Glossary

40+ Reality Technology Industry Definitions, Industry Terminology, and Explanations

Learn common reality technology terminology.

Whether you are an entrepreneur interested in developing new virtual reality content or an enthusiast looking to purchase your first headset, you will likely come across new terms that may not be well defined in a standard dictionary. This reality technology glossary is a complete 101 guide to help you understand these new terms commonly found in this rapidly evolving technology. Our glossary of reality technology terms provides definitions for common terminology, their meanings and commonly used industry acronyms.

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360 Video

(also known as Immersive Videos or Spherical Videos) Video recordings where a view in every direction is recorded at the same time, shot using an omnidirectional camera or a collection of cameras. Purists emphasize that 360 video is not actually virtual reality. As such, 360-degree video is less immersive than virtual reality and typically keeps the viewer in a fixed point surrounded by roughly 360 degrees of video.

4D Virtual Reality

The addition of an extra dimension to an experience. An example of 4D Virtual Reality includes a VR music festival experience, which include a rumble pack with it to help people feel the experience, or adding a mister to a VR beach experience.

Augmented Reality

A type of virtual reality, which augments a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment, and computer-generated images are superimposed on a user’s view of the real-world, thus enhancing one’s current perception of reality.

Augmented Virtuality

A type of reality where real-world objects are inserted into virtual computer-generated environments. In augmented virtuality, real multi-sensory input is provided, which supplements the visually presented virtual environment.

Base Station

Often in the form of small rectangular boxes, are devices placed in the tracking area to serve as reference points for any HMDs and input devices tracked. Base Stations perform this function by constantly flooding the room with a non-visible light. The receptors on the tracked devices would intercept the light and figure out where they are in relation to the Base Stations.

Beacon

See “Base Station”

Cinematic VR

A branch of virtual reality that covers high-quality, 360° 3D video experiences, preferably with ambisonic audio and possibly with interactive elements. Cinematic VR is comprised of  real images, usually shot by 360 cameras.

Cross Reality

See “Extended Reality (XR)”

Data Glove

An interactive device, resembling a glove worn on the hand, which facilitates tactile sensing and fine-motion control in robotics and virtual reality. Data Gloves are usually connected to a computer system and facilitate fine-motion control within virtual reality.

Experiencer

An alternative word for ‘player’ or ‘user’. An experiencer can be described as the natural person who is interacting with the virtual world.

Extended Reality (XR)

An umbrella term for all real-and-virtual combined environments and human-machine interactions generated by computer technology and wearables.

Eye Tracking

The technical ability of a Head Mounted Display (HMD) to accurately read and track the position of the experiencer’s eyes, as opposed to just their head movement.

Field of View (FOV)

The extent of the visual area at any given moment by the experiencer, while rotating their head from a fixed body position. FOV is often measured in degrees. The average human field of view is around 200 degrees, but most Head Mounted Displays (HMDs) have an FOV between 50 and 110 degrees.

Frame Rate

In computer video displays, motion pictures, and television, frame rate refers to the number (or frequency) of frames or images that are projected or displayed per second. Frame rate is usually expressed in frames per second (FPS).

Gaze

The direction in which an experiencer is looking in.

Gesture

A form of non-verbal communication through the body (typically the hands or head) that, when tracked by a motion sensing device, can be interpreted as movement and mirrored in virtual reality. Gestures in virtual reality empower the experiencer with the ability to physically influence the experience.

Haptics

The simulation (or recreation) of sense of touch through the sensations of applying force, vibration, or motion to the user. Haptics be used to assist in the creation of virtual objects in a computer simulation, to control such virtual objects, and to enhance the remote control of machines and devices (telerobotics).

Head-Mounted Display (HMD)

In the context of virtual reality, a head-mounted display (also called HMD) is either a pair of goggles or a full helmet that users wear to fully immerse them in virtual experiences. Inside of the HMD, there are tiny monitors in front of each eye which allows for images to appear as three-dimensional. In addition, most HMDs include head tracking sensors so that the system can respond to a user’s head movements.

Hologram

Three-dimensional digital content that is often animated and sometimes accompanied by audio, formed by light beams from a laser or other coherent light source that are projected on a transparent display or into open space. Augmented Reality experiencers are often able to interact with holograms; otherwise, holograms are generally passive/non-interactive content that can be displayed for an audience to view.

