Introduction to Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is stimulating the user’s senses in such a way that a computer generated world is experienced as real. In order to get a true illusion of reality, it is essential for the user to have influence on this virtual environment.

Interaction with a virtual environment

All that has to be done in order to raise the illusion of being in or acting upon a virtual world or virtual environment, is providing a simulation of the interaction between human being and this real environment. This simulation is -at least- partly attained by means of Virtual Reality interfaces connected to a computer. Basically, a VR interface stimulates one of the human senses. This has not necessarily got to be as complex as it sounds, e.g. a PC-monitor stimulates the visual sense; a headphone stimulates the auditory sense. Consequently, these two kinds of interfaces are widely employed as Virtual Reality interfaces.

A haptic interface (FCS HapticMaster)

With the gustatory and olfactory sense left out of consideration, the hardest part of simulating the interaction between human being and real environment is stimulating the tactile sense and the proprioceptive system (kinesthetic sense). This can be done using a so-called haptic interface. This is a device configured to provide haptic information to a human. Just as a video interface allows the user to see a computer generated scene, a haptic interface permits the user to “feel” it. Haptic displays generate forces and motions, which are sensed through both touch and kinesthesia.

On-body interface (Exoskeleton)

Off-body interface (Phantom Desktop)

Currently, there are two main kinds of haptic interfaces, namely the off-body interface and the on-body interface. The main difference is that the mass of the on-body interface is supported by the operator while the off-body interface rests on the floor. Nowadays, most commercially available devices are off-body.

The VR-lab

Virtual Reality technology can be usefully applied to a broad range of fields. Within the Virtual Reality laboratory (VR-lab), the emphasis is mainly on two different application areas:


Virtual Reality as an engineering tool;


Virtual Reality as a medical training tool.