What Is Virtual Reality

A woman in a professional suit, sitting at a desk, wearing a virtual reality headset, looking up and smiling.

What Is VR? Virtual Reality Applications and Tours

Virtual reality (VR) has travelled from the pages of science fiction to become groundbreaking technology used by 22.4 million Americans, and projected to be in use by 82 million Americans by 2020, according to Yulio Technologies. VR is a computer-generated, interactive, three-dimensional image or environment experienced by the use of electronic equipment. 


There are two types of virtual reality: immersive and non-immersive. Immersive VR includes a helmet or headpiece outfitted with a screen, body-tracking technology, and gloves with sensors that allow the user to experience and interact with the software through sight, sound, and movement. 


Non-immersive VR is similar to the experience of playing a computer or console video game, but enhanced with interactive 3d graphics that can be manipulated by the use of specialized interface devices and/or standard devices; a mouse, keyboard, gamepad, or joystick.

The use of VR technology and its popularity is increasing with the arrival of affordable, consumer-friendly headsets, as well as the development of a variety of applications and programs. The dynamic use of VR can help educate surgeons, provide a tour of a museum, gallery, or landscape of another planet, build a business, or help sell a home in today’s online market.

Healthcare and Therapy

Virtual reality applications for healthcare range from solutions currently in use, and still in development. Currently, VR software can provide education, experience, and performance assessment for future surgeons. This immersive technology can also help patients build motor skills in a safe environment while undergoing balance therapy for Parkinson’s Disease. 

Enhanced pain management using virtual reality is a safe and healthy way to approach pain therapy, as VR has been found to be relatively effective in reducing acute pain by distracting the patient. Studies have shown that distraction affects pain perception by occupying attention-based resources and blocking the real-world environment and its painful stimuli.

Immersion is also being used in therapeutic treatments involving PTSD, severe anxiety, and phobias. By providing a safe and controlled environment in which a patient can undergo exposure therapy and build coping skills, patients can face their fears in a way that mirrors real-world experience. 

The potential future of VR in healthcare is still being explored. For example, opportunities for at-home treatment or recovery could result from remote monitoring solutions. This could decrease the amount of doctor and hospital visits a patient needs, as well as could reduce the amount of time spent in the hospital.


Creating, placing, and making art in virtual reality gives rise to a new range of experiences for both artist and observer. VR is a way to traverse topics in completely fresh ways, including by intimately exploring the integration of technology into society, or simply by providing a space where an observer may interact with a piece of art (video, sculpture, painting, etc.). The ability to virtually tour a museum or gallery anywhere on the globe offers the opportunity for art to be seen and shared on a level never before conceived. 

Time Magazine explored the concept of the new realm of creation in a virtual world by asking “What Happens When Seven Artists Paint in Three Dimensions” and providing the equipment to find out. Tilt Brush, a 3D VR painting program by Google offers this experience as a product for those that own VR devices.


The opportunity for businesses to develop around and integrate virtual reality solutions is increasing every day. Suppose a company could build a VR training program that bypasses the considerable expense and cost of traditional onboarding solutions. VR training may be adapted for a plethora of industries and positions, from marketing, HR, and customer services, down to production-level machinery operation and training for physical tasks. Training in virtual reality provides a safe working experience for those that are still building skills and interacting with unfamiliar objects, and can help trainees gain confidence and motor skills that will serve them in real-life, on-the-job situations.  


Research, development, and prototyping in VR allows for interaction and testing of a product without having to physically assemble one. Performance and reliability can be measured quickly and safely. The company would still incur a cost to develop the software, but this process allows for simulated testing without having to develop a full-scale model. 

Consider the implications of shopping in a full-scale VR showroom, hosted by the retailer and accompanied by interactive sales assistance. Businesses could tailor shopping experiences with their products while consumers interact and ask questions from the comfort of their homes.

Space Missions

Becoming an astronaut takes years of dedicated education and training, and VR is supplementing this training with virtual, hands-on experience, planetside. NASA’s Johnson Space Center utilizes virtual reality to train astronauts for rescue scenarios with real-time graphics and kinesthetic sensations that are as comparable to the physical experience as possible. 

VR is creating an opportunity to not only expand space scientist’s abilities to train for space exploration, but also to interact with and learn about celestial bodies from an office on earth by enhancing the ability to visualize conditions. Teams can “meet” on virtual Mars to interact, discuss the extreme environments, and walk with one another as they study Martian geology. This emerging technology does not just improve the study of space for scientists, but also allows the public to share experiences and discoveries via virtual reality tours such as “Access Mars”.


The ability to travel to global destinations, or take a guided tour of modern or historical places, to stroll through a gallery or museum, or immerse into a story can now be done from home with the power of VR. Additionally, tours can range from an almost fully-guided experience to a more adventurous and interactive one. Interactive experiences may allow the user to completely navigate their virtual journey, as well as to select and learn about objects in the virtual environment by clicking or interacting with programmed focus points.

Real Estate

Buying and selling a home is one of the largest personal investments Americans make, and typically takes a large time investment as well. Selling a home involves studying the market, looking around the area, and putting yourself into the buyer’s shoes to price the home to sell. Utilizing VR tours through recently sold homes can be extremely time-efficient when the early process of researching a local market. Staging a house for sale has been proven to increase the likelihood of a sale, and can now be done virtually with VR staging services for a VR tour by a professional.

Realtors® use interactive VR tours to eliminate the costly and time-consuming travel associated with home walk-throughs. Eliminating properties that do not suit buyer needs early on in the vetting process from the comfort of home or a real estate office can help Realtors to narrow the scope of the portfolio of potential properties. VR real estate tours can also provide a better first glance than many wide-angle photos, commonly used online, which don’t quite provide an accurate depiction of depth or layout.

Virtual models of housing developments that are still under construction can provide a better understanding to investors of how the finished project will look. They can also help potential buyers visualize what the finished home will look like and to decide if it meets their needs, all from the comfort of their couch, or office desk.


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