Research (10)

by Eiran Shalev, CTO, NewPathVR

When Lisa Padilla first approached me with her vision for NewPathVR, I was immediately inspired by what we could achieve. Imagine the possibilities to not only unlock the hidden power of the brain but to empower our users to look inside themselves and find a way to improve. To feel better. Gain the strength to refine, and then to share that with others. While VR may be many things, to the folks at NewPath, it is the best tool to reprogram the brain for success. We huddled around and researched hundreds of papers where studies demonstrated how positive reinforcement, perception, and sensory filters can influence our behavior, as well as our memories.

Research and Design Phase
We knew we needed a prototype to prove VR as the right medium for spiritual growth, but what platform could serve us best?. Was this going to be a seated experience? How much interaction should it have? And what to build? For instance, did you know that if you perceive yourself as taller in VR, it actually makes you feel more confident during and after you remove your head-mounted display (HMD)? As it turns out, this is very true. Our discussions turned towards identity, and how to connect our users with their VR self. In gaming, this is called your “player self”. You have three “selves” actually. The first self, the real you, is what you do outside of games or VR experiences - ie your life: work, job, family, etc. The second self is the you that plays the game using peripherals, and experiences the content through the point of view of one or several characters in the game. You become a “player self” and share characteristics with the “game self”, but you are not the character. The third self, the “game self”, is the content’s avatar that represents you, and has a role to play in the content’s story or scenarios that your avatar experiences. By witnessing the story, and in some cases, by making choices for your avatar “game self”, your “player self” gets to experience those same emotions, and thus, share those same experiences. The cool thing about VR is that the player and the game self boundaries become blurred, such that you feel as if you are literally inside the content, and you feel much closer emotionally to the experience then you would be if you were observing the content through a monitor or TV screen. Keep in mind that taking an experience designed for a flat screen does not merit porting it to VR. All content in VR should be unique and specifically designed to transform and empower the user.

When building a VR experience, game mechanics that are based on challenge-reward systems create much more value for the user if they incorporate your senses. Adding a 360 visual experience may not be enough to trigger personal, real-world change. Adding 360 audio to that experience brings us closer, but is still not enough. By adding the ability to use your body, such as walking around and touching virtual objects, to influence the content, our team realized that we could create a world where consequences could have just as much impact on the “player self” as incentives. What’s more, if we incorporate at least 3 senses, this combination activates the memory centers or the brain. With the right experience, a player may create an association between something he/she experiences in VR, and a similar experience in his/her real life.

So, we knew we had to make a room-scale experience, and we knew we wanted it to leverage game mechanics that could change a player’s mood. The obvious choice for platform was the HTC Vive. But what about the content? I volunteered that for a prototype, we should keep things simple and demonstrate that we could achieve a basic goal. We wanted to transform a user’s mood from a negative or an indifferent position into a positive one. However, going through a sequential experience in VR, will usually not improve your life on exposure alone. In the real-world (or what we perceive to be our reality), we can usually learn any skill and master it, by practicing it over and over again. In our VR prototype, we needed to do the same. We decided that if we could create content that would teach our players some moral or zen-like lesson. A takeaway. But then also provided an opportunity to apply it, then we could create real personal growth.

Our “Self-Compassion Buddy” vision was born. In our prototype, we essentially introduced our users to their avatar self by literally creating a virtual mirror. The system tracked each of the user’s arms and mimicked his/her movement through the avatar that was reflected in the mirror. Our research showed that in order to strengthen the bond between the player-self and the avatar game-self, our users would need to interact with their mirrored reflection for approximately 70 seconds. This seems like a long time for a prototype, but in a future, commercial version of our product, the interaction could involve a game mechanic with a reward incentive. Next, we focused on the story ingredient. We did not require an elaborate story to demonstrate our vision; only a simple scene based on some narrative context. I believe that in order to create positive change or at least to invoke positive feelings, you need to have contrast, and that means placing the user into a negative situation - for a very short time of course. Then, follow it up with a positive environment filled with good energy. By placing the user into a slightly distressed state, and then moving him/her into a comfort zone, you can generate a sensation of emotional gratification. Games also apply a similar approach when they create a difficult challenge, in which a player must learn a new skill to overcome it. Once the skill is learned, the obstacle is easily navigated, and the player moves on to claim his/her reward. But more importantly, in your own life, when you undergo challenging times, and not only survive them, but learn to be stronger as a result of them, you then undergo positive change within yourself. Through overcoming these challenges, you may either improve your level of independence and self-sufficiency, or you may grow more carefree by successfully navigating stress and becoming familiar with it.

The Prototype Phase
We applied this to our “self-compassion” prototype. Imagine being immersed in a dirty, poorly-lit, virtual environment that exhumed negativity. You find yourself staring at your reflection in a mirror. You move, it moves. After a lengthy exposure to your reflected avatar, your avatar aka “buddy”, starts moving independently of you. It steps out of the mirror. Charges at you, invading your personal space. The result. You start feeling threatened. Your “inner bully” points his red finger at you and verbally abuses you, calling you “a loser...and a failure in life”. After a few moments of this, your brain switches to panic mode - a sort of fight-or-flight response. We kept the user in this state for about 7-10 seconds before interrupting the experience with another friendlier avatar. Any longer than that and we would have risked spoiling the whole experience and alienating our user.


The friendlier avatar, a nurturing female guide appears and rushes to your rescue. Freezing the bully in action, she explains to you that the bully is you. Recap: by belittling yourself, you lose confidence in yourself. The female guide then offers words of encouragement to rebuild your confidence. Her words manifest in a new scene in which soap bubbles shower from the sky. Some of the bubbles contain cute gifts such as adorable stuffed animals and pets. We introduced a bit of the fun factor in this scene. When the user pops one of these soap bubbles containing a gift, the female avatar aka your “guide” offers words of encouragement with a positive message, ie: “Lots of people care about you.” Each time you pop a bubble, the gift item inside goes into your collection, and new positive words materialize. In the next scene, you have an opportunity to apply these gifts and redeem yourself. We call this the “pay-it-forward phase.” You observe three couples, standing at surrounding points around you. These couples each reveal a virtual buddy figure matched with his respective inner-bully avatar. Similar to your initial case, the bully verbally terrorizes his victim. This continues in an endless cycle, until you interrupt the buddy, and hand out gifts from your previous scene's collection. Each time your gifts are received, the words that were initially associated with the gift, retrigger audio playback again. The buddy’s inner-bully vanishes and the buddy then begins playing the ukulele. When all three avatar buddies receive their gifts and play the ukulele, a well-known song begins playing, lifting the mood even more and embracing a sense of relief and closure. The three playing buddies merge into one buddy enclosed behind a giant mirror. And you are once again faced with your own buddy reflection. The simulation ends when the environment cross-fades into a sunny sky, and you find yourself standing on Cloud Nine. Literally.

Post-Analysis Phase
We quickly discovered that when a user goes through this VR experience, they feel better coming out, then going in. Our research also suggests that if we had ended simulation after the initial soap bubbles were popped, gifts received, and words of encouragement heard, then the effect would have been short-lived. By adding the “pay it forward” scene, where the user returns the favor and gives a gift to his surrounding buddies, we essentially teach our users to apply their acquired skills and pay them forward. To share. Therefore, our users resolve to help themselves, feeling a sense of contribution and meaningful value. Generosity in VR impacts our users in the real world and has longer lasting effects on their mood. It builds confidence and self-love.


Our biggest challenge in building this first prototype was testing it. I relied on using Unity as our main game engine development tool. Unity not only has established partnerships all over the world, and is compatible with 27 target platforms, but it is also free to use for development. Due to our limited resources and limited access to the HTC Vive, I ended up building our prototype using game object placeholders to represent both the HMD and the two game controllers. I then parented OpenVR’s game controller objects under these placeholders. When I repositioned the placeholder game objects in Unity’s simulator, I was able to estimate fairly accurately how the HTC Vive’s game controllers’ movement would impact the VR environment around them. On a weekly basis, under limited time and limited test access to the shared hardware, I methodically validated and tested our experience on the Vive hardware, tweaking and improving our prototype step by step. Unity is not quite WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) when it comes to the built-in development simulator. That’s why end-to-end testing is so important, especially in VR. I set up a mode that would allow me to switch between my mocked game objects and the hardware game objects in the scene project. Doing so, allowed me to execute a series of tests on our shared hardware device while continuing development in our mocked Unity environment.

