Virtual Reality (VR), sometimes referred to as immersive multimedia, is a computer-simulated environment that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world or imagined worlds. Virtual reality can recreate sensory experiences, which include virtual taste, sight, smell, sound, and touch.
Most current virtual reality environments are displayed either on a computer screen or with special stereoscopic displays, and some simulations include additional sensory information and emphasise 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 practice, it is currently very difficult to create a high-fidelity virtual reality experience, because of technical limitations on processing power, image resolution, and communication bandwidth. However, VR's proponents hope that virtual reality's enabling technologies become more powerful and cost effective over time.
Virtual reality is often used to describe a wide variety of applications commonly associated with immersive, highly visual, 3D environments. The development of CAD software, graphics hardware acceleration, head-mounted displays, datagloves, and miniaturization have helped popularize the notion. In the book The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality by Michael R. Heim, seven different concepts of virtual reality are identified: simulation, interaction, artificiality, immersion, telepresence, full-body immersion, and network communication. People often identify VR with head mounted displays and data suits.
- 1 Concept origins
- 2 History
- 3 Impact
- 4 Use
- 5 Implementation
- 6 Concerns and challenges
- 7 Pioneers and notables
- 8 Industry use
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
The term "artificial reality", coined by Myron Krueger, has been in use since the 1970s; however, the origin of the term "virtual reality" can be traced back to the French playwright, poet, actor, and director Antonin Artaud. In his seminal book The Theatre and Its Double (1938), Artaud described theatre as "la réalité virtuelle", a virtual reality in which, in Erik Davis's words, "characters, objects, and images take on the phantasmagoric force of alchemy's visionary internal dramas". Artaud claimed that the "perpetual allusion to the materials and the principle of the theater found in almost all alchemical books should be understood as the expression of an identity [...] existing between the world in which the characters, images, and in a general way all that constitutes the virtual reality of the theater develops, and the purely fictitious and illusory world in which the symbols of alchemy are evolved".
The term was also used in The Judas Mandala, a 1982 science-fiction novel by Damien Broderick, where the context of use is somewhat different from that defined above. The earliest use cited by the Oxford English Dictionary is in a 1987 article titled "Virtual reality", but the article is not about VR technology. 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.
Multimedia: from Wagner to Virtual Reality, edited by Randall Packer and Ken Jordan and first published in 2001, explores the term and its history from an avant-garde perspective. Philosophical implications of the concept of VR are discussed in books including Philip Zhai's Get Real: A Philosophical Adventure in Virtual Reality (1998) and Digital Sensations: Space, Identity and Embodiment in Virtual Reality (1999), written by Ken Hillis.
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|This section possibly contains previously unpublished synthesis of published material that conveys ideas not attributable to the original sources. (February 2015)|
- 1860s : Virtual reality can trace its roots to the 1860s, when 360-degree art through panoramic murals began to appear. An example of this would be Baldassare Peruzzi's piece titled, Sala delle Prospettive.
- 1930s : "Pygmalion's Spectacles"  by Stanley G. Weinbaum describes a goggle-based virtual reality system with holographic recording of fictional experiences including smell and touch.
- 1950s : Morton Heilig wrote in the 1950s of an "Experience Theatre" that could encompass all the senses in an effective manner, thus drawing the viewer into the onscreen activity. He built a prototype of his vision dubbed the Sensorama in 1962, along with five short films to be displayed in it while engaging multiple senses (sight, sound, smell, and touch). Predating digital computing, the Sensorama was a mechanical device, which reportedly still functions today. Around this time, Douglas Englebart uses computer screens as both input and output devices.
- 1966 : Thomas A. Furness III introduces a visual flight simulator for the Air Force.
- 1977 : Also notable among the earlier hypermedia and virtual reality systems was the Aspen Movie Map, which was created at MIT in 1977. The program was a crude virtual simulation of Aspen, Colorado in which users could wander the streets in one of three modes: summer, winter, and polygons. The first two were based on photographs—the researchers actually photographed every possible movement through the city's street grid in both seasons—and the third was a basic 3-D model of the city.
