Media Depictions of VR and its Progressive Development


01 Aug 2017

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This paper will be a review of the literature on Virtual Reality's depictions in media and how its progressing to build its projected vision for the end user. I will be using a range of academic literary studies and primary sources to provide first-hand information that is closest to my area of study.

Because Virtual Reality is a relatively new area of research as the technology has only been accessible for the last half decade and previously where the most research had been conducted was before the 2000's, the technology was not effective enough to create the desired experience that VR was intended for. My review will be an examination of its current state and expected outcome.


To establish what VR is we first look at its origins, when giving an explanation of virtual reality, you would start with explaining that virtual reality is created by computers combining images and sound to create a three-dimensional image with then create a sense of presence in another environment that does not exist in the real world. Thus, creating a feeling of physical presence within a computer-generated environment. So now by allowing the user to have interactions with the space within the generated imagery, VR as be described as "a realistic and immersive simulation of a three-dimensional environment, created using interactive software and hardware, and experienced or controlled by movement of the body" or typically as an "immersive, interactive experience generated by a computer". Wiki Virtual reality (2016)

So, by understanding what VR's intended use is, we can quickly see VR technology will quickly become a staple part of our day to day lives because of its range of uses. from academic research, designing computer engineering, business, and entertainment. But irrespective of those uses, VR would now allow us to gain a new set of data gathered together that could help develop, training, interactions and communication methods. This literature review will explain the potential definitions of VR, mainly covering VR in media. To fully understand the purpose of VR we first have to explain the concept of "presence", which refers to the feeling of being in an environment that is not present in reality. The function of virtual reality thus lays in its technological capabilities. A device such as this is valuable to media producers however for anyone outside of this area of research, hardware alone does not provide any insight into the intended effect of VR. when its intended use is for the end user. It fails to provide a functional presentation from which to exemplify to media consumers and fails to provide a tone from which to create media products, "Failing to provide a means for consumers to understand the effects of VR besides their experiences with other media"                    (S. Johnathan, 1993) in 'Defining Virtual Reality'.

Johnathan then further explains the short comings of the defined are and states that these inadequacies concede truly constructing a fair review for virtual reality in gaming as the term itself suffers from inadequacies that manifest in two ways. Johnathan (ibid.) firstly, a technologically based definition explains that the most prominent aspect in recognizing what a "VR system" is, is through the hardware then the experience of presence or the lack off. secondly Any system arbitrarily named as a VR System, depending solely on if it includes a minimal collection of specific functions that create the environment for VR. So, there is no clear measurement system of analysis for the prerequisites VR. Hardware alone does not seem adequate for a review that aims to delve deeper into the potential of VR when the minimum requirements for establishing a proposition has not been met. With this in hand we know currently we have to perceive a VR environment as a subjective space that is generated in various ways and techniques for different purposes and uses. We could suggest that the most effective solution to these problems would be to leave the term completely in favour of a more theoretically sound definition. The paper by J. Beniger 'The control revolution' suggests a broad explanation of hardware technology and uses in media. Beniger defines technology as "any intentional extension of a natural process, that is, processing of matter, energy, and information that characterizes all living systems," Beniger (1986, p. 9) and McLuhan in 'The extensions of Man' who defines a medium as any "An extension of mankind." (1964, p. 21), Another area of VR that will be reviewed for its depictions and its progressing state is how we are already intertwining augmented reality with reality in our day to day lives and how we are beginning to overlap realities. these boundaries are a crucial question for many people, especially artists. Sally Norman professor of Performance Technologies proposes that the medium of art exemplifies our need to represent areas of our reality to contrast our regular existence by creating symbolic environments. This idea also explores the relationships that we mix in realities whether it be via hardware and technology or hybrid areas such as installations created by contemporary artists who create storytelling environments. (Sally,2003) Art practices are a creative and technical process, the forms with the practice involved must be ready to adapt and resonate with the ever-changing social environments. The artists involved must collectively push the limits of their imaginations for us to be able to push our ability to perceive and interpret serving as our translators for the new realities that are in our future. But at the same time to create a truly convincing reality the have to be respective to our present reality. Sally (ibid.)  Through installations, outdoor art site based pieces and performances incorporating image and sound, sally predicts that these while all become a art history category after VR has become establishes. "Art testifies to our need to represent areas of existence set apart from commonplace realities" Sally (ibid.)

