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virtual reality 101


What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality (or VR) is technology that virtually places the experiencer in another location, obscuring all natural surroundings in the real world.

what is virtual reality
Virtual Reality

VR vs AR vs MR

Virtual reality (VR) places the experiencer in a completely virtual location.


Augmented reality (AR) adds digital content on top of the experiencer’s view of the real world.


Mixed Reality (MR) is similar to AR, except the digital content is integrated into the natural world. For example, if a virtual item were under a real table, you would have to bend down to see it.

Image by XR Expo

What is tethered VR?

Tethered VR means the VR headset is connected by a cord or cords to a PC. Non-wireless VR.

There are
5 main types
of VR HMDs

Base Station tracked

This type of headset requires multiple Base Stations, which are the communication beacons that track the precise movements and locations of the headset, controllers, and other accessories. 

Inside-out tracking

These headsets do not require base stations, as they have built-in cameras that track the movement and location of the HMD relative to your surroundings, as well as the movements and locations of the controllers.


This kind of headset has a computer built into it, so it does not require a PC to tether to. All-in-ones by default use inside-out tracking.

Phone headsets

This is a headset that holds a cell phone, so it works like an all-in-one, usually without controllers. It only has 3 degrees of freedom, so you cannot move within the virtual space.

Camera tracked

This type of headset is tracked via external cameras rather than base stations. A popular example is PlayStation VR.

Oculus vs all other headsets

Oculus is owned by Facebook, who created their own marketplace with several exclusive games. You can bypass this using a 3rd party program like Revive, however you will still need a facebook login.

Image by Arthur Edelmans

for VR

Create or view 3D rendered products
Streaming services like Netflix
Virtual venues, such as concerts and sporting events
Real Estate
what is virtual reality.png
Degrees of Freedom (DoF) Controller Movements

3 Degrees of Freedom: rotational movement around the x, y, and z axes. 3 DoF in VR refers to the type where you can look around you, but it does not track movement within the 3d virtual space.

6 Degrees of Freedom: translational movement, moving forward /backward, left/right, and up/down. 6 DoF in VR allows you to move within the virtual space and feel more immersed.

Early Adopter

Someone who is willing to invest, test, play and/or set up gear or games during an early access phase and help developers make improvements.


Someone who has experience and passion for the latest and greatest product in their field. They are more likely to have the knowledge and motivation to handle troubleshooting complex issues.

Field of View (FOV)

The extent of the observable natural or virtual world that is seen at any given moment. The average human field of view is approximately 200 degrees.

Gaming PC

Don’t be intimidated by the term “gaming.” This just refers to an especially powerful computer, usually with a high-performance video card and high core-count CPUs. Most headsets require a Gaming PC for best performance.

Head Mounted Display (HMD)

A head mounted display is goggles, a helmet, or a headset with screens in front of each eye that create a virtual 3D image for the wearer.

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

HDR is a technology that improves the range of color and contrast in a digital image.

Interpupillary Distance (IPD)

IPD is the distance between the centers of the pupils. This measurement is important for adjusting the perceived image distance in the VR headset to align with the viewer’s eyes properly. Mechanical IPD adjustment on a headset refers to when the lenses are physically moved to fit the user, as opposed to Digital IPD adjustment in which the images are only adjusted within the screens.


Latency refers to the time lag between input and effect. For example, if you were to move a controller with your hand, latency would be how long it takes for your digital hand in VR to move. The closer to zero: the better. High latency can cause detachment and motion sickness.

Location Based Virtual Reality (LBVR)

LBVR is a VR experience at a location outside your house, based in a specific location. Examples of places you might find LBVR include Arcades, theme parks, museums, and installations.


Organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) screens aren’t backlit; the pixels emit their own light. When something should be black on the screen, the pixels in that area are completely off instead of trying to block a white light layer like on LED screens. This results in deeper blacks, more vibrant colours, and overall better contrast than LED.

However, LED VR displays have less screen door effect and can achieve higher refresh rates than OLED.

Light-emitting diode (LED) screens are made of a layer of pixels and a layer of white light behind the pixels. The only thing the pixels do is decide what color gets through.

Pixel Density vs Resolution

Pixel density is the number of pixels within an area of space, often measured in Pixels per Inch (ppi.) 


Resolution is the number of pixels in an image, the amount of detail that an image has. Unlike pixel density, resolution does not indicate the viewing size of an image.

Refresh Rate vs Frames per Second (FPS)

The refresh rate refers to how many times per second (measured in Hz) a screen is refreshing the digital image. The FPS is how many times per second the computer is outputting a new image. The refresh rate cannot exceed the FPS, but the FPS can exceed the refresh rate. The higher both are, the smoother digital images in motion appear and the less motion blur there is.

USB vs Motion-tracked Accessories

USB accessories connect to the computer and are not tracked by the headset, base stations, or camera.

Motion-tracked accessories, like the Knuckles or Vive controllers, are seen and tracked by the headset or base stations.

Image by fabio
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