- 1980s : The term "virtual reality" was popularized by Jaron Lanier, one of the modern pioneers of the field. Lanier had founded the company VPL Research in 1985, which developed and built some of the seminal "goggles and gloves" systems of that decade.
- 1990 : Jonathan Waldern, a VR Ph.D, demonstrates "Virtuality" at the Computer Graphics 90 exhibition staged at London's Alexandra Palace.
- 1991 : Sega announces the Sega VR headset for arcade games and the Mega Drive console. It used LCD screens in the visor, stereo headphones, and inertial sensors that allowed the system to track and react to the movements of the user's head.
- 1991 : Virtuality launches and goes on to become the first mass-produced, networked, multiplayer VR location-based entertainment system. It would be released in many countries, including a dedicated VR arcade at Embarcadero Center in San Francisco. Costing up to $73,000 per multi-pod Virtuality system, they featured headsets and exoskeleton gloves that gave one of the first "immersive" VR experiences.
- 1991 : Antonio Medina, a MIT graduate and NASA scientist, designed a virtual reality system to "drive" Mars rovers from Earth in apparent real time despite the substantial delay of Mars-Earth-Mars signals. The system, termed "Computer-Simulated Teleoperation" as published by Rand, is an extension of virtual reality.
- 1991 : Carolina Cruz-Neira, Daniel J. Sandin and Thomas A. DeFanti from Electronic Visualisation Lab create the first cubic immersive room, replacing goggles by a multi-projected environment where people can see their body and other people around.
- 1992 : Computer Gaming World predicts "Affordable VR by 1994".
- 1994 : Sega releases the Sega VR-1 motion simulator arcade attraction, in SegaWorld amusement arcades. It was able to track head movement and featured 3D polygon graphics in stereoscopic 3D, powered by the Sega Model 1 arcade system board.
- 1995 : The artist Maurice Benayoun creates the first VR artwork connecting in real time 2 continents: the "Tunnel under the Atlantic" between the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal. The installation included dynamic real time 3d modeling, video chat, spatialized sound and AI content management.
- 1995 : Virtual Boy was created by Nintendo and was released in Japan on July 21 and in North America on August 15.
- 2001 : SAS3 or SAS Cube has been the first PC based cubic room, developed by Z-A Production (Maurice Benayoun, David Nahon), Barco, Clarté, installed in Laval France in April 2001. The SAS library gave birth to Virtools VRPack.
- 2007 : Google introduces Street View, a service that shows panoramic views of an increasing number of worldwide positions such as roads, indoor buildings and rural areas. It also features a stereoscopic 3D mode, introduced in 2010.
- 2013 : Nintendo files a patent for the concept of using VR technology to produce a more realistic 3D effect on a 2D television. A camera on the TV tracks the viewer's location relative to the TV, and if the viewer moves, everything on the screen reorients itself appropriately. "For example, if you were looking at a forest, you could shift your head to the right to discover someone standing behind a tree."
- 2014 : Facebook purchases a company that makes virtual reality headsets, Oculus VR, for $2 billion. Sony announces Project Morpheus, a virtual reality headset for the PS4. Google announces Cardboard, a do-it-yourself stereoscopic viewer for smartphones.
- 2014 : Google and others invest more than $500m into Magic Leap, a startup company that is working on head-mounted devices which superimpose 3D computer-generated imagery over real world objects, by projecting a digital light field into the user's eye.
There has been an increase in interest in the potential social impact of new technologies, such as virtual reality. In the book Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution, Blascovich and Bailenson review the literature on the psychology and sociology behind life in virtual reality.
In addition, Mychilo S. Cline, in his book Power, Madness, and Immortality: The Future of Virtual Reality, argues that virtual reality will lead to a number of important changes in human life and activity. He argues that virtual reality will be integrated into daily life and activity, and will be used in various human ways. Another such speculation has been written up on how to reach ultimate happiness via virtual reality. He also argues that techniques will be developed to influence human behavior, interpersonal communication, and cognition. As we spend more and more time in virtual space, there would be a gradual "migration to virtual space", resulting in important changes in economics, worldview, and culture.
