imagination due to its immersive features.
The artificial environment convincingly replaces the actual world setup to suspend disbelief and engage fully with the virtually created environment.
Types of Virtual Reality
Following are the five key types of virtual reality formats:
- Non-immersive virtual reality: A computer-based experience where some activities and characters are controlled by the software, but the entire environment may not be interactive.
- Fully immersive virtual reality: A technology that gives you a completely realistic experience inside a virtual environment. The users can interact with all the elements and get a feeling of everything happening for real.
- Semi-immersive virtual reality: A mixture of fully immersive and non-immersive VR. The virtual environment may allow you to move within a computer screen but no physical movements will happen.
- Augmented reality: Here, rather than the user entering a virtual world, a virtual entity is included in the real world through a device. For example, you could be standing on a piece of farmland where you want to build a house, with your smart device you can scan the area and see a virtual reflection of a house that you could build.
What is the meaning of immersive virtual reality?
Immersive VR creates a perception of being present in the virtual world. This feeling is created by using sounds, images and other stimuli to mimic a real-world effect.
Immersiveness is an essential feature of virtual reality applications such as VR training and VR gaming. VR technology provides a believable experience for a user in the computer-generated world.
Types of immersive virtual reality technologies
Here are some great examples of immersive virtual realities used by various brands successfully across the world.
1. Augmented Reality
This technology is used to add a computer-simulated layer on top of the real world. In a simple sense, AR can be described as an enhancement of the natural world around you.
Unlike VR which creates an entirely different world for you, AR simply deletes or adds information already present in the real world.
For mobile marketers, AR presents good news.
In the US, the number of VR users will exceed 95 million in 2022. Another report by Fortune suggests that the global AR/VR market is set to grow to a worth of $227 billion by 2029.
2. Mixed reality
This is an improved version of artificial reality, having all the elements of VR as well.
Mixed reality helps to integrate virtual objects into the real world. This is done simply by adding or deleting information.
Say, for example, you have an empty garage and you have no idea how to arrange your machinery within the space. The use of mixed reality technology helps to arrange virtual machinery and verify whether the garage is suited for it or not.
3. 360º Content
This is simply a photo or video content that lets the viewer explore. The 360º Content is made by capturing video or image in all directions at the same time.
This will let the user rotate the viewing angle and see what’s around them.
4. Digital Twins
Digital twins can be called almost exact models of real-life objects, systems or processes.
This technology is most commonly employed in technical training to simulate the behaviour of physical objects and scenarios before actually experiencing them.
For example, NASA uses digital twins to simulate and monitor satellites that are orbiting in outer space. Or wind power plants use digital twins to create a twin model of windmills and monitor their conditions remotely.
Similarly, corporate offices may create a digital twin of an entire process like recruitment, technical instruments for training, architectural designs and layouts, etc.
Elements in VR that increase immersive experience
Several companies are in the process of researching options to make the VR experience more immersive.
Let us take the analogy of a dish prepared by a chef.
There are so many permutations and combinations of the ingredients that can be added, a pinch of this and that. But, to make that perfect tasting dish, all the elements have to be included in the perfect order.
Here are some of the essential elements to enhance the immersive experience.
1. Freedom of movement
The user must be able to move freely within the boundaries of the VR environment. This can be achieved through dedicated VR rooms or room-scale VR with advanced hardware technology.
2. Physical interactions
Like being in a natural environment, the user should be able to interact with all the objects in a virtual environment. Specialised equipment can be used, such as data gloves, to improve physical interactions.
This can allow the trainees to make real-life motions to interact with various objects naturally. These are specifically useful in virtual corporate training like sales, front office management, etc where trainees experience interacting with customers and practice situations that they are bound to encounter in the real world.
3. Physical feedback
Immersive VR should be able to mimic the feelings in the real world. For example, when a user lifts an object, he/she should get the feeling of having that object in his hand.
4. Improve the details
Sometimes minor details can significantly enhance the VR experience. The more you improve the elements in a VR environment, the greater the impact on the audience.
Certain features such as a 3D sound environment, high video quality, and intuitive video interactions help in boosting the overall immersive experience.
5. Multi-user interactions
Allowing different users to share their experiences is a vital factor for improving the immersive experience.
A virtual training corporate where the trainer can interact with each trainee, and the learners can simultaneously interact with each other gives a real-world classroom feeling. These interactions help the users to get a sense of “being really present” in the situation rather than just attending a regular online lecture.
6. Use position tracking hardware
This technology uses hardware and sensors to assess the position and motion of the user relative to its environment. Movements like how you walk, hand gestures, etc are captured to modify the virtual environment accordingly.
This helps in a more intuitive way to interact in the virtual world, surpassing the limitation of a VR headset.
How long until VR can be fully immersive?
A fully immersive experience would mean complete transportation to a virtual space. The idea is to have an experience that is sufficiently real to make it hard to distinguish from reality.
Complete immersion has various sensory aspects to it, the predominant ones being sight, hearing and touch. While various VR platforms and technologies have created effective immersive experiences in terms of sight and hearing, the tech industry is still trying to figure out “touch.”
While replicating sensations like wetness when dipping your hand in water or pain when your hand touches a sharp object may seem something out of fiction, these may not be too far in the world of VR.
With the fantastic growth in the VR industry in the last decade, along with the research that’s looking for new ways to innovate, full immersion may not be too far-fetched an idea!
Immersive VR technology is developing rapidly. It wouldn’t come as a surprise to see that the traditional and known forms of training techniques get fully transitioned to VR in the very near future.
The article discusses some important features that contribute to the immersive feeling.
By incorporating the immersive elements in your VR technology, it is possible to take your users’ experience to the next level.
The article is a part of our comprehensive series on “Virtual Reality: How Does It Work?”
Co-founder and Managing Director
Stuart Harris, co-founder of Growth Academy Asia, has a vast background in corporate events and learning & development. As co-founder and managing director at Team Building Asia, Stuart has developed a large network of international clients over the past 20 years and brought an innovative perspective to the more traditional elements of team building, which lead to the founding Growth Academy Asia. With GAA, he aspires to disrupt the L&D industry with the immersive VR organisational and leadership programmes.