The representations of VR in Norman's, her conceptualizations broaden the potential of creative media outside of its envisioned use. To contrast and ground these theories into practice and apply them to the current state of VR as a communication tool through a cognitive learning environment so that it can be approached practically and systematically as studied and conducted by Clare Regan, she precisely examines the effects and side effects of prolonged stay in a VR environment. she finds that

In a VR study conducted by Clare Reagan, she set out to document the amount of times subjects experienced side-effects whilst immersed in VR, she put 150 people in VR and they were all required to provide a rating from 1 to 6 prior and straight after immersion, then after 5 minute intervals, during a 20-minute immersion period subjects would be required to complete a motion sickness questionnaire. 61% of the subjects said that they experienced some type of uncomfortableness such as motion sickness while immersed in that 20-minute period. The subjects had symptoms ranging from headaches, nausea and eyestrain and 5% of the subjects withdrew from the study from the severity of the symptoms. These side-effects could be due to a couple of things, one being that immersion in VR conflicts with the bodies equilibrium conflicting with the bodies senses. And technological barriers such as latency and the screen resolutions of the displays could be responsible for some of the symptoms experienced. Clear finding in VR studies are hard to find as so little practical research has been done on it as its still early specialist technology that is still not widely accessible to the majority. Bricken who also documented the study states that "Learning deals with new inputs coming from environment." Bricken (1991) So what we want is to analyse this concept via memory processes in VR. Since the environment seems to play a major role in acquiring and retaining information in VR, the experiment aims to see the subjects ability to recall information when the VR environment changes, the results from this test neither nor did they find a an effect happening to memory processes and therefore virtual reality could be a potential means of educating. (Bricken 1991) emphasises that "VR offers teachers and student's unique experiences that are consistent with successful instructional strategies: hands-on learning, group projects and discussions, field trips, simulations, and concept visualisation." (p.178). Wicken, another researcher in this field argues that a task accruing in virtual reality would produce a long-term decrease in memory processes despite the changing user experience levels within the environment. This is because virtual reality decreases the cognitive effort needed to rete a useful or long-term links with the information learned. In summary, the more ecological interfaces require less user input and less mental stimulus from the brain thus reducing mental activity and degradation o learning. And to follow, he then argues that visualisation of abstract concepts is not the brains way of learning. "With Virtual Reality, this representation may become the reality for the learner, who forgets arbitrary rules and who is a potential victim of visual distortions" (Tversky, 1993)To conclude, we find that the main side-effect of learning n a VR environment leads to lower memory performance levels whilst performing tasks but the effect leaves once information is made to be recalled. We now find that VR as a learning tool is functional in its current form be it in the early stages. Even though the media depiction of seamlessly existing within a VR environment has not been achieved yet, this study proves that it can be a useful resource to build around as a foundation. This may be what Sally Norman theorises when she states that environments and site-specific works of projected sound and image will soon be a seemingly unclassifiable collection of hybrids which may one day turn out to constitute a distinct art history category after the emergence of VR and it has been fully realised as a part of everyday life.


To conclude the research into Media Depictions of VR and its progressive development, we find that even though the its depictions in the Media vary greatly, at the core of the current hardware and tools of development, we find that the expectations and reality merge at the core as the functions are being met, current VR has been proving to be functional by scientists and teachers such as Clare Reagan and Tversky. Though there are major gaps that have to be resolved such as the user experience sickness and strain after short usage and the lack of hardware that the consumer could easily use to understand what the feeling of presence is, my overall perspective would be that the potential of VR is what is driving its development and that is what we should also be studying.


SUBJECT WIKI Virtual reality (2016)

[Online] Available at:

Johnathan, S. (1993) Defining Virtual Reality: Dimensions Determining Telepresence.

[Online] Paper 1. P.3. Available from: [Accessed 11/12/2016]

Beniger, J. R. (1986). The control revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

McLuhan, M. (.ed). (1964) Understanding media: The extensions of man. New York: Penguin.

Norman, Sally Jane. The art of mixing realities. International Conference on Virtual Storytelling. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2003.

Regan, C. (1997) Virtual Reality. Training's Future? (ed) Seidel and Chatelier)

Plenum Press, New York,

Blauert, J. (1983). Spatial hearing: The psychophysics of human sound localization. Cambridge, MA:

MIT Press.

Ashby, H. & Kosinski, J. (1979). Being there. Los Angeles: Northstar

International Pictures.

RJ Seidel & P.R. Chatelier (eds ). (1994) Learning Without Boundaries: Technology to Support Distance Distributed Learning, Defence Research Series - Volume 5 Plenum Press, New York

Gibson, J. J. (1966). The senses considered as perceptual systems. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Gibson, W. (1984). Neuromancer. New York: Ace Books.

Greenbaum, P. (1992, March). The lawnmower man. Film and video

Filigenzi M.T., & Ruff T.M., (2000) Virtual reality for mine safety training, App Occup

and Environ Hyg

Querrec R., & Chevaillier P, (2001) Virtual Storytelling for Training: An Application to Fire Fighting

in Industrial Environment, International Conference on Virtual Storytelling, Avignon,

LNCS 2197, Springer Verlag


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