Our second challenge was getting our 3D buddy avatar to move correctly in our initial mirror reflection scene, used to build an identity association with your inner buddy. I solved this by building a mimic-engine that tracked the delta positions of the mocked, game-controller-object placeholders. The engine then inverted these vectors and applied the new deltas to a basic, rigged stickman model. I added constraints on the limbs of the stickman and locked the lower limbs so that only the upper body would be affected to move freely. And it worked. Additionally, since the Vive is a room-scale experience, the position and orientation of the stickman (aka our buddy reflection) needed to map to my HMD game object’s position, such that when I moved left or right, my reflection (facing me) would move in the opposite direction. And because the mirror image itself has borders all around, our 3D stickman was piped through a render-texture camera, that projected the image onto a 3D mirror game object as a texture. The mirror game object itself had no reflection, but projecting the stickman as a texture on top of it, gave the illusion of a mirror reflection.

No matter how you choose to implement your own VR project, remember that VR is highly immersive. Due to VR’s transformative nature, the underlying purpose of your content should support a key responsibility for contributing to social goodness, and hopefully, empower our users to live more fulfilling lives.

Eiran Shalev is an experienced technical, hands-on leader with 18 years of professional expertise overseeing top teams on mobile, social, and web technologies for products ranging from multi-player mobile & social games, to streaming video ads to interactive television and more. He comes from Disney Interactive, where he established the technical vision, and helped to scale and deliver Disney’s mobile technology platform to all game studios. Before that, he spent time at Koolbit, Kabam, and RockYou! He has built more than 50 games. He joins NewPathVR as CTO.

Please also read our white paper: "Using Virtual Reality for the Reduction of Anxiety: An Introduction to How Immersive VR Can Improve the Treatment of Anxiety"



Even if we have not had a “spiritual experience,” we are probably familiar with stories of these experiences. While Virtual Reality (VR) is being used to create greater immersion in video games and as a tool used by therapists for exposure therapy in treating phobias, SpiritualVR is leveraging the unique properties of VR to create emotionally powerful spiritual experiences that can have a positive impact when you return to the real world. These experiences are being developed to help people change their thinking and, as a result, change their behavior.

How does that change happen? It is helpful to look at the research done on awe by Dacher Keltner, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. His work in awe helps us to understand the nature of spiritual experiences and how they can have a positive impact on how people live their lives. “...[A]we involves a challenge to or a negation of mental structures when they fail to make sense of an experience of something vast.” Encountering something vast and surprising evokes feelings which cause the self to feel small, powerless, and confused. In this state of confusion, the self is faced with the challenge of either dismissing or negating the experience, or accommodating the experience. Accommodating the experience involves accepting the feelings of power, wonder and fear, which can create feelings of timelessness, selflessness, humility, and a greater sense of connection with the world around us. This is similar to the sublimation of the ego (and conditioned belief systems) required for all spiritual transformation. In simpler terms, you cannot have a spiritual experience without letting go of preconceived notions of being in the world.

Predictability prevents change. We do not change in situations which are predictable. “Fleeting and rare, experiences of awe can change the course of life in profound and permanent ways.” Awe involves a need for accommodations. If such an experience is not negated or dismissed, feelings of enlightenment and rebirth can occur when mental structures expand to accommodate truths never before known. It is these “peak experiences,” as described by Abraham Maslow, which have the ability to create transformative, or spiritual, experiences.

What does this have to do with Virtual Reality? It is the immersive quality of “presence” in VR that makes it so powerful. At a basic level, VR creates an alternate reality in a virtual world with props to increase its reality. Adding sound and touch greatly enhances the virtual world to the point where it can be indistinguishable from the material world that we inhabit. The props used in VR are capable of “tricking” the brain to make the virtual world indistinguishable from the real world. It is in this virtual world that “reality” can be manipulated to create desired change. With awe, change occurs as a result of successful accommodation to an unexpected and overwhelming experience. In VR, change can be created by manipulating this environment and providing predetermined stimuli to cause a desired change in behavior.

Virtual reality gives us the capability to manipulate reality in ways that can be therapeutic. In one of SpiritualVR's prototype applications where we are testing the powerful properties of psychology, we examine "self-criticism". The user/subject appears as an avatar (a figure representing an actual person). Another avatar appears and begins to criticize the subject. The subject is next greeted by a third avatar who releases a large quantity of bubbles from above. Some of these bubbles contain “gifts” which are captured and held by the self. The self then gives these gifts to three new avatars who are expressing discomfort. Each gift is a compliment to counter the criticism received by the self. It is this act of altruism in giving the gift of compliments to the distressed avatars that creates the experience of compassion. This modeling of behavior in expressing compassion to others is meant to counter feelings of self-criticism. If we can learn to treat others with compassion, we can learn to treat ourselves with compassion.

Keltner concludes his discussion of awe by stating that “Awe can transform people and reorient their lives, goals, and values” making “awe-inducing events ... one of the fastest and most powerful methods of personal change and growth.” The same can be said of SpiritualVR.

Please also read our white paper: "Using Virtual Reality for the Reduction of Anxiety: An Introduction to How Immersive VR Can Improve the Treatment of Anxiety"



There are a lot of things in this world that everyone should see but never will. The Grand Canyon is an incredible place, one that all humans should bear witness to at least once in their lives, yet the vast majority never will. There are plenty of similar locations that are unfortunately the same. Landmarks and natural locales are rarely seen by the masses that they should be, but with virtual reality, that could one day change.

One of the most lauded capabilities of virtual reality is how it can practically transport you anywhere in the world. You can live in Louisiana yet experience the scope of the Great Wall of China, and from the comfort of your own home. That said, is it any surprise that virtual reality can be used for nature experiences as well? 

One of the most massive tree species in the world is the Great Sequoia. These trees are thousands of years old, most of them predating the Roman Empire. They’re dozens of stories tall and so wide that ten or more of any other tree could probably fit inside of them. In short, they’re incredible, yet many people will never be able to see them. At least, not without virtual reality.

This particular experience has been constructed specifically in London. It’s a combination of virtual reality and a physical set. With the VR goggles you see the massive breadth and scope of a Giant Sequoia, but thanks to the physical set you can feel it as well. You can even push your face through the outside of the tree, allowing you to see the inside of it as well, making for one heck of an educational experience if nothing else.

You even get to follow the path of water throughout the tree, which means you get to ‘levitate.’ Naturally disorienting since it looks like you’re floating but are in fact not moving at all, this may be the real reason they had a physical set for you to hold onto. Either way, while this particular experience is highly specific towards one thing, it speaks volumes about how virtual reality could be used in the future.

Maybe you could soar over the Grand Canyon (terrifying though it may be), or visit foreign castles and landmarks from any vantage point you want. The options are almost limitless, and perhaps that is what the true beauty of virtual reality is. It can put the whole world at your fingertips. Let you explore things that you never would have been able to experience otherwise. Virtual reality is still in its younger stages, and it has a lot farther to go before it reaches the no doubt astronomical expectations of society. But the best part of it all is that those expectations are not out of reach. They’re ambitions well within in reach rather than dreams, as we can now use virtual reality to see the world and beyond no matter where we are.



In an effort to manage patient anxiety and control the costs of surgery, virtual reality (VR) is being used as an alternative to anesthesia and sedation in medical procedures with great success. One pioneering physician in Mexico began his research into this practice by beginning with the use of video games and moving to VR after experiencing success. The results have been published in an alternative to anesthesia and sedation in medical procedures with great success. One pioneering physician in Mexico began his research into this practice by beginning with the use of video games and moving to VR after experiencing success. The results have been published in an article by Jo Marchant with the BBC.

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. In 2004, Dr. Jose Luis Mosso Vazquez, a surgeon at Panamerican University in Mexico City, bought a Spider-Man game for his son. The game, an early form of VR, involved images projected onto a head-mounted display. Dr. Mosso was struck by how immersed his son became in the game and wondered if this was something that he could use to reduce the level of anxiety that patients experience during minor surgery. Dr. Mosso experimented using the Spider Man game with the head-mount while doing endoscopies. Patients were encouraged to play the game during the procedure instead of being sedated. He asked patients to score their pain level during the procedure and found that the immersive quality of the game reduced the need for sedation. In 2006, Dr. Mosso presented his results at the Medicine Meets Virtual Reality conference in California.

