What Is a Virtual Reality World?

A virtual reality world is a virtual environment that is categorized as separate from the real, physical world. This type of reality typically involves a computer-based environment, and those environments are presented to viewers as a series of sensations. While a virtual reality world is most commonly visual, it is also possible for this type of environment to stimulate other senses, such as the sense of touch or smell. Were this type of world entirely comprehensive, it could be possible for a person to feel that he or she is entirely within the game.

In most cases, a virtual reality world operates according to a series of rules that may or may not be the same as those of the real world. A person can explore this world as an avatar using commands, which are usually specific to that world. Interaction between users and the world depends on the design of the space, and what activities are possible in the world is defined by its designers, not the users. Many environments of this type are created for multiple players to use at once, and players can often communicate with one another in the world.

The way in which a virtual reality world is presented can make a large difference in how users experience that world. Most worlds attempt to create some kind of analog for physical reality, mimicking space and motion as we experience it. Presenting the world through a computer screen is common, but using stereoscopic displays can make the virtual reality world more immersive. In addition to fully virtual worlds, it is also possible to augment the physical world with additional information, creating a virtual reality world that is overlaid on physical reality.

Virtual reality worlds are used in a number of different ways, not all of which are recreational. Some schools and businesses utilize virtual reality for educational purposes, and commerce can also occur online. Even so, most widespread virtual worlds are at least partially recreational. Small and very specific environments can serve limited purposes, but most people find the breadth of virtual worlds to be one of the main draws of this form of entertainment.

Potential definitions for a virtual reality world could be much broader than the more specific computer-based meaning. Some philosophers hold that the physical world is in fact virtual and that the experience of that world is held in each individual brain. The defining features of a virtual world may continue to change as new technologies develop, as may the ways in which individuals access those worlds.