The Comprehensive Guide to Getting Started in Virtual Reality
A curated collection of virtual reality links and resources.
This guide started as a personal collection of links, videos, and other resources for people who would ask me how to get started in the VR, whether the intent was to learn, share, or create.
As an industry in its infancy undergoing rapid and constant