At the conference, Dr. Mosso met Albert “Skip” Rizzo, a psychologist (and now Director of Medical VR at the University of Southern California), who had been doing similar research with endoscopies. “He presented 10 cases,” says Mosso. “I presented 200.” Rizzo showed Mosso the expensive, state-of-the-art head-mounted displays he was using. “It was another world,” says Mosso. But then Rizzo revealed the equipment with which he had begun – it was the exact same Spider-Man game.

Rizzo was impressed with Mosso’s research and donated a headset to him. Rizzo also convinced a colleague, Brenda Wiederhold of the Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego, to let Mosso use some virtual worlds she had developed specifically for pain relief.

Mosso returned to Mexico and began using his new VR setup in a wide range of procedures, including childbirth and heart surgery. VR helped patients relax in all situations, but Mosso had the most success using VR in minor outpatient procedures where patients are awake but sedated. In these procedures, Mosso used a virtual scenario developed by Wiederhold called Enchanted Forest. This virtual world was meant to relax the patient and allowed them to explore rivers, lakes, trees, and forests. Virtual experiences involving guns and violence are not used because they tend to increase blood pressure, which could result in uncontrolled bleeding.

In using VR, Dr. Mosso found that patients required half as much sedation as they normally would require and, in some cases, required no sedation. In addition to relieving patient anxiety, there has been a significant cost savings for the clinics for sedative drugs such as fentanyl and midazolam, which are very expensive. Dr. Mosso estimates that the cost of surgery has been reduced by 25%. More important, less sedation reduces the risk of complications and recovery times. With these results, Dr. Mosso hopes to see VR more widely used not just for surgery, but to relieve pain in medical situations such as wound care and dentistry, as well as in chronic conditions such as phantom limb pain. And in areas where resources are limited, VR may be a welcome solution.

"Mosso doesn’t have the facilities here to sedate her, or offer her any painkillers more powerful than the local anesthetic, so he plugs in the laptop and switches the VR back on. Veronica keeps Oliveria talking as Mosso works. “What do you see?” she asks. “Fishes, water, stones,” Oliveria replies."

The University of Washington did a striking study with burn victims, showing them an experience they called SnowWorld during sessions of skin grafting. "Pain research using fMRI brain scans show significant reductions in pain-related brain activity..."


Photo credit: University of Washington


Using VR as a high-tech distraction technique allows surgeons to carry out operations that would normally require powerful painkillers and sedatives, with nothing more than local anesthetic. In addition to significant cost savings, VR has demonstrated that its immersive quality reduces patient anxiety and facilitates speedier recovery. Now that there is research to support these claims and the price of headsets has come down, consumers can hope that more doctors will take advantage of VR in improving patient experience and outcomes.

This attention distraction power is also a game changer for uncomfortable procedures such a dialysis and chemotherapy, waiting rooms, as well as what Mosso has done, for everything from fom childbirth to heart surgery. Distraction VR is sure to be a catalyst in VR wellness applications.

Please also read our white paper: "Using Virtual Reality for the Reduction of Anxiety: An Introduction to How Immersive VR Can Improve the Treatment of Anxiety"



Anyone that’s in the know about the newest advancements in technology knows about virtual reality. It’s an extremely exciting piece of work, mostly because the versatility of it seems to be almost endless. There seems to be no limit to what can be done with virtual reality and a bit of innovation. But if there’s one place people would think virtual reality has no place, it’s in the gym. After all, how often do we see the physical and the technological mix like that? But virtual reality not only has a soon to be place in workouts, it may even make them better, through coaching, simulation, and motivation.

This is a statement that probably makes a lot of people skeptical, and it should, but there is some very real truth to it. If you’ve lived for more than a few years, it’s practically guaranteed that you’ve heard the saying ‘mind over matter.’ This saying is used all the time in exercise and workouts, though for some reason it’s usually the people that aren’t working out that say it to you.

Ironic as that is, the motto is still very true. Humans can push themselves beyond their limits with willpower, but willpower is affected by many things. Sometimes it’s outside motivation. Sometimes just hearing someone say they believe in you is enough to get through those last twenty pushups. Sometimes it’s the finish line. Being able to see the end can make it easier to reach it.

Needless to say, these are things that don’t really exist in the gym. Unless you have a really supportive partner, you probably don’t have anyone around saying you can do it near the end of your exercise. And on the treadmill, the only signs of progress and a finish line are the digital numbers on the dashboard, which are hardly motivating.

So let’s add virtual reality to the equation, and explore what that could change. To start, you could have a virtual reality coach in your workout, allowing you to follow a regimen in the gym while still receiving support and motivation from them. And for the treadmill: well, would it be nicer to run through a forest or a beach, or do you like staring at the same white wall for thirty minutes? If you could run through an environment that’s actually nice and maybe even relaxing, you are several times more likely to go through with the whole run, and maybe even beyond what you had planned.

In short, can virtual reality make you physically stronger, more fit, faster or grant you more stamina? Maybe! It can certainly amplify that aforementioned willpower. How it does this can be different for everyone because we all draw motivation from different sources, but either way, the fact remains that virtual reality can make workouts more tolerable at the very least, and even enjoyable at best. Doesn’t lifting weights in Tibet or flying through space sound much nicer than the gym? These environments are not far from reach, they are well within grasp of the average consumer in the next 5 years, you'll see virtual reality in gyms within the next 1-2 years and fitness apps available for VR headsets as soon as this year. You'll see full-body haptic feedback suits and apps that measure your heart rate too.

Drop and give me 20 - million! Because there are 20 million ways VR is going to change fitness.


Meditation is a several-thousand year old practice for training the mind. Historically a practice reserved for quiet monks, disciplined kung-fu masters, yogis, and ochre-robed swamis, it’s now the preferred performance-enhancing practice of R&B moguls, Super Bowl Champions, Olympic athletes, and A-list celebrities.

Meditation has gone mainstream.

One reason for that is that meditation is generally considered one of the most effective ways to train and focus your attention. And now, science has shown us that the meditative state has extremely positive physiological and neurological effects. What's to come in VR is very exciting. Why? Because meditation goes well beyond stress relief, although in itself, stress relief is a fine goal. Meditation unlocks the subconscious and allows you to tap into all kinds of self-improvement and reprogramming of poor habits and thinking. Here are some research-based findings on meditation.



Childbirth hurts. It’s a simple fact of life that we can never change or escape, many expectant mothers have a lot of anxiety about exactly how painful it will be. And while the payoff is most certainly worth the suffering, it certainly would be nice if, maybe, women didn’t have to experience so much pain during labor. Of course, there are medications to address some of the discomfort, but for many reasons many women are reluctant to rely on such things. Thankfully, there is an alternative option coming onto the scene that many skeptics will likely scoff at, and that’s virtual reality.

Contrary to popular opinion, virtual reality is not just the next level of gaming. It has a vast variety of other applications, including medical. You may be wondering how strapping on a pair of goggles could possibly make childbirth less painful, but there’s a great deal of merit to mind over matter when it comes to any kind of pain, including that of childbirth.

You’ve likely experienced two types of injuries in your life. The ones you immediately notice and feel, and the ones you seemingly accrue from nowhere, and you never even noticed the bruise or the cut until someone pointed it out to you. But the injury itself didn’t change. A cut is a cut, and a bruise is a bruise. But an injury you pay more attention to is more painful than one that you don’t really notice or successfully ignore. The same is true for all types of pain. If you can focus on something else besides the pain, it actually hurts a lot less. It’s an aspect of psychology that has been long proven. Our pain is connected to our attention.

Of course, it’s hard to focus on anything but the pain when you’re in a hospital room and surrounded by doctors and nurses. The key to focusing on something else is being in a different environment, and that’s where virtual reality comes in. One of the most amazing aspects of virtual reality is that it can take you pretty much anywhere that can be imagined. Sandy beaches, rolling hills, a clear lake, another planet, you name it. Whatever your most relaxing terrain is, virtual reality will take you there.

In fact, this method has already been used a few times already. During an experimental phase to test the effectiveness of this concept, expecting mothers that refused epidural were asked to try a virtual reality headset instead. Transported to a relaxing evening on a beach with a campfire and a calming waterfall in the background, a soothing voice helped instruct you to breathe as you watched birds in the sky or the waves roll across the sand.

