What Does VR Feel Like?

So you want to know what VR feels like? Here’s what to expect!

If you’re here, it’s because you’re curious about the world of Virtual Reality. In the past few years, the VR industry has exploded, and there are more people jumping into digital worlds every day. But what does being in VR feel like? For someone who’s never experienced this new way to explore, adventure, or socialize, VR might seem like something out of a sci-fi movie. You might even expect it to just feel like a screen strapped to your face. In this article, we explain what VR feels like and we’ll go over some important things you should know as you start your journey in Virtual Reality.

Table of Contents

How does VR work?

A VR headset or HMD (Head Mounted Display) is a device you wear on your head that will act as your “goggles” into the virtual world. There are a lot of different headsets out there, which we’ll get into in another article. For now, all you really need to understand is that each headset has two lenses that you look through, showing you the display.

VR headsets keep track of your movement, using a series of sensors to determine where your head is in relation to the virtual world. VR allows you to walk, bend over, and even lay down on the floor, all while your headset tracks you. It truly feels like you’re inside of a virtual space. Think of it as if your VR headset is the window into virtual reality. Where ever you look, your headset follows and allows you to look around in any direction. All modern VR headsets also include a pair of VR controllers that track your hand movements. They allow you to physically interact with virtual reality.

What can you expect when putting on a VR headset for the first time?

Ah yes, the very first time. Every VR enthusiast knows what that moment was like. The joy you first experience when you realize this isn’t just some gimmick. It might be the coolest thing you’ve ever experienced. Every VR user has one of those stories. The awe we felt when trying VR for the first time will be a memory we all cherish for the rest of our lives.

The first time you put on a VR headset, you’ll probably feel just like the rest of us felt our first time… This thing you have strapped to your face is transporting you to a new world with endless possibilities! You’ll forget reality. We call the feeling of being totally transported, immersion. It’s when your brain lets go and convinces you that what you’re looking at is real.

What does VR feel like?

Ok, but how real could it possibly feel? It can’t be that convincing… can it?

VR is incredibly convincing.

There are a few things to take into consideration on what makes VR feel so real, such as:

  • Degrees of Freedom (DoF)
  • Tracking
  • Haptic Feedback
  • Spatial Audio
  • Depth and Scale

Degrees of Freedom (DoF)

Most modern VR headsets use “6 Degrees of Freedom”(6DoF). This means that your headset is tracked in 3D space. Your headset keeps track of height as well as positioning, and most importantly, where you’re looking. There are some headsets that are only 3DoF, like the Oculus Go. These headsets can track where you’re looking but can’t tell if you’re lunging forward or bending down.

Tracking

There are all sorts of different ways that headsets use to track your movement. Some use external sensors, like the Valve Index which uses Valve’s lighthouse sensors. While others use Inside Out Tracking which uses a series of cameras on the headset to process where you are in space, like the Meta Quest 2 (Previously Oculus Quest 2). You also interact in VR with a set of controllers that track your hands. Your controllers let you interact within the virtual world! When you need to pick something up in a VR game, you don’t “Press A”, you bend down and pick it up!

Haptic Feedback

Haptic feedback is the feedback you get from interacting with the virtual world. In most controllers, this is represented through the form of vibrations. When you interact with objects in VR, in most cases, you’ll feel some feedback from the controllers. This makes the object in VR feel like it has a presence. If you’re punching a punching bag in virtual reality, each hit will correspond with some feedback in your hands, making you feel as though you’re actually making contact. There are lots of ways that developers are adding haptic feedback to their applications. It adds a sense of touch to virtual reality.

Spatial Audio

The best way to explain Spatial Audio is to compare it to the real world. Your brain, in conjunction with your ears, does an amazing job at determining where sound is coming from. If something falls off your desk to your right, you can tell that it occurred on your right side. Spatial Audio works in the same way but needs to translate the sound to your ears using headphones or built-in speakers. VR does a fantastic job of this and is a truly fascinating aspect of VR worth exploring all on its own. It certainly adds a whole new level of immersion when you hear zombies coming at you from behind!

Depth and Scale

When you’re in VR, you feel a sense of presence like nothing else. The sense of scale and depth changes dramatically. For example, when you need to look at something big on a TV or your computer monitor, it’s only ever as big as the screen itself. If you’re playing a game on a monitor and need to look at something in the sky you move your camera with your mouse, but in VR… you physically look up. Things that can only be as big as your 50″ screen now seem lifelike in size! When you ride a rollercoaster in VR, you feel high up. VR does an amazing job of convincing your brain that these laws of nature apply. To the point where people who are afraid of heights have a hard time with games like Richie’s Plank Experience! See for yourself!

So, what does being in VR feel like?!

So what does it actually feel like? It feels like being inside of a 3D virtual environment. Imagine being inside of a video game or taking part in a 3D animation. Being in VR feels like being transported to another world. Your brain is tricked into thinking that what you see is real, or at the very least, present in front of you. It’s an extraordinary medium that everyone should explore at least once. Some people who try VR have a hard time going back to a flat-screen. It allows you to explore new worlds, travel to old ones, and build your own. You can meet up with friends and watch a movie sitting next to one another from across the globe. Virtual Reality is the next step into the future. It allows us to interact naturally with the virtual, instead of observing it through a display. It’s no wonder why companies such as Meta (formally Facebook) are so interested in developing this space.

There are lots of ways to describe virtual reality, but the best way to find out is to try it for yourself.

How to get started?

Getting started in VR is easier now more than ever! If you’re looking for an entry-level VR headset that’s a great first step into virtual reality, with lots of versatility for pros, we recommend the Meta Quest 2. This headset is stand-alone, which means all you need is the headset, and a Facebook account (Meta has confirmed that this requirement will be removed in 2022). You don’t need a fancy gaming PC. The Quest 2 has its own built-in computer sporting the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Processor. It’s a great way to start, and we love this device! It comes in two versions. The 128GB or the 256GB. We recommend the 256GB version for those who want some extra room and never want to run out of space for all their games and videos.

Colin Laurencelle
Colin Laurencelle
VR Enthusiast, writer, and lover of gaming culture. When I'm not working, I like to spend time with my fiance, dog, and cat. Not necessarily in that order.

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