What Is a Virtual Reality Movie?

T. Carrier
T. Carrier
Virtual reality movies simulate immersive real-world environments.
Virtual reality movies simulate immersive real-world environments.

As technology advances, so do forms of entertainment. The virtual reality (VR) that was once confined to military or medical studies has entered the mainstream through the advent of virtual reality movies. These films operate by using computer and mathematical principles to create life-like simulations of sight, sound, and other sensory factors. Special theatres and gaming devices that employee equipment like stereoscopic headgear and tactile systems are two of the most common areas for virtual reality movie production. Many traditional movies also emphasize virtual reality in their plots and themes.

The foundation of a virtual reality movie is virtual reality technology. These applications involve simulating real-world environments and experiences through computer technology. Most simulators focus on visual replication, but virtual reality may also offer technology that mimics tastes, sounds, smells, and even touch. Special equipment like head mounts and electronically controlled gloves are frequently featured in virtual reality technology, and thus in virtual reality movies as well.

Computer-simulated environments produced by a virtual reality movie merge geometric mathematical principles with electronic technology. One focal point in virtual reality technology, for example, is to view images in three dimensions rather than two dimensions. This feat may be achieved with polarized lenses that change colors and depth perceptions in images. Stereoscopic displays may also be used, in which two askew, two-dimensional images are combined via special glasses to produce the illusion of three-dimensional depth.

The late 20thst centuries introduced the virtual reality movie mainly in large-scale entertainment venues. Many theme parks, for example, have theaters with virtual reality-equipped seating areas and screens. These theaters play short virtual reality movies for a sizable audience, and they usually contain haptic systems that produce small vibrations and other tactile sensations. A common set-up might have an individual placed in a movable seat and strapped in with VR head gear that enhances the visual experience. Once the movie starts, the seating area might emit substances as they occur in the movie, such as water sprays or distinct odors.

Many virtual reality games function as a sort of interactive movie. Players enter the worlds of such games and actually become one of the characters. In the virtual reality world, the character then encounters objects or other characters, and the player’s actions dictate how the experience unfolds. For example, a typical game might have the player as a zombie hunter in a post-apocalyptic world, wherein the individual is virtually fitted with a weapon that can eliminate the monsters in the VR world. Such games often follow basic plotlines and have both protagonists and antagonists, just like a traditional movie.

A virtual reality movie may also simply describe a regular movie with a primary plot centered in virtual reality technology. The 1999 movie The Matrix, for example, explores a futuristic society where humans are enslaved in virtual reality worlds by machines. Similarly, the 2009 film Avatar follows futuristic humans as they seek to make contact with an alien world by using virtual reality creations. A key aspect in cyberpunk movies is the melding of humanity with technology, so virtual reality is a common tool used to build the theme in this particular genre.

Discussion Comments


When I was a kid, I remember when I would go to Haunted Trails and play the virtual reality Jurassic Park games. While I was intimidated by them at first, after a while, I got used it. Even though virtual reality is supposed to make you feel like you're in reality (hence the name), it's always a good idea to make a distinction between what's real and what's not.


I've been to virtual reality movies before, and even if you're prepared, it's a lot more intense than you initially expect. A few years ago at my college, my class and I went to a museum where we watched a simulation video of Abraham Lincoln's life. While the technology was engaging, and though it was a fun ride, some parts were a little too intense for me, and they almost made it feel like I was actually there. For example, during one part of the presentation, Lincoln gets kicked in the teeth by a horse, which at one point, causes the screen to crack.


Virtual reality is a perfect example of how far technology has come. In fact, I wonder what the next step is in terms of being "virtual". Perhaps in the future, they'll use technology that makes you feel like you're even more engaged then you were previously, such as feelings of shock and terror?

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    • Virtual reality movies simulate immersive real-world environments.
      By: Jandrie Lombard
      Virtual reality movies simulate immersive real-world environments.