Immersion

A psychological perception of being physically present in a virtual environment. This concept is in contrast to the metaphor of a “window”, where one observes what is happening “from the outside”. In the context of Extended Reality (XR), “immersion” is the condition in which the user loses awareness of the fact that they are actually in an artificial world.   

Latency

The time delay (also called lag) that occurs when there is a change in input from the experiencer and it’s accomplishment, often creating a mismatch between the motion you feel and see. In the real world, there is a virtually no latency. In virtual worlds, the average latency is 20 milliseconds, which is considered low.

Light Field

An optical technology that enables objects to be displayed at varying focal planes, allowing for the illusion of depth in an augmented reality experience.

Minimum Frame Rate

The amount of frames per second that is needed to avoid stuttering or user simulation sickness. The higher the framerate, the more realistic a virtual reality experience will feel.

Mixed Reality (Independent)

The predominantly virtual spaces where real world objects or people are dynamically integrated into virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time.

Mixed Reality (Continuum)

The continuous scale ranging which covers all possible variations and compositions of real and virtual objects. The continuum ranges from a completely real and natural environment, to a completely virtual environment. The concept was first introduced by Paul Milgram. 

Optical Engine

A component found in a head-mounted device that generates visual content for the user. Optical engines include the device’s GPU, light-generating element, and mirroring elements, all connected to a CPU and interface for input, as well as a transparent display for output.

Pitch

The rotational movement around the horizontal (x) axis.

Presence

In the context of reality technologies, is when enough of one’s senses have been stimulated to the point that the user feels, believes, and accepts that they are physically occupying a new virtual world. Achieving comfortable, sustained presence requires a combination of the proper virtual reality content and hardware.  

Refresh Rate

The number of times in a second that a display hardware will update its buffer, thus, how quickly a display hardware can change its content over a particular length of time. This is different from the measure of frame rate, in that refresh rate includes the repeated drawing of identical frames, while frame rate measures how often a video source can feed an entire frame of new data to a display.

Room Scale

A design paradigm for Virtual Reality experiences that allows users to move freely within a room-sized environment, while partaking in a virtual reality (VR) experience. The experiencer’s physical movements are mirrored within the virtual world and helps to contribute to a greater sense of immersion, with the body being directly engaged.

Simulation Sickness

In the context of virtual reality, simulation sickness refers to the feeling of dizziness and nauseousness. It is different from motion sickness because it can be caused without any movement, rather by the visually-induced perception of movement. The physiology behind VR sickness is believed to be caused by slower than required refresh rate of on-screen images. This is when the refresh rate is slower than what the human brain processes, which causes a discord between the VR refresh rate and the human brain processing rate; the result is perceived glitches on the screen.

Social VR

(also called Social Virtual Reality) The gathering of participants in a simulated world using a virtual reality (VR) system and social VR app. Participants appear as avatars in shared VR spaces that can be lifelike or fantasy worlds, and users can interact with each other and even participate in activities.

Stitching

The process of taking footage from different cameras, such as GoPro cameras that have been used in a 360 camera mount, and combining that footage into spherical video. The process usually involves reorienting video, placing seams, and generally editing it so that it looks like one continuous view, rather than a patchwork of angles.

Tracking

The method in which a computer understands a user’s movements and then acts upon them accordingly to maintain full immersion. Tracking involves computer anchored content to a fixed point in space, allowing experiencers to walk and/or look around it, as defined by the degrees of freedom allowed by the display device. There are several types of tracking in reality technologies, such as head tracking, motion tracking, eye tracking, marker-based tracking, and marker-less tracking.

Virtual Reality

A realistic simulation of an environment that is created with a mixture of interactive hardware and software, and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment.

Virtual Reality (VR) Glasses

See “Head-Mounted Display (HMD)”

Virtual Reality (VR) Headset

See “Head-Mounted Display (HMD)”

Virtual Reality (VR) Sickness

See “Simulation Sickness”

Virtual World

A three dimensional environment, often (but not necessarily) realized through a medium (rendering pipeline, display, etc.), where one can interact with others and create objects as part of that interaction.

WebVR

An emerging reality technology that aims to present virtual reality content in traditional web browsing interfaces. WebVR experiences are delivered through a JavaScript API that provides support for virtual reality devices.  

Yaw

The rotational movement around the around the vertical (y) axis.