Heritage and archaeology
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The first use of a VR presentation in a heritage application was in 1994, when a museum visitor interpretation provided an interactive "walk-through" of a 3D reconstruction of Dudley Castle in England as it was in 1550. This consisted of a computer controlled laserdisc-based system designed by British based engineer Colin Johnson. The system was featured in a conference held by the British Museum in November 1994, and in the subsequent technical paper, Imaging the Past - Electronic Imaging and Computer Graphics in Museums and Archaeology.
Virtual reality enables heritage sites to be recreated extremely accurately, so that the recreations can be published in various media. The original sites are often inaccessible to the public, or may even no longer exist. This technology can be used to develop virtual replicas of caves, natural environment, old towns, monuments, sculptures and archaeological elements.
Strides are being made in the realm of education, although much needs to be done. The possibilities of VR and education are endless and bring many advantages to pupils of all ages.
Few are creating content that may be used for educational  purposes, with most advances being done in the entertainment industry, but many understand and realize the future and the importance of education and VR.
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Many science fiction books and films have imagined characters being "trapped in virtual reality".
A comprehensive and specific fictional model for virtual reality was published in 1935 in the short story Pygmalion's Spectacles  by Stanley G. Weinbaum. A more modern work to use this idea was Daniel F. Galouye's novel Simulacron-3, which was made into a German teleplay titled Welt am Draht ("World on a Wire") in 1973. Other science fiction books have promoted the idea of virtual reality as a partial, but not total, substitution for the misery of reality, or have touted it as a method for creating virtual worlds in which one may escape from Earth.
Stanisław Lem's 1961 story "I (Profesor Corcoran)", translated in English as "Further Reminiscences of Ijon Tichy I", dealt with a scientist who created a number of computer-simulated people living in a virtual world. Lem further explored the implications of what he termed "phantomatics" in his nonfictional 1964 treatise Summa Technologiae. The Piers Anthony novel Killobyte follows the story of a paralyzed cop trapped in a virtual reality game by a hacker, whom he must stop to save a fellow trapped player slowly succumbing to insulin shock.
Other popular fictional works that use the concept of virtual reality include William Gibson's Neuromancer which defined the concept of cyberspace, Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, in which he made extensive reference to the term avatar to describe one's representation in a virtual world, and Rudy Rucker's The Hacker and the Ants, in which programmer Jerzy Rugby uses VR for robot design and testing. The Otherland series of 4 novels by Tad Williams, published from 1996 to 2001 and set in the 2070s, shows a world where the Internet has become accessible via virtual reality.
The Doctor Who serial "The Deadly Assassin", first broadcast in 1976, introduced a dream-like computer-generated reality, known as the Matrix. British BBC2 sci-fi series Red Dwarf featured a virtual reality game titled "Better Than Life", in which the main characters had spent many years connected. Saban's syndicated superhero television series VR Troopers also made use of the concept.
- Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1973 film Welt am Draht is based on a virtual reality simulation inside a virtual reality simulation
- One year later in 1983, the Natalie Wood / Christopher Walken film Brainstorm revolved around the production, use, and misuse of a VR device.
- Total Recall (1990 film), directed by Paul Verhoeven and based on the Philip K. Dick story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale"
- A VR-like system, used to record and play back dreams, figures centrally in Wim Wenders' 1991 film Until the End of the World.
- The 1992 film The Lawnmower Man tells the tale of a research scientist who uses a VR system to jumpstart the mental and physical development of his mentally handicapped gardener.
- The 1993 film Arcade is centered around a new virtual reality game (from which the film gets its name) that actively traps those who play it inside its world.
- The 1995 film Johnny Mnemonic has the main character Johnny (played by Keanu Reeves) use virtual reality goggles and brain–computer interfaces to access the Internet and extract encrypted information in his own brain.
- The 1995 film Virtuosity has Russell Crowe as a virtual reality serial killer name SID 6.7 (Sadistic, Intelligent and Dangerous) who is used a simulation to train real-world police officer, but manages to escape into the real world.
