Virtual Reality (VR), which can be referred to as immersive multimedia or computer-simulated life, replicates an environment that simulates physical presence in places in the real world or imagined worlds and lets the user interact in that world. Virtual reality artificially creates sensory experiences, which can include sight, hearing, touch, and smell.
Most up to date virtual reality environments are displayed either on a computer screen or with special stereoscopic displays, and some simulations include additional sensory information and focus on real sound through speakers or headphones targeted towards VR users. Some advanced, haptic, systems now include tactile information, generally known as force feedback in medical, gaming and military applications. Furthermore, virtual reality covers remote communication environments which provide virtual presence of users with the concepts of telepresence and telexistence or a virtual artifact (VA) either through the use of standard input devices such as a keyboard and mouse, or through multimodal devices such as a wired glove or omnidirectional treadmills. The simulated environment can be similar to the real world in order to create a lifelike experience—for example, in simulations for pilot or combat training—or it differs significantly from reality, such as in VR games.
In 1938, Antonin Artaud described the illusory nature of characters and objects in the theatre as “la réalité virtuelle” in a collection of essays, Le Théâtre et son double. The English translation of this book, published in 1958 as The Theater and its Double, is the earliest published use of the term “virtual reality”.
The term “artificial reality”, coined by Myron Krueger, has been in use since the 1970s. The term “Virtual Reality” was used in The Judas Mandala, a 1982 science-fiction novel by Damien Broderick. The Oxford English Dictionary cites a 1987 article titled “Virtual reality”, but the article is not about VR technology. Virtual Reality in its modern usage was popularised by Jaron Lanier through his company VPL Research. VPL Research held many of the mid eighties VR patents, and they developed the first widely used HMD: EyePhone and Haptic Input DataGlove. The concept of virtual reality was popularized in mass media by movies such as Brainstorm and The Lawnmower Man. The VR research boom of the 1990s was accompanied by the non-fiction book Virtual Reality (1991) by Howard Rheingold. The book served to demystify the subject, making it more accessible to less technical researchers and enthusiasts.