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If you’ve watched or read any works of science fiction in the past few decades, chances are you have at the very least heard of virtual reality. The holodeck on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the world of The Matrix, the parodies of both of these settings, and the concept as a whole on Futurama – we’ve seen our fair share of representations of virtual reality. What’s more, while the core concept of exploring an invented unreal world is shared across these different concepts, they’re quite different from one another and, indeed, from the reality of virtual reality as a whole.

So what is virtual reality, and how is it already making an all too real impact on our world?

Types of VR

To begin with, it is important to distinguish between different kinds of VR. It’s also important to note that, as a developing technology, some of these forms are still in the concept or developmental stage. Still, with at least some forms of VR starting to pop up in the marketplace, all of these systems appear poised to make an impact in the near to mid-future. The main types of VR are as follows:

  • Immersive VR, where users are fully immersed within a virtual world 
  • Semi-immersive VR, in which users are at least partially immersed, albeit not fully (i.e., flight simulators simulating the visual experience but not other aspects of flying)
  • Non-immersive VR, where we’re not “in” the virtual reality world itself – think video games

The Benefits of VR

There are many potential benefits to VR, two of which are alluded to in the previous section.

First, VR can be used to provide us with ever more accurate simulators, which can, in turn, be used for educational and training purposes. These can be invaluable for uses such as teaching pilots to fly and training surgeons how to operate.

Second, VR can be used for entertainment purposes. Already, we have seen the Oculus VR gaming system see some success among gamers.

The burgeoning reality of VR is anything but virtual, and is only set to increase with time.