It certainly sounds a lot nicer than a sterile white hospital room, that’s for sure. But it’s not just hypothesis; the results speak for themselves. On average, the women that made use of the virtual reality headset during childbirth experienced an 82% reduction in pain, and they were able to relax for the entirety of the process much more easily.

The science speaks for itself. Being distracted from pain makes it far more tolerable and less acute. And since you can’t really go find a nice white beach to give birth on, the next best thing is virtual reality, which will let you experience it all the same. Less stress for mom means less stress for baby and everyone can experience this beautiful time a little easier. 

Please also read our white paper: "Using Virtual Reality for the Reduction of Anxiety: An Introduction to How Immersive VR Can Improve the Treatment of Anxiety"



We all know virtual reality is one of the most exciting and innovative technologies to come out recently, but what most of us are still wondering is what we can do with it. There really is no one answer to this, because one answer could never encompass the full capabilities and potential of virtual reality in society. From medicine to exercise to entertainment, virtual reality seems to be truly limitless, but the more intricate aspects of its potential includes what it can do for human thought and emotion. A very recent question is this; can virtual reality make you more empathetic?

It’s not like empathetic manipulation is anything new. Just think of one of those commercials about abused pets and you know how it works. Even young children quickly learn how to manipulate the empathy of others to get what they want. Empathy is a key component of compassion for others, but these days such qualities are very difficult to come by. We’re all guilty of it at some point; we feel bad about something or someone’s situation, but we do nothing to actually change it.

That’s why evoking empathy in people is so important. Without empathy there is no charity, and without charity there are many worthy causes that would soon be bankrupt. So the question of how to increase empathy in others is always a question, but now the question extends to whether or not virtual reality can be used for such a purpose.
Television commercials often seek to show charity in need in an attempt to make you feel more empathetic to the cause. The problem is, you are still in the comfort of your own home, sitting on your couch and relaxing. You can see the situation, but you don’t really feel it. Virtual reality aims to change that.

Imagine that, rather than simply watching a commercial about an animal shelter or refugees coming off of a boat or children in a hospital, you were actually there. Imagine that you could sit in the same tent as a refugee family, seeing and hearing their life. Imagine being in the same hospital room as a child afflicted with cancer. This fuller immersion that virtual reality would provide will make the message more potent. It’s easy to ignore something when you can detach yourself from it. But if you are thrust right into the thick of it, it’s almost impossible to ignore. We feel more feelings of sadness, hope, and empathy when we are “really there” so to speak, as virtual reality makes us feel.

It’s been shown that people donate and donate more, through the vehicle of virtual reality. The true purpose of the application of this technology for empathy is to make people want to really make a difference in the world after they take the headset off. This is very promising for the future of cause initiatives!


Embodying Self-Compassion within Virtual Reality and its Effects on Patients with Depression

"By having participants embody an adult and then a child virtual body in succession, our scenario effectively provided a self-to-self situation enabling participants to deliver compassionate sentiments and statements to themselves. Consistent with predictions, this condition resulted in a significantly greater increase in self-compassion..."

British Journal of Psychiatry Open Feb 2016, 2 (1) 74-80; DOI: 10.1192/bjpo.bp.115.002147. Caroline J. Falconer, Aitor Rovira, John A. King, Paul Gilbert, Angus Antley, et al

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360° VIDEO
A 360° video is created with a camera system that simultaneously records all 360 degrees of a scene. Viewers can pan and rotate a 360 video’s perspective to watch it from different angles. 360 videos can be viewed on mobile devices, but a fully immersive viewing requires a headset. Since 2015, both YouTube and Facebook support 360° videos.

3D space ball
These devices allow users to move or rotate 3D models by moving a sensor ball, just as a standard mouse allows users to move a cursor on a computer screen.

The 4D moviegoing experience enhances a 3D film screening with physical effects that occur in the theatre in synchronization with the film. Effects simulated in a 4D film may include rain, wind, fog, lightning, vibration and scent. As of 2016, most of the world’s 4D theatres are located in Asia and Latin America.

Horizontal resolution of 4,096 pixels.

6DOF or Six Degrees of Freedom
This refers to the direction of the movement of an object in a three-dimensional (3D) space. The movement consists of forward/backward, right/left, up/down, pitch, roll and yaw.

Active Shutter 3D
It is a technique to display the 3D stereoscopic images by showing the left eye image and the right eye image alternately in a very fast manner.

Alternate World Disorder (AWD)
In Michael Heim's view both cyberspace and VR extend and enhance our powers of evolution. He even compares them to the invention of fire. But immersion in the virtual world has also its dark side. He even proposes a method for treatment of the illnesses that may emerge from it. It is aka Alternate World Syndrome (AWS).

Alternate World Syndrome (AWS)
An acute form of body amnesia which can become chronic aka Alternate World Disorder (AWD).

A method to create the illusion of three-dimensional image with depth perspective by combining the right-eye-view image and left-eye-view image in one single image.

Responsibilities or situations IRL that keep you from experiencing the VR experience.

In virtual reality, animation is the movement of an object or the viewpoint along a pre-determined path. Animation of the viewpoint or the user's view results in a fly-through or a guided tour. The animation may be repeated in an endless loop or have a set start and finish.

The application program interface (API) is a method by which an application program can make requests of the computer's operating system or of another application.

Aspect Ratio
The proportion of the width of your viewing screen to its height is the aspect ratio. This can affect how the images from the VR world appear and whether or not they become distorted. It's all about the proper pixels for the ultimate view.

Augmented reality (AR)
Augmented Reality (AR) refers to technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world, thus providing a composite view. It is a method to combine or integrate the virtual or digital objects with the live environment and real surrounding. AR can be experienced using a smartphone screen or wearable devices such as connected glasses (Google Glass, Microsoft HoloLens, Magic Leap are expected to release consumer wearables starting 2016).

Too much time devoted to the VR world can be addictive. Avaddiction happens when life in the avatar/VR world takes over one's actual reality. The first step is admitting the problem.

An Avatar refers to an image or figure representing individual users within a VR environment. It is particularly important when we progress into social interaction within VR.

The brief feeling of disappointment / melancholy experienced when removing your HMD and adjusting back to real life. “I spent 10 minutes watching the sun set on Laguna Beach then pulled out. I was stood in my Kitchen and it was raining outside. The Backdown was awful.”

Backward compatibility
The ability for a computer application to read files which were created in a previous version of the software. A computer is said to be backward compatible if it can run the same software as the previous model of the computer.

Behaviors are program scripts that are attached to objects within VRML. The scripts cause an object to act in a certain way, for example a sphere may turn from red to green. This action may be triggered by a user of the world if the behavior is attached to an event.

Binocular Omni
Orientation Monitor (BOOM): A 3D display device suspended from a weighted boom that can swivel freely so the viewer can use the device by bringing the device up to the eyes and viewing the 3D environment while holding it. The boom’s position and orientation communicates the user’s point of view to the computer.

BMP is a standard image format in which image data is stored as a bitmap without applying any compression.

Bubble world
Environments created by manipulating 2-dimensional digital images and not by writing code which manipulates a computer's ability to display and render 3Dimensional geometry. Typically, as in Apple's Quicktime VR, a bubble world is made by taking digital photographs of the real place or space that is to be represented digitally. These are 'stitched' together into a 360 degree panorama. The user's viewpoint is in the centre of this panorama or 'bubble' and they can move around within its confines.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)
Refers to the practice of visitors using their own smartphone or mobile device. For example, some museums develop apps and mobile websites for use with BYOD, often as an alternative to providing equipment for rent.

Computer Aided Design software is widely used by designers, surveyors, architects and others to produce 2-dimensional drawings and 3Dimensional models.

Google Cardboard is a – yes, cardboard – headset that turns Android and iOS phones into VR devices, removing one of VR’s biggest barriers to entry: cost. Since its launch in 2014, Google has sold well over 1 million Cardboard headsets. This low cost viewing solution has sparked a lot of competition from other headset makers, turning the word ‘cardboard’ into a generic term for “entry-level mobile VR headset”. In 2015, the New York Times, partnering with Google, gave away 1.3 million headsets to its subscribers, allowing them to experience custom-made immersive editorial content.

Caves or sheds are projection-based virtual reality systems which use a system of display screens surrounding viewers to fill their field of vision.

In computers, CD-ROM technology is both a format and system for recording, storing, and retrieving electronic information on a compact disk that is read using an optical drive.

