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High quality customized Google Cardboard inspired branded VR viewers

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How VR Works

Virtual Reality creates the illusion of being in a virtual world…

Stereoscopy - The illusion of 3D

Stereoscopy is a technique in which two different images seen from slightly different viewpoints are used to create an illusion of depth. One image is presented to each eye and the brain combines these into a single 3-dimensional scene.

A common use is in stereoscopic photography. Two photographs of a scene are taken, separated by a similar distance to the distance between human eyes. This produces two images, seen from different vantage points.

The idea has been around for a long time and stereoscopes of one kind or another have a long history.

Virtual reality headsets use stereoscopy to create the illusion of 3D.

Try the Stereogram for Cardboard 2.0 app for a huge selection of historical stereograms.

Head Tracking - The illusion of direction

VR and AR headsets use tiny micro-electro-mechanical (MEMS) accelerometers and gyroscopes to keep track of the angle the headset is facing. Some systems also make use of magnetometers to track magnetic north.

When you move your head the software detects the movement through the gyroscopes and other sensors and moves the scene you are viewing to correspond to your movement. This helps to create the illusion that you are actually in the scene.

This is why Google Cardboard based systems need smartphones with gyroscopes. Fortunately, most midrange or better smartphones have these.

To improve tracking stability for Google Cardboard lay your phone down on a flat surface for about a minute. This gives the gyroscopes time to stabilise.

360° Panoramas – The illusion of immersion

A panoramic image is an image that extends all the way around for 360°. Many panoramic images also extend to quite a high angle upwards and downwards.

When using a VR headset to view a panoramic image you can turn all the way around.

 

There are various techniques for taking panoramas. One way is to take a series of pictures and stitch them into one image using software. Another way is to use a specialised camera that rotates through 360°. A third way is to use specialised cameras that take an image all the way around in one go.

 

A huge collection of panoramic images for Google Cardboard can be found in Google Maps Street View:

 

See our 360° Photography page for more info.

Position Tracking - The illusion of movement

In a full 3D environment, such as in a 3D game, you want to be able to move around.

One approach is to simply have your viewpoint move in whichever direction you are facing. This is simple but very limited.

A second approach is to use a controller such as a joystick to control movement in the environment. This is more flexible but not very realistic.

A third approach is to track the position of the headset in the world outside. Then when the person wearing the headset moves around the virtual space moves in response, creating a very convincing illusion.

Directional Audio - The illusion of directional sound

In a virtual space, sounds should seem to originate from the correct locations. Human hearing is capable of locating sounds accurately in a 360° circle horizontally and somewhat less accurately vertically.

Your brain analyses subtle differences between your two ears to locate sounds. This goes beyond simple stereo to include phase differences and spectrum analysis. There are special microphone arrays that have artificial auricles (outer ears) arranged all around them. These weird looking devices capture a comprehensive sound profile for directional sound.

When experiencing VR the software should make use of this sound information to create a convincing audio environment.