- Plot of The Thirteenth Floor (1999) is based on two virtual reality simulations, one in another.
- In 1999, The Matrix and later sequels explored the possibility that our world is actually a vast Virtual Reality (or more precisely, simulated reality) created by artificially intelligent machines.
- eXistenZ (1999), by David Cronenberg, in which level switches occur so seamlessly and numerously that at the end of the movie it is difficult to tell whether the main characters are back in "reality"
- In the film Avatar (2009) the humans are hooked up to experience what their avatars perform remotely.
- Surrogates (2009) is based on a brain–computer interface that allows people to control realistic humanoid robots, giving them full sensory feedback.
David Em was the first fine artist to create navigable virtual worlds in the 1970s. His early work was done on mainframes at Information International, Inc., Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and California Institute of Technology. Jeffrey Shaw explored the potential of VR in fine arts with early works like Legible City (1989), Virtual Museum (1991), and Golden Calf (1994). Canadian artist Char Davies created immersive VR art pieces Osmose (1995) and Ephémère (1998). Maurice Benayoun's work introduced metaphorical, philosophical or political content, combining VR, network, generation and intelligent agents, in works like Is God Flat? (1994), "Is the Devil Curved? (1995)"The Tunnel under the Atlantic (1995), and World Skin, a Photo Safari in the Land of War (1997). Other pioneering artists working in VR have include Luc Courchesne, Rita Addison, Knowbotic Research, Rebecca Allen, Perry Hoberman, Jacki Morie, Margaret Dolinsky and Brenda Laurel. All mentioned artists are documented in the Database of Virtual Art.
The use of graphics, sound and input technology in video games can be incorporated into VR. Several Virtual Reality head mounted displays (HMD) were released for gaming during the early-mid 1990s. These included the Virtual Boy developed by Nintendo, the iGlasses developed by Virtual I-O, the Cybermaxx developed by Victormaxx and the VFX-1 developed by Forte Technologies. Other modern examples of narrow VR for gaming include the Wii Remote, the Kinect, and the PlayStation Move/PlayStation Eye, all of which track and send motion input of the players to the game console somewhat accurately. There is also a new high field of view VR headset system in development designed specifically for gaming called the Oculus Rift. There has also been recent development in consumer-oriented omnidirectional treadmills because of Oculus Rift such as Virtuix Omni and Cyberith Virtualizer, which can simulate the motion of walking in a stationary environment. Sony announced their rival to the Oculus Rift technology as the prototype Project Morpheus at the Game Developers Conference during March 2014.
Immersive virtual musical instruments build on the trend in electronic musical instruments to develop new ways to control sound and perform music such as evidenced by conferences like NIME and aim to represent musical events and sound parameters in a virtual reality in such a way that they can be perceived not only through auditory feedback, but also visually in 3D and possibly through tactile as well as haptic feedback, allowing the development of novel interaction metaphors beyond manipulation such as prehension.
The second music video of Take On Me, a song by the Norwegian synthpop band A-ha used a pencil-sketch animation / live-action combination called rotoscoping, in which the live-action footage is traced-over frame by frame to give the characters realistic movements. Approximately 3,000 frames were rotoscoped, which took 16 weeks to complete.
The primary use of VR in a therapeutic role is its application to various forms of exposure therapy, ranging from phobia treatments to newer approaches to treating PTSD. A very basic VR simulation with simple sight and sound models has been shown to be invaluable in phobia treatment, like zoophobia, and acrophobia, as a step between basic exposure therapy such as the use of simulacra and true exposure. A much more recent application is being piloted by the U.S. Navy to use a much more complex simulation to immerse veterans suffering from PTSD in simulations of urban combat settings. Much as in phobia treatment, exposure to the subject of the trauma or fear leads to desensitization, and a significant reduction in symptoms.