Cinematic VR
For the most part, there are two types of VR you'll run into. There's the kind that's computer-generated graphics, often interactive, and the kind made of real images. The latter is cinematic VR, and is made using cameras, whether rigs made of mounted GoPros or actual 360 cameras.

Collaborative Virtual Environments (CVE)
This refers to an environment usually built in VRML (or some extension of VRML) that can be accessed by more than one user from more than one computer simultaneously. Users are made aware of each other's presence by the use of avatars and by the chat boxes which can be used to communicate with others.

Collision Detection
A program script that determines how close a user is to an object and stops their movement when they collide with the object.

Computer Graphics
The branch of computer science concerned with methods of creating, modifying, or analyzing pictorial data. The use of a computer in any discipline to create, modify, or analyze images.

A set of data values that determine the location of a point in a space. The number of coordinates corresponds to the dimensionality of the space.

The Central Proccessing Unit is the component in a computer which performs operations on data. Data are input to the CPU, processed (according to the instructions in a program) and then output. Instructions can only be carried out one at a time, thus the speed of the processor affects the speed with which the computer works. Processor speed can range from 100 Megahertz (100 million cycles per second) to 2.8 Gigahertz (2.8 billion cycles per second). Desk-top computers generally incorporate slower processors than the workstations that are used by graphics designers.

Cue Conflict
A theory to explain the kind of motion sickness caused when the body tries to interpret conflicting clues being received by the senses. Frequent causes are faulty calibration of eye devices or delay between the sensory inputs and output display.

A computer synthesized reality. Often a computer synthesized 3D space. See also: Virtual Reality.

A robotic humanoid modeled directly from digital readings of a real human and transformed into a photo realistic, animated character produced via illusionary metamorphosis. data sonification: Assignment of sounds to digitized data which may involve filtering to give illusion of localized sound. data spacialization: assignment of orientation (yaw, pitch) and position coordinates (x,y,z) to digital sounds assigned to data.

DAT (Digital Audio Tape)
A helical-scan recording method initially developed to record CD-quality sounds on high-density audio tapes. It was quickly adapted for data storage applications. While DAT cartridges are all the same size (2.1 by 2.9 by 0.4 inches), the properties of the tape inside them differ. The smaller-capacity drives use tape cartridges that can store 1.3GB to 2GB of uncompressed data, and they have typical transfer rates ranging from 183KB per second (KBps) to 366KBps. Their larger-capacity siblings support tape cartridges that store anywhere from 3GB to 4GB of uncompressed data, with typical transfer rates ranging from 366KBps to 510KBps. Many DAT drives offer some type of hardware-based data compression, which can significantly increase capacities and decrease transfer rates, depending on the type of data being stored.

Data Glove
It is a type of glove embedded with sensors that can sense the movement of hands which can then be used to manipulate or move the objects in the virtual environment. Also known as wired glove.

Data model
The theoretical model by which data are structured. Common data models include relational, network, hierarchical and object-oriented. Data modelling is a methodology for structuring data for use in database systems.

A generic term commonly used to describe a structured collection of data. Databases can take many forms including unstructured full text, images, maps, statistics or a mixture of data sources.

A glove that contains sensors which provide a means of controlling objects within the virtual world in direct response to movement of a user's hand.

A measuring device that registers the density of reflective or transparent materials.

Directional Sound
Oftentimes in VR games or movies, there's an overall background sound, but when the sound seems to come from a specific area, it's called directional sound.

DLT (Digital Linear Tape)
Digital Linear Tape Drive (DLT) provides a very fast (800 Kbytes per second) back-up to tape cartridges that hold either 20 gigabytes or 40 gigabytes of data and can be mounted in an automated library that holds enough cartridges to back up 5.2 terabytes of data.

A User who hasn’t or refuses to experience VR. Flightless.

Dolly Shot
Display of a scene while moving forward or backward.

Doppler Effect
An apparent increase in the frequency of sound or light as its source approaches an observer or a decrease if it moves away.

Dublin Core
A 15 field standard for metadata – or 'information about information'. Full details are available from:

DVD (Digital Versatile Disk)
This is an optical disk technology that is expected to replace the CD-ROM disk (as well as the audio compact disc) over the next few years. The digital versatile disk (DVD) holds 4.7 gigabytes of information on one of its two sides, or enough for a 133-minute movie. With two layers on each of its two sides, it will hold up to 17 gigabytes of video, audio, or other information.

Dynamic Lighting
Changes in lighting effects as objects or the observer move.

The rules that govern all actions and behaviors within the environment.

Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Abbreviation – Eye Balls Deep. To consume VRP0rn. “Don’t look at P0rn in VR mate. Once you’ve been EBD normal p0rn will never live up to expectations.”

Interfacing devices used in virtual environments for input/output, tactic sensation and tracking. Examples are gloves, head mounted displays, headphones, and trackers. egocenter: The sense of one’s own location in a virtual environment.

The conversion of data into a form, called a cipher, that secures against unauthorised access to data.

In VR terms, this is a computer-generated model that can be experienced by an observer as if it were a place. exoskeleton: mechanically linked structure for control of an feedback from an application.

Encapsulated PostScript. An image-storage format that extends the PostScript page-description language to include images.

An event in VR is a program script which is attached to an object within VRML. The event triggers an action, or behaviour. For example, a script may cause a sphere to turn from red to green when a user performs a certain action. Events range from proximity sensors (users come within a certain distance to an object), to a timer (the user has been in a world for a specified amount of time) or a touch sensor (the user clicks on the object).

Eye Clearance
The most accurate figure of merit used to describe the HMD positioning relative to the eye.

Eye Tracking
Eyetracking is similar to headtracking, but instead reads the position of the users' eyes versus their head. So for example, there's an HMD (you learned this earlier!) called FOVE that integrates eye tracking into their headset. In their demo, the user can aim a weapon (it looks like a laser) by looking in a different direction. Alternatively, a game like Rocket Toss relies on the user aiming with his or her head to determine the direction of rings.

Eyes In
To have already experienced an event or application in VR. “What’s she enjoying so much?” “Oh its the new Felix & Paul experience. I’ve had Eyes In and it’s awesome.”

A facet is a planar surface of an object. Facets are generally triangular because triangles are always planar. Facets may be other shapes, as long as they are not warped in any direction and are truely planar.

An output device that transmits pressure, force or vibrations to provide the VR participant with the sense of resisting force, typically to weight or inertia. This is in contrast to tactile feedback, which simulates sensation applied to the skin.

Field of View (FOV)
The angle in degrees of the visual field. Since a human’s two eyes have overlapping 140 degree FOV, binocular or total FOV is roughly 180 degrees in most people. A feeling of immersion arises when the FOV is greater than roughly 60 to 90 degrees.

Fish Tank VR
The ego center of an observer looking “through” a computer monitor to a virtual outside world using a stereoscopic display system. That is, to a person looking through a stereo “window” to a virtual “outside”, the person imagines him/herself to be in a fish tank.

Fishbowl VR
A term which refers to VR displayed and viewed on a personal, desk-top computer rather than on large projection screens or hemispheriums. The analogy is with watching a computer monitor as one would a fishbowl. Just as one expects to see a fish moving through time and space in a fishbowl, so fishbowl VR convinces us that we are watching and interacting with 3D space 'in' the monitor. Also referred to as desk-top VR.

In virtual reality this is the movement of an object, or viewpoint, along a path that has been defined in a program script.

A self-similar graphical pattern generated by using same rules at various levels of detail. That is, a graphical pattern that repeats itself on a smaller and smaller scale. frustum of vision: Three-dimensional field of view in which all modeled objects are visible.

Hand motion that can be interpreted as a sign, signal, or symbol.

Graphics Interchange Format. A bitmap graphics format from CompuServe which stores screen images economically and aims to maintain their correct colours even when transferred between different computers.

Geographic Information Systems are used to manage maps and other spatial data held in layers. GIS packages can hold data about the location and height of an object and increasingly are being used to produce two-and-a-half dimensional models of landscapes which can be animated.

Google Cardboard
Google introduced its cardboard holder in 2014 at its I/O conference. A user's smartphone fits into the front, and the user holds the unit up to his or her face. It does not contain sensors, which makes some VR purists dismiss it as too low quality, as it relies on the phone's accelerometer. On the other hand, the two facts that it's cheap and the newer version accommodates phones with screens up to 6 inches can potentially put VR in the hands of a very wide audience. There's also the Cardboard app. Users can find apps on the Google Play store. Google is reportedly working on a new headset that is made of plastic and has a few sensors.

