background image
I n t ro d u c t i o n t o Vi r t u a l R e a l i t y & D i s p l ay
Te c h n o l o g i e s
According to Donald Sanders, President of Learning Sites Inc, 1998, the ideal Virtual
Reality (VR) environment is `an interactive, self-directed, multisensory, computer-generated
experience which gives the illusion of participating in a synthetic three-dimensional envi-
As anyone with even a casual acquaintance with VR will know, these are a set
of ideal goals rather than a checklist to determine what is and what is not a Virtual Reality
system.VR developers are making steady progress towards the realisation of this goal.
For a considerable time, humankind has been attempting to convince itself that it is
somewhere else, partaking in some alternative world. Despite what Sanders may write in
hope, `illusion' is not a necessary and essential attribute of a successful or useful VR sys-
tem. In VR teaching applications, for example, the accuracy of the virtual environment is
of secondary importance to the material being taught, and such a system will stand or
fall on its eventual results rather than on its realism.The benefits and risks of VR and
education are examined in depth below.
As well as the educational sector,VR has been used to the best effect in archaeology
and theatre studies. Each of these is eminently suitable to the capabilities of VR, and was
particularly so in the pre-Internet days when standalone applications were the form that
most VR projects took. As Web-distributed VR has progressed alongside the expansion
and broadening of the Internet, other applications for 3D technology including multi-
participant performance, interactive television and real-time virtual exploration have
come to the forefront of contemporary cultural heritage research.
Overview VR systems and languages
A number of wildly varying languages and techniques exist which can be gathered
under the umbrella term of `Virtual Reality'.These stretch from pure programming envi-
ronments such as Java3D, through coding environments such as the HTML-like Virtual
Reality Modelling Language to photographic techniques such as those employed by
QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR).
Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.The primary decision that needs to be
taken when implementing a VR solution in an organisation is determining precisely
which system fits the predetermined objectives most closely.The various suitabilities of
each technology are outlined below.
Where is VR technology currently used?
Movie and video games companies tend to lead the way in the development of this
technology, and there will be an intentional and necessary overlap between this briefing
Virtual Reality and
Display Technologies