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Virtual Reality

 

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Overview
Virtual reality can transport you into a world of computer-generated sights, sounds, and tactile (touch) sensations. The more your senses are fooled, the more you believe the experience is real. If you want to enter a virtual reality world, you can choose a couple different approaches. In one, you would go into a booth containing a computer monitor. The booth might represent a cockpit and the monitor a windshield. With the keyboard or joystick, you change the three-dimensional perspective of what you see on the screen-and take the airplane you're piloting into a rapid nosedive or a steep climb. Another, more expensive approach to virtual reality involves "the helmet and gloves." When you place one of these helmets on your head, your head movements allow you to see and hear the virtual world. The gloves can replace real touch with virtual touch. In this approach, two televisions cameras (or computer-graphic images) generate the virtual world. One camera or image is placed in front of each of your eyes, slightly offset in perspective. This creates the illusion of depth of view, or "stereoscopic vision." As your head turns to view different objects, a computer adjusts both the scene's perspective and associated sounds (coming through the headphones) to convince you that you are moving through the environment. As your gloved hand touches a surface in the virtual world, sensors in the glove tell the computer where the hand is in space. With some gloves, the computer can send signals back to you through pressure vibrations to indicate when you've touched an object in the virtual world. Virtual reality is more than just entertainment. For people with disabilities, it offers a way to interact with other people and to enter an artificial universe created by computer imaging, bypassing any physical limitations they may have. In industry, workers can draw upon this technology to design parts without expensive physical mock-ups, conduct chemistry experiments without risk, and learn how to operate new equipment with little loss in productivity.

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