Other research fields in which the use of virtual reality is being explored are physical medicine, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. In adult rehabilitation, a variety of virtual reality applications are currently being evaluated within upper and lower limb motor rehabilitation for individuals recovering from stroke or spinal cord injury. In pediatrics, the use of virtual reality is being evaluated to promote movement abilities, navigational abilities, or social skills in children with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury, or other disabilities. Research evidence is emerging rapidly in the field of virtual reality for therapeutic uses. A number of recent reviews published in peer-reviewed journals have summarized the current evidence for the use of Virtual Reality within pediatric and adult rehabilitation. One such review concluded that the field is potentially promising. The new field of Virtual rehabilitation has emerged recently.
There has also been talks of letting physical therapist use VR to work with patients who are in another location. They could use multiple 3-D cameras to project a 3-D avatar of the therapist who can then guide the patient throughout the patient's exercise. Haptic devices can also be used for the doctor to feel the conditions of the patient's muscle. However, to transfer the required information to support real time interactions, is far too slow at the moment.
Computer-generated graphics in the 1980s made possible a new paradigm for therapy planning introducing the ability to recreate human anatomy in a virtual space, in what could be termed surgical simulation. The objective was to make medical therapy (and education) more precise, effective, and affordable. This type of virtual reality consists of a visually realistic environment with which the user has some degree of sensory interaction. The interactions range from a standard computer-user interface with cursor and keyboard, to the use of positionally sensitive controllers to manipulate the virtual image.
The human anatomy initially used standardised patient data to create a digital representation of anatomic space. Later, with the advent of Computer Tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging  , the anatomy became patient-specific and this gave impulse to surgical planning in several surgical specialties, notably neurosurgery  and oral and maxillofacial surgery. This ultimately gave rise to the tools now available for intra-operative navigation and stereotactic surgery, like for example the Dextroscope, which was the "first widely marketed simplified virtual reality surgical simulation environment in neurosurgery."
The usage of VR in a training perspective is to allow professionals to conduct training in a virtual environment where they can improve upon their skills without the consequence of failing the operation.
VR plays an important role in combat training for the military. It allows the recruits to train under a controlled environment where they are to respond to different types of combat situations. A fully immersive virtual reality that uses Head-mounted display (HMD), data suits, data glove, and VR weapon are used to train for combat. This setup allows the training's reset time to be cut down, and allows more repetition in a shorter amount of time. The fully immersive training environment allows the soldiers to train through a wide variety of terrains, situations and scenarios.
VR is also used in flight simulation for the Air Force where people are trained to be pilots. The simulator would sit on top of a hydraulic lift system that reacts to the user inputs and events. When the pilot steer the aircraft, the module would turn and tilt accordingly to provide haptic feedback. The flight simulator can range from a fully enclosed module to a series of computer monitors providing the pilot's point of view. The most important reasons on using simulators over learning with a real aircraft are the reduction of transference time between land training and real flight, the safety, economy and absence of pollution. By the same token, virtual driving simulations are used to train tank drivers on the basics before allowing them to operate the real vehicle. Finally, the same goes for truck driving simulators, in which Belgian firemen are for example trained to drive in a way that prevents as much damage as possible. As these drivers often have less experience than other truck drivers, virtual reality training allows them to compensate this. In the near future, similar projects are expected for all drivers of priority vehicles, including the police.
Medical personnel are able to train through VR to deal with a wider variety of injuries. An experiment was performed by sixteen surgical residents where eight of them went through laparoscopic cholecystectomy through VR training. They then came out 29% faster at gallbladder dissection than the controlled group.
Virtual reality can serve to new product design, helping as an ancillary tool for engineering in manufacturing processes, new product prototypes, and simulation. Among other examples, electronic design automation, CAD, Finite Element Analysis, and computer-aided manufacturing are widely utilized programs. The use of Stereolithography and 3D printing shows how computer graphic modeling can be applied to create physical parts of real objects used in naval, aerospace, and automotive industries, which can be seen, for example, in the VR laboratory of VW in Mladá Boleslav. Beyond modeling assembly parts, 3D computer graphics techniques are currently used in the research and development of medical devices for therapies, treatments, patient monitoring, and early diagnoses of complex diseases.
In 2010, 3D virtual reality was becoming widely used for urban regeneration and planning and transport projects.
