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The Science Behind: Virtual Reality

For those unfamiliar with virtual reality, it is a concept of seeing an alternate world. there is often a mask and an app involved. Using the mask, you can look around. Sometimes, there are hand controls too. Those hand controls help you look around and touch the surroundings.

Ever since my first introduced me to virtual reality I've been truly fascinated by it. Isn't it crazy a simple mask and a phone screen can "take" us to a different world? Recently, I asked myself " How does it work" and "What are the limits to it?"

Thanks to research done by the Franklin Institute, I got an insight into the development of virtual reality.

Virtual Reality games basically play with our senses to make it seem like we're somewhere we're really not.

When we're growing up, our brain makes up "rules" to help us understand how the world works.

Example: The sky is up, so almost always when we look at the sky, we know we're looking up.

We learn that things look smaller when they're farther away. For example, when we see planes up in the air from the ground, they look smaller than our hands, but we know that they're not. This is called relative sizing. We're comparing an object to another, to try to determine it's size.

This is what virtual reality developers use. They try to use these clues from everyday life to make those alternate worlds seem real. So, when your brain sees these an object smaller than it usually is, we think that it is far away. When our brains are in unfamiliar worlds, they try to it comprehend by comparing it to what we're familiar with. A Nobel-prize winning study in 2014 found that when our brains are introduced to a new space, we make a mental-map. Further research proves that it is not a physical map, rather just a part of the visual processing that our brains constantly do.

Which means, as scientist start to play with more senses than just sight, the VR experience will be even more fascinating.

To the public, this means that as we learn more about virtual reality, we get more games. Better games, dare I say. But for scientists, this also means a better understanding of the human brain.

To program something for the brain to understand, we must understand the brain first. The human brain is one of the most complex and powerful things on this planet!

Today, scientists can use virtual reality to treat post-traumatic stress disorders, surgical training, and physical therapy. And as humans find out more and more, who knows what we'll achieve?

Until then...... Stay curious ;)



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