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Virtual Reality

Overview: Virtual Reality (VR) provides the experience of perception and interaction through the use of sensors and effectors in a simulated environment. Advances in simulation technology allow computer resources to be interconnected with humans through the use of sensor systems and robotic devices. The goal of the simulation is to have a viewer see only the simulation -- as if the viewer were inside the simulation itself. Head motion and orientation are used to change the viewers visual perception, making the experience appear real. Myron Krueger, generally considered the father of the field, invented the term artificial reality for his doctoral dissertation at the University of Wisconsin (Krueger, 1974). He developed it further in his subsequent books (Krueger, 1982, 1991) and at his Connecticut-based company. Krueger's research, begun in the late '60s, is based on the principal that the human body is the ultimate user interface. He demonstrated how tools such as goggles and gloves could generate an intelligent environment. His premise was that an environment which perceives and responds to human actions has to have intelligence.

During the last twenty years others have started using microworlds and virtual realities to perform similar tasks. An advantage of Virtual reality technology is its use on tasks that are difficult to implement in other ways. In the early 1970's Tom Furness began work on a virtual cockpit for the Air Force. Around the same time Ted Brooks, started customizing a radioisotope manipulator for use with virtual objects, at the University of North Carolina. In the mid 70's, users could now feel a graphical representation of a child's block through the glove in the manipulator and they could even pick up the virtual block. Virtual reality started to gain wide public exposure, in the mid 80's, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began to use it. This technology could be used for many space-based operations, such as driving a bulldozer on the Moon by remote control or using it as a training device. Three-dimensional simulations of the space station, the landscape of Mars, and other complex scenarios were constructed by NASA.

There are numerous applications in the domains of health care, education and lifelong learning, manufacturing, and other areas where this technology shows great promise for improving productivity. Early results show an increase in productivity and a reduction in cost and resources. Examples of current use include: searching of networked databases and libraries; manipulation of molecules for development of nanotechnology devices and chemical systems; shared surgical interventions; modeling, simulation, and analyses; scientific and technical visualization applications; prototyping and planning; and training for and monitoring of complex human-computer tasks. In order to keep pace with real-time interaction, virtual reality technology must be supported by high performance computers, the associated software and high bandwidth network capabilities. Virtual reality also requires the development of new technologies such as displays that update in real-time with head motion; advances in sensory feedback such as force, touch, texture, temperature, and smell; and intelligent models of environments.

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Virtual Reality Information on the Internet
Yahoo - Virtual Reality Programming Language Yahoo index of Virtual Reality information. 

Virtual Reality Vendors
Academic Distributing
High Techsplanations, Inc.
Virtual Reality, 3D systems for computer graphics and video applications. (sales@/crystaleye.com) 

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Article References
Virtual Reality I Weintraub, J. (1989) PC AI, 3(6), 42. 
Virtual Reality II Jenkins, J. (1989) PC AI, 3(6), 43. 
Virtual Reality: Preview of the 21st Century? Johnson, C. (1992) PC AI, 6(1), 18. 
Painful Reality Of Virtualness (1992) PC AI, 6(6), 32. 
Intermedia for Executives: The Executive Information Applications Karr, R. (1992) PC AI, 6(6), 34-35. 
Inside Intelligence: The Painful Reality of Virtualness Keyes, J. (1992) PC AI, 6(6), 32-33. 
Inside Intelligence: Virtual Reality or Game Reality? Keyes, J. (1994) PC AI, 8(3) , 36. 
Virtual Reality And Real Business Blanchard, D. (1995) PC AI, 9(6) , 16. 

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