In 2007 development began on a virtual reality software which took design coordinate geometry used by land surveyors and civil engineers and incorporated precision spatial information created automatically by the lines and curves typically shown on subdivision plats and land surveying plans. These precise spatial areas cross referenced color and texture to an item list. The item list contained a set of controls for 3D rendering such as water reflective surface or building height. The land surface in software to create a contour map uses a digital terrain model (DTM). By 2010, prototype software was developed for the core technology to automate the process leading from design to virtualization. The first beta users in 2011 were able to press a single function and automatically drape the design or survey data over the digital terrain to create data structures that are passed into a video gaming engine to create a virtual interactive world showing massing of buildings in relation to man made improvements.
It was the first application where virtual reality was made effortless for Urban Planning principals using technology. The software was improved to implement massing or 3D models from other free or commercially sold software to create more realistic virtual reality with very little time and effort (see the below image). The software is marketed as LandMentor and is the first precision design technology to make Urban Planning widely available with a short learning curve.
Concerns and challenges
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Virtual reality technology faces a number of challenges, most of which involve motion sickness and technical matters. Users might become disoriented in a purely virtual environment, causing balance issues; computer latency might affect the simulation, providing a less-than-satisfactory end-user experience; the complicated nature of head-mounted displays and input systems such as specialized gloves and boots may require specialized training to operate, and navigating the non-virtual environment (if the user is not confined to a limited area) might prove dangerous without external sensory information.
In January 2014, Michael Abrash gave a talk on VR at Steam Dev Days. He listed all the requirements necessary to establish presence and concluded that a great VR system will be available in 2015 or soon after. While the visual aspect of VR is close to being solved, he stated that there are other areas of VR that need solutions, such as 3D audio, haptics, body tracking, and input. However, 3D audio effects exist in games and simulate the head-related transfer function of the listener (especially using headphones). Examples include Environmental Audio Extensions (EAX), DirectSound and OpenAL.
VR audio developer Varun Nair points out that from a design perspective, sound for VR is still very much an open book. Many of the game audio design principles, especially those related to FPS games, crumble in virtual reality. He encourages more sound designers to get involved in virtual reality audio to experiment and push VR audio forward.
Pioneers and notables
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- Maurice Benayoun
- Mark Bolas
- Fred Brooks
- Anshe Chung
- Edmond Couchot
- James H. Clark
- Doug Church
- Char Davies
- Tom DeFanti
- David Em
- Scott Fisher
- William Gibson
- Morton Heilig
- Eric Howlett
- Myron Krueger
- Knowbotic Research
- Jaron Lanier
- Brenda Laurel
- Palmer Luckey
- Michael Naimark
- Randy Pausch
- Mark Pesce
- Warren Robinett
- Philip Rosedale
- Louis Rosenberg
- Dan Sandin
- Susumu Tachi
- Ivan Sutherland
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The companies working in the virtual reality sector fall broadly into three categories of involvement: hardware (that is, making headsets and input devices specific to VR), software (that is, producing software for interfacing with the hardware or for delivering content to users) and content creation (that is, producing content, whether interactive or passive, for consumption with VR hardware.
- Carl Zeiss (Carl Zeiss Cinemizer)
- Facebook (Oculus Rift)
- HTC (HTC Vive)
- Razer (OSVR)
- Google (Google Cardboard)
- Samsung (Samsung Gear VR)
- Sony Computer Entertainment (Project Morpheus)
- Input devices:
- Rebecca Allen
- Maurice Benayoun
- Sheldon Brown
- Char Davies
- David Em
- Myron Krueger
- Jaron Lanier
- Brenda Laurel
- Michael Naimark
- Jeffrey Shaw
- Nicole Stenger
- Cave automatic virtual environment
- Computer-mediated reality
- Holographic Universe
- Methods of virtual reality
- Reality–virtuality continuum
- Virtual globe
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- Mixed Reality Scale - Milgram and Kishino’s (1994) Virtuality Continuum paraphrase with examples.
- Drummond, Katie (2014). "The Rise and Fall and Rise of Virtual Reality". The Verge. Retrieved 15 November 2014. Interviews on the history and future of virtual reality by leaders in the field.