Gouraud Shading
The shading of polygons smoothly with bilinear interpolation.

The range of shades of grey in an image. The grey scales of scanners and terminals are determined by the number of greys, or steps between black and white, that they can recognise and reproduce.

Haptic Interfaces
Use of physical sensors to provide users with a sense of touch at the skin level, and force feedback information from muscles and joints.

Haptic feedback is basically tactile feedback. In VR, it refers to users feeling like they're touching something that's not really there.
Haptics recreate the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations, or motions to the user, through feedback devices (think of vibrating game controllers). In VR, headsets primarily use sight and sound to immerse the user, but haptic gloves and suits are currently in development to offer a fully immersive physical experience of digital worlds.

Head Mounted Display (HMD)
A set of goggles or a helmet with tiny monitors in front of each eye to generate images seen by the wearer as three-dimensional. Often the HMD is combined with a head tracker so that the images displayed in the HMD change as the head moves.

Head Tracking
Head tracking is akin to eye tracking, but uses the positioning of the entire head to help you look in any direction during your VR experience. It's just like looking around in the real world, but through the more advanced technology of VR.

Displays or robotic actions that are activated by head motion through a head tracking device.

Head-Related Transfer Function
A mathematical transformation of sound spectrum that modifies the amplitude and phase of acoustic signals to take into account the shape effects of the listener’s head.

Heads-Up Display
A display device that allows users to see graphics superimposed on their view of the real world.

Hidden Surface
A surface of a graphics object that is occluded from view by intervening objects.

It is a technique to display the three-dimensional objects that can be viewed correctly from any direction or angle hence giving the illusion that the objects are really there.

An identified point in a bubble world or VR environment that users can activate and cause a program script to execute an event.

HTC Vive
The buzz has been that the Vive might be the Rift's best competition. The Vive is a partnership between hardware maker HTC, and video game maker Valve, powered by the SteamVR platform. It has two wireless hand controllers, and three sensors called lighthouses, to be placed in the room. The Vive provides a full room experience. Users can stand up and move around a set space as they interact with their games and apps. The Vive also requires a powerful PC to run. The Vive started shipping in April 2016.

ICC profiles
International Color Consortium color standards. For further information see:

Image compression
These are techniques which are used to reduce the size of digital image files. Lossless compression techniques, such as those used in the GIF and TIFF formats, retain all of the original image data while still reducing the overall file size. Lossy compression techniques, such as those used in the JPG format, compress the image file by removing image details (usually those details that the eye does not see very well) and thus losing some of the original data.

Image Distance
Perceived distance to the object. (In contrast to the real object distance, if there exists a real object.)

Placing users in an artificial environment yet making them feel like they're right in with the action is considered immersion. VR creates this immersive playground where the sights, sounds, and perceived feelings surround the user with the perception that they are really there.

The term immersive implies that an individual is experiencing VR either with a head-mounted display or else in some other manner, such as a hemispherium, which restricts their senses and reference to the real world. Non-immersive is generally referred to as fishbowl VR or desktop VR. From a qualitative point of view the different types of VR affect how the individual experiences the VR and how far they are convinced by the experience.

Immersive Pointing. When a VR user is so immersed they point out virtual items to people IRL who can’t see them.

This can be divided into low-level interaction and high-level interaction. Low-level interaction in the case of VR environments involves the user navigating around the environment and experiencing the space. High-level interaction is more complex and involves behaviours and events, that is objects act in a certain way when triggered by a user.

The prefix “inter” means ‘between’ a or ‘in the middle of a’. Activity signifies active behaviour and was borrowed from the Latin word ‘agere’ in the 17th century. In the context of digital media, the concept of interactivity signifies mutual communication between sender and recipient - the “author” can become the “user” and the “user” can become the “author”.

Interaural Amplitude
Differences between a person’s two ears in the intensity of a sound, typically due to the location of the sound.

A boundary across which two systems communicate. An interface might be a hardware connector used to link to other devices, or it might be a convention used to allow communication between two software systems. Often there is some intermediate component between the two systems which connects their interfaces together.

A world wide digital network capable of supporting shared virtual worlds.

Internet Connection
This is the connection between a personal computer and the Internet and may be by cable modems, dsl modems, ISDN line, dial-up modem, satellite link, fixed wireless connection, etc. The type of connection affects the speed with which users can download files across the Internet. Speed can range from 56 K (kilobytes per second) in a dial-up modem to 3 mbps (Megabytes per second) with the cable modems and up to 100 mpbs with ISDN lines.

The ability of disparate computer systems to interact with one another, especially databases.

A 'private' computer network, accessible only to particular persons, usually within a distinct organisation or institution. (As opposed to the Internet, which is a publicly accessible network.)
Inverse Kinematics
A specification of the motion of dynamic systems from properties of their joints and extensions.

Internet Protocol – one of the main protocols behind the working of the Internet.

In Real Life.

ISO film speed
The standard for quoting photographic film speeds. It relates to the film's reactivity to light.

Java is an object-oriented programming language that is designed to be portable across multiple platforms. It achieves this by using a 'virtual machine' known as the Java Runtime Environment. Programs developed in Java, known as applets, are compiled for the JRE rather than for a specific operating system and thus can be run on any machine.

Java enabled browser
A web-browser that incorporates a JRE into its program is known as a Java enabled browser. Both Netscape and Internet Explorer incorporated versions of the JRE. But the pace of Java language development by Sun has meant that both Netscape and Microsoft have dropped JRE from their latest browsers. Users must now install a JRE plug-in from SUN Microsystems; this plug-in enables Java applets to be run within web-browsers or run directly from the user's computer.

Java Runtime Environment (JRE)
The Java Runtime Environment is a computer program which enables Java applets to run on different operating systems or web-browsers. Sun Microsystems develop the JRE for Sun, Linux and Windows operating systems. JREs are also being developed by freelance programmers for other operating systems, and Apple develops the Mac Java Runtime (MJR)

This is Netscape's cross-platform scripting language, used for developing Internet applications.

Jerk Out
To violently remove a VR Headset usually after a jump scare or witnessing something uncomfortable. “Watch your headset! I showed him Dreadhalls yesterday and he jerked out so hard my Rift hit the floor.”

An input device that consists of a short lever gripped with one hand to be moved from side to side or towards and away from the person. Frequently it is used to navigate in a virtual space.

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) Image Format is a standard for variable level compressed images which are commonly used for display on Web pages. JPEG produces small file sizes using a lossy data compression technique.

Judder is a significant shaking of the visual content within the Head Mounted Display.

Sensations derived from muscles, tendons and joints and stimulated by movement and tension.

Kinesthetic Dissonance
Mismatch between feedback or its absence from touch or motion during VR experiences.

Kids, teens, and tweens.

This refers to the orientation of an image. Landscape describes an image which is wider than it is tall. (An image that is taller than it is wide is referred to as 'portrait'.)

Abbreviation – Load and Pass. To load up a VR application and pass it to a new user for them to try.

LAP Party
Passing an HMD around a group and sharing the experience.

Lag between user motion and tracker system response, sometimes measured in from as. Delay between actual change in position and reflection by the program. Delayed response time.

A Basic or limited specification HMD. Usually used in a derogatory fashion by owners of more advanced VR equipment.

Level of Detail (LOD)
A model of a particular resolution among a series of models of the same object. Greater graphic performance can be obtained by using a lower LOD when the object occupies fewer pixels on the screen or is not in a region of significant interest.

Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)
Display devices that use bipolar films sandwiched between this panes of glass. They are lightweight and transmissive or reflective, and are often used in HMDs.

Magic Wand
A three-dimensional input device used for pointing and interaction. A kind of three-dimensional mouse.

A surface defined about a point specified by a location, a radius, and an “intensity.” When two metaballs come in contact, their shapes blend together.

Metadata is often described as data about data. It is information that helps a user or system to organise, access and use a resource. Metadata may serve various roles, including cataloguing and archiving, resource discovery, technical and content description.

Metallic Distortion
Noise interference or degraded performance in electromagnetic trackers when used near large metallic objects.

The Metaverse is a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the internet.

Millennial or “Digital Native"
People in the demographic Generation Y (born 1980s-2000s). A digital native is a person who has used digital technologies from an early age. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably to refer to tech-savvy people.

