How Does Virtual Reality Actually Work?

­In the last couple of years, virtual reality (VR) has become a hot trend across the globe. Tech-giants like Google, Facebook, and HTC have invested their money in designing VR headsets which can be used to simulate a virtual world and help customers enjoy a 3D virtual experience.

Moreover, development companies have also started to offer virtual reality app services which allow business owners to integrate VR into their mobile app and offer an interactive experience to the end user

Of course, there are several areas which require improvement, but the technology has covered a long journey from where it started. Gone are the days when one would have to think twice before buying a VR headset due to the expensive price tag. With the availability of affordable VR headsets like Google cardboard and Samsung Gear VR, one can enjoy the virtual experience without burning a hole in his/her pocket.

If you have ever used a VR headset in your life, you already know how does it work. You connect your headset with a desktop or mobile and take a dive into the virtual world. However, if you are keen towards understanding technical gadgets in a better way, you might want to know the detailed working of a Virtual Reality headset.

The truth is a lot of factors go into simulating a virtual world through a VR headset. Let’s take a look at the backend processing and find out how does a VR headset creates a virtual experience for the user.

What Does Virtual Reality Mean?

In case, you’re new to the world of virtual reality, everything we’ve written so far is likely to be jibber-jabber for you. So, let’s first understand what does virtual reality actually mean and how do best VR app developers utilize this technology to build engaging apps. As of the official definition, virtual reality is a phenomenon of simulating a virtual scenario which allows the user to escape reality for a while and dive into the imaginary world.

This simulation is done through a VR headset. The user can interact with the virtual world either using gestures or through dedicated controllers. As of now, several tech-giants have released their own VR headsets, but the majority of them are expensive. However, Google and Samsung have also targeted the bourgeois audience by releasing affordable VR headsets, i.e., Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR.

The best VR app developers use different gaming engines and APIs to build VR-based mobile apps. These apps are compatible to be used on both smartphones and tablets. Desktop VR headsets, on the other hand, are connected to a monitor via HDMI cable to emulate the virtual scenario.

Now, that you know what virtual reality is, let’s understand how it works.

How Does a VR Headset Work?

A VR headset contains several elements that combine together to create a virtual experience for the user. In general, every VR headset is likely to have the following elements.

  • Stereoscopic Display
  • Controller.
  • 3D Audio System.

Stereoscopic Display

The majority of the VR headsets have a stereoscopic display. It means that the display shows two different angles of the scene to each eye. This way the human brain is tricked into believing that it’s actually witnessing the scene in reality. In case you have ever used a VR headset, you already know what we’re talking about.

Furthermore, the two different angles also simulate a depth, which means the farther objects seem to move slower while the nearby objects move at a regular pace. These are a few elements which create a life-like experience for the user.

It is worth noting that each VR headset in the market has different specifications which means that not every headset will provide you with the same virtual experience. HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have a 90Hz display which means that it can display 90 images in one second. Google Daydream, on the other hand, has a refresh rate of 60Hz and that’s why it is compatible with the majority of smartphones and monitors.

It is important that both refresh rate of the monitor and the FPS match each other. Reason being, if a monitor has a refresh rate of 90Hz and you want to play a game at 120FPS, you’ll practically lose the remaining 30 frames every second. This will result in a slower response from the monitor, which will damage the overall gaming experience.

This is why most of the companies use the phenomenon of VSync (Vertical Sync). VSync is used to make the frame rate match the monitor’s refresh rate automatically. It means that even if a game has a 120FPS frame rate, the VR headset will limit the refresh rate to 60Hz (refresh rate of the monitor). VR app developers use Vsync to ensure that their mobile app can work on any VR headset regardless of the refresh rate of the device.

It is the job of the best VR app developers to ensure that their app is compatible with the stereoscopic display and can change the scene as soon as the user makes a movement in the real world.

Another important aspect of the stereoscopic display is the field of view (FOV). It is the total extent of the scene which a user can see at any given time. The higher the FOV is, the wider would be the angle of the scene. Each VR headset a different field of view. Both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have a 110 degrees FOV while Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR have a FOV of 90 degrees.

It is important to understand that all these factors including frame rate, refresh rate, and FOV combine together to provide users with an exceptional virtual experience. Without the correct refresh rate and frame rate, there’s a huge probability of motion sickness, also known as cybersickness.

In the earlier stages of Virtual Reality, several VR headsets caused the user to experience cybersickness, though it was at a minimal level. However, today the technology has certainly improved, and therefore, very few headsets cause motion sickness.


To interact with the virtual environment, the user requires some sort of controllers. If one is using a smartphone, then the in-built sensors like gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer are going to help the user to move within the virtual space. The accelerometer detects the three-dimensional movement of the user while the gyroscope is used to detect the angular movement.

The smartphone uses these sensors to detect where you’re looking, how fast you’re running, and how you’re moving your hands within the virtual space. Desktop VR headsets, on the other hands, use dedicated controllers to track these movements. Both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive come with controllers in the box. Rift can also be used with an Xbox One controller or a dedicated third-party controller.

These controllers have infrared sensors which track each movement of the user, allowing him to freely move across the virtual space. Any VR headset can have as many as 100+ sensors located at different points. These sensors closely track each movement of the user and replicate these movements within the virtual environment.

While developing the mobile app, virtual reality app development service providers run the app through different test scenarios to ensure that app can track the movement of the controllers in every scenario.

3D Audio

It is important that a VR headset should have a dedicated audio system so that people can enjoy an exceptional virtual experience. Since the VR mobile app developers are trying to simulate a different world, it becomes extremely important that user can enjoy a life-like experience.

Virtual Reality app developers achieve this goal by integrating a 3D audio system. This system emulates the sound from different angles, enhancing the overall user experience. Since there’s a virtual placement of the 3D audio system, the overall user-experience becomes more engaging.

What is the Future of Virtual Reality App Development Services?

Virtual Reality is likely to expand its boundaries to different industries. With companies like Google and Facebook continuously working on enhancing the performance of their VR headsets, it is expected that we’ll witness an increased demand of VR-based mobile apps.

As of now, Google’s VR SDK has provided developers with the power to design feature-rich VR-based Android apps. Moreover, gaming engines like Unreal and Unity are also supporting the development of VR mobile games, which in fact are being appreciated by the end users.

It is also expected that VR will move ahead of gaming & entertainment industry and impact other markets as well. The education and health industry can benefit from virtual reality in many ways. The learning experience of a student can be enhanced using VR-based tutorials.

Virtual Reality is going to have a bright future and if you have an idea for a virtual reality mobile application, hire best VR app developers who can transform your idea into a working mobile app.

How Virtual Reality Works-Final Words

Virtual Reality is a technology with immense potential in the coming years. Not only will it impact the gaming world, but other business industries can also benefit from this immersive technology and provide users with an interactive experience.

As far as working is concerned, we have already discussed the in-depth working process of a VR headset. From stereoscopic display to the immersive 3D audio system, every single element of a VR headset impacts the virtual experience of the user.

Leave a Reply