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Use of computer modeling and simulation to enable a person to interact with an artificial three-dimensional visual or other sensory environment. A computer-generated environment simulates reality by means of interactive devices that send and receive information and are worn as goggles, headsets, gloves, or body suits. The illusion of being in the created environment (telepresence) is accomplished by motion sensors that pick up the user's movements and adjust his or her view accordingly, usually in real time. The basis of the technology emerged in the 1960s in simulators that taught how to fly planes, drive tanks, shoot artillery, and generally perform in combat. It came of commercial age in the 1980s and is now used in games, exhibits, and aerospace simulators. It has potential for use in many fields, including entertainment, medicine and biotechnology, engineering, design, and marketing.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on virtual reality, visit Britannica.com.