Mobile Technology
Refers to devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets) and infrastructure (e.g., wifi, cellular service) that allow for interaction with digital content on the go, without needing to be plugged (“wired”).

Mocap or Motion Capture
A technique to record the actual movement of a person or object and then translate it to a digital form so that the information can be used in the virtual or digital environment. It is also known as motion tracking.

A computer-generated simulation of something real.

Motion Parallax
A means whereby the eyes can judge distance by noticing how closer objects appear to move more than distant ones when the observer moves. See also and parallax.

Motion Platform
A controlled physical system that provides real motion to simulate the displayed motion in a VR world.

The use of digital media across different devices or operating systems. Often used to refer to mobile applications that are developed fo

A touch surface (e.g., touchscreen, track pad) that recognizes two or more points of contact at once. Required for gestures such as pinch and zoom. Some multitouch surfaces (e.g., touch table) can be used by more than one person at a time.

Multi-User Environment
see Collaborative Virtual Environment

In 360 capture, Nadir refers to the camera(s) that captures the bottom of the sphere.

A navatar is like your personal tour guide through a new VR space. They can guide you through a game or virtual world explaining the ins and outs.

The term “navigation” signifies the definition of and adherence to a course and is derived from the Latin “navigare” which can be translated as steering, sailing or travelling. The same symbols are used on the Internet as in real space - though virtual navigation involves the “re-configuring” - i.e. production - of a time process.

New media
A 21st-century catchall term used to describe digital information such as data, text, images, video, and sound as well as the interactive experiences developed to access that digital information.

This has two meanings in VR. In VRML, a node is a small piece of code which has a specific set of attributes. For example, the shape node can be either a sphere, a box, a cone or a cylinder as set out in the VRML specification. A node can also refer to a hot-spot in a bubble world that can be used to link together a series of such worlds. For example, a user can click on a hot-spot in a central bubble world and be transported into another bubble world. These might be a set of rooms in a museum, where users are able to move from room to room by clicking on hot-spots.

Object Technology (DOT)
Virtual objects which bend and deform appropriately when touched.

Discrete 3D shapes within the virtual world with which a user can interact.

Occipital Cortex
The back of the brain receiving retinotopic projections of visual displays.

Hiding an object or a portion of an object from sight by interposition of other objects.

Oculus Rift
The Oculus Rift started off as a Kickstarter project. Facebook bought the company in 2014 for $2 billion. In the past several years, Oculus released two developer kits and demoed different prototypes. The consumer version of the Rift will start shipping in the spring of 2016. The Rift is considered a high-end VR and requires a fairly souped up PC in order to run. Oculus plans to release its natively-built hand controllers, called Touch. Until then, units will ship with Xbox One wireless controllers.

ODT or Omnidirectional Treadmill
A special kind of treadmill device that can allows people to walk or move in multiple directions in the virtual environment.

Computer operations that develop or occur dynamically in 'real-time', rather than as the result of something that is statically predefined.

Open Systems Architecture
An architecture whose specifications are public. This includes officially approved standards as well as privately designed architectures whose specifications are made public by designers.

Operational Specification
A definition of working parameters.

Optimization is the process of improving the efficiency of a virtual world by removing any unnecessary facets that slow down the rendering of an object.

The angular displacement of a view along any axis of direction in a three-dimensional world.

Pan Shot
Display of a scene while moving about any axis. See also dolly shot and track shot.

The difference in viewing angle created by having two eyes looking at the same scene from slightly different positions, thereby creating a sense of depth. (Also referred to as binocular parallax.)

The rules that determine the relative size of objects on a flat viewing surface to give the perception of depth.

Phong Shading
A method for calculating the brightness of a surface pixel by linearly interpolating points on a polygon and using the cosine of the viewing angle. Produces realistic shading.

Photo Realism
An attempt to create realistic appearing images with great detail and texture.

Representing an object 'as is', that is without any optical 'effects' etc. having been added.

The angular displacement of the lateral axis about a horizontal axis perpendicular to the lateral axis.

The smallest element of a display that can be adjusted in intensity.

Platform (Computer)
A term that defines both the operating system of the computer and its hardware base, usually referring to the central processing unit.

Platform (VR)
Individual or shared VR displays built into physical mockups of vehicles and other physical settings.

Software or digital formats that can be used on any computer system regardless of the operating platform.

Plug-in applications are programs that can easily be installed and used as part of a web-browser, for example to view digital animations.

Portable Network Graphics. The PNG format is intended to provide a portable, legally unencumbered, well-compressed, well-specified standard for lossless raster/bitmapped image files.

A display element that consists of an area enclosed by a set of by a set of broken straight lines.

Polygonal Modeller
A virtual reality authoring tool or CAD software used to define facets creating 3D objects. Polygonal modellers can also be used to edit objects or to optimize them. Some modellers automatically create less detailed versions of objects by reducing the number of facets. Optimization tools remove any unnecessary facets that slow down the rendering of an object.

Polygons or icons that a user can pass through in a virtual space to automatically load a new world or execute a user-defined function. A three-dimensional version of an interactive icon in multimedia.

Position Sensor
A tracking device that provides information about its location and/or orientation.

Position Trigger
A hotspot, sensitive spot, or button that causes a change in the computer program when touched in some way.

Positional Audio
Positional audio or "binaural" sound allows you experience sound in 3D, where every sound in your environment has its own position and orientation.

Presence refers to the scale of immersion felt in a VR experience. Simply put, presence is achieved when users feel like they're “actually” there, wherever that immersive world is.

QR Code (Quick Response Code)
A type of barcode that can be scanned by a user with a QR code scanner (e.g., an app) and a smartphone. Scanning a code can bring up a webpage, a video, or any other webenabled content. QR usage has not yet become widespread in the United States.

Quick Time Virtual Reality is Apple's virtual reality format. In QTVR a panoramic image is projected onto the inside surface of a 'notional' cylinder or sphere and then viewed through an interactive window on the computer screen.

A diffuse illumination calculation system for graphics based on energy balancing that takes into account multiple reflections off many walls.

Random Access Memory, the part of a computer's memory where data are temporarily stored while being worked on.

A way of displaying spatial information as coloured grid cells. Also referred to as bitmap as effectively a map of bits is evident.

Ray Tracing
A technique for adding realism to computer models by including variations in shade, color intensity, and shadows that would be produced by having one or more light sources. Ray tracing software simulates the path of light rays as they would be absorbed or reflected by objects.

Real Life
Also known as RL, real life is just that — the real life and you in it. 

If a computer responds in 'human time' this is considered to be real-time. For example, if a computer model moves approximately at the speed that users expect without being jerky or not rendering properly, it is considered to be real-time. As this is hard to achieve, a range of techniques is used to create an illusion of real-time movement. A different definition of real-time relates to the currency of information. This definition might apply if a user moved around a computer model and expected it to render and change instantaneously to display up-to-date information. An example might be a traffic map which users can access to see the speed of the traffic in the part of the city that they want to navigate.

Real-Time Imaging
Graphics or images synchronized with real-world time and events.

Reality Engine
A computer system for generating virtual objects and environments in response to user input, usually in real time.

Refresh Rate
The refresh rate is how fast images get updated in the Head Mounted Display (HMD). Higher refresh rates means less lag, and a smaller likelihood of feeling simulation sickness. It also enables a more responsive experience. For example, the Oculus CV1 has 90 hz refresh rate.

Adding realism to computer models, by for example applying a surface image to a geometrical frame.

Usually the number of pixels in a VR display.

Responsive Design
A web design approach that takes into account different viewing sizes across devices (e.g., smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop) and presents an optimal viewing experience based on the device being used to view content.

Retinal Binocular Disparity (RBD)
Ratio of the convergence angle of the image to the convergence angle of the object.

RFID (radio-frequency identification)
Like a barcode, RFID is used to transmit information between a transponder or tag and a processing device or reader. RF tags can be embedded in all kinds of things (e.g., cards, wristbands, stickers, signs, and other surfaces).

Angular displacement about the lateral axis.

Safety Peak
Quickly pulling up the HMD to check your surroundings and ensure your safety/privacy.

Samsung Gear VR
The Gear is powered by Oculus, but differs in that its display is the screen of the Samsung Galaxy phones, as well as the Note 5. There have been three iterations. The newest is compatible with the Samsung Galaxy 7. The Samsung platform features a variety of games, game demos, 360 photos, 360 videos, and other VR experiences, both computer-generated and cinematic.

Scenes View
Virtual display viewed on a large screen or through a terminal window rather than with immersive devices. semiocclusion: Occlusion to one eye only.

A computer that performs functions for other 'client' computers.

Shared Worlds
Virtual environments that are shared by multiple participants.

Shutter Glasses
Glasses that alternately block out the left and right eye views in synchrony with the computer display of left and right eye images to provide stereoscopic images on the computer screen.

It is a process or approach to mimic or imitate the real environment inside the virtual environment.

Simulator Sickness
Simulator sickness or virtual reality sickness (also known as cybersickness) occurs when exposure to a virtual environment causes symptoms that are similar to motion sickness symptoms. The most common symptoms are general discomfort, headache, stomach awareness, nausea, vomiting, pallor, sweating, fatigue, drowsiness, disorientation, and apathy. Other symptoms include postural instability and retching. Virtual reality sickness is different from motion sickness in that it can be caused by the visually-induced perception of self-motion; real self-motion is not needed. It is also different from simulator sickness; non-virtual reality simulator sickness tends to be characterized by oculomotor disturbances, whereas virtual reality sickness tends to be characterized by disorientation.

Six Degrees of Freedom (6DOF)
Ability to move in three spatial directions and orient about three axes passing through the center of the body. Thus the location and orientation are specified by six coordinates.

An online service for sharing presentation slides and other documents.

A cellular phone that performs many of the functions of a computer, typically having a touchscreen interface, Internet access, and an operating system capable of running downloaded applications.

Social VR
This term refers to a type of app that aims to create a shared VR space where users can interact with each other and even participate in activities.

Sony PlayStation VR
Formerly Project Morpheus, PlayStation VR will be compatible with PlayStation 4. PSVR is the only console-based VR system so far. It works with the DualShock PlayStation controllers, but users can also purchase handheld Move controllers. Movement is more limited than with the Vive. PSVR is considered the third of the trio of high-end VR systems (the other two being he Oculus and Vive). It's less immersive than the Oculus or the Vive, but it is cheaper, and has the advantage of a 36-million unit install base of PlayStation 4s already out in the wild. PSVR will ship in November 2016.

Spatial Navigation
Self-orientation and locomotion in virtual worlds.

Binocular vision of images with different views by the two eyes to distinguish depth.

A technique or method to enhance the three-dimensional (3D) viewing of a media such as image or video by introducing the illusion of depth to it.

Stitching Program
A stitching program in VR merges a set of images together to create a single large image without noticeable joins.

An online service that allows users to organize and create “stories” by importing and displaying social media content such as Tweets, Facebook posts, and other media. For example, a Storify of a Twitter chat might serve as an archived summary or transcript for users who were unable to participate in real time.

The process of making an outline of what a resource will look like before it is actually created. Storyboards are used by designers to organise the ideas and content used to convey a story. A high-level storyboard, in the form of a flow chart or in text, sets out events and identifies media requirements (such as photography, graphic design etc.). A graphical storyboard consists of sketches of virtual reality sequences, which may be accompanied by a script and a detailed description of how the user will interact with the content. Storyboards are modified throughout the design process.

Synthetic Environment
The military definition of a synthetic environment is a computer-based representation of the real world, usually a current or future battle space, within which any combination of 'players' may interact. The 'players' may be computer models, simulations, people or real equipment.

Tactile Displays
Devices that provide tangible and kinesthetic sensations.

Use of VR technology and other communication technology to explain or teach.

Virtual reality experienced from remote locations. Telemanipulation - Robotic control of distant objects.

The person doing telemanipulation.

A tool to create Silicon Graphics computer-based real-time interactive environments with “life-like” deformable objects.

A technology to mimic that you are present in the particular location although your physical body is at somewhere else.

Temporal Lobe
An area of the brain in front of the occipital cortex and the parietal cortex which is the receiving site for hearing.

Geographical information and models that can be either randomly generated or based on actual data.

Texture Mapping
A bitmap pattern added to an object to increase realism.

These are images which are applied to the surfaces of objects in virtual reality models to give the appearance of building materials or other surface details. Textures may be either photographs of real-world objects or simplified images that are created using drawing software.

The Fear
A feeling of unease that can build whilst immersed in VR. Easily countered by taking a quick Safety Peak.

Three-Dimensional Graphics
The presentation of data on a two-dimensional display surface so that it appears to represent a three dimensional model.

Low-resolution digital images, usually used for quick reference and linkage to a larger, higher quality image.

Tagged Interchangeable File Format/TIF (PC) or TIFF (Macintosh). A widely used graphic image format.

Track Shot
Rotating display of the same scene. See also dolly shot and pan shot.

A device that provides numeric coordinates to identify the current position and/ or orientation of an object or user in real space.

The collection of all entities and the space they are embedded in for a VR world.

User-Generated Content (UGC)
Content (e.g., text, photos, video) that is produced by users (e.g., visitors, non-experts) and published via the web or social media. Care is often taken to be clear about what content is generated by the publisher vs. by users.

Visual Display Unit – a computer monitor.

Virtual Environment (VE)
It is an environment which is created digitally using computer technology that can make the user feel like he or she is there. Furthermore, they can also explore and manipulate the objects in that digital world.

Sensation of egocenter caused by motion of the visual environment.

A geometric way of displaying spatial information as a series of points, lines and polygons.

Viewers or plug-ins are software programs that are used to extend the capabilities of a browser or operating system. In the case of virtual reality, viewers to enable users to see models on desk-top computers.

Points from which raytracing and geometry creation occurs. The geometric eye point of the simulation.

Virtual MIS
Use of computer models and specialized interaction devices that mimic surgical tools to allow medical personnel to practice minimally invasive surgery (MIS) procedures

Virtual Prototype
Simulation of an intended design or product to illustrate the characteristics before actual construction. Usually used as an exploratory tool for developers or as a communications prop for persons reviewing proposed designs.

Virtual Reality (VR)
A three-dimensional, usually computer-generated environment which can be explored and sometimes interacted with using a closed headset or head mounted display (HMD) that provides full immersion into that environment. VR environments are mostly designed for gaming, entertainment and exploratory experiences, but the technology is also used for simulation purposes in various industries (industrial prototyping, military, education, commerce, and healthcare).

Virtual World
The whole virtual environment or universe within a given simulation.

The ability to graphically represent abstract data that would normally appear as text and numbers on a computer.

A proficient user of Virtual Reality.

A user who has become accustomed to VR motion sickness and isn’t affected by even the most extreme applications. “Just ten minutes in Minecraft VR and already I’m reaching for the sick bucket. I really need to get my Vlegs.”

A cubic volume pixel for quantizing three-dimensional space.

VR Face
The slightly embarrassing, slack-jawed look people get on their face when they wear an HMD.

VR Headset (See Head Mounted Display or HMD)
A VR headset consists of a goggle-like device which includes a display and lenses to let you explore virtual reality environments. There are currently two main types of HMDs: tethered and mobile (or portable). Current high-end tethered headsets designed for gaming (requiring a PC or gaming console capable of delivering a rich graphic experience) include the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive and the PlayStation VR, all to be commercially released in 2016. Mobile headsets, powered by 4-6 inch smartphones, offer a more casual, entry-level experience, with a focus on video and lightweight graphics games. There are literally hundreds of models available on the market, from the under $20 Cardboard viewers to the more sophisticated Gear VR by Samsung, and standalone headsets that do not require a smartphone.

VR Sickness
Simulator sickness or virtual reality sickness (also known as cybersickness) occurs when exposure to a virtual environment causes symptoms that are similar to motion sickness symptoms. The most common symptoms are general discomfort, headache, stomach awareness, nausea, vomiting, pallor, sweating, fatigue, drowsiness, disorientation, and apathy. Other symptoms include postural instability and retching. Virtual reality sickness is different from motion sickness in that it can be caused by the visually-induced perception of self-motion; real self-motion is not needed. It is also different from simulator sickness; non-virtual reality simulator sickness tends to be characterized by oculomotor disturbances, whereas virtual reality sickness tends to be characterized by disorientation.

World in the Hand
A metaphor for visualized tracking where a tracker is held in the hand and is connected to the motion of an object in a display.

The angular displacement about the vertical axis.

In 360 capture, Zenith refers to the camera(s) that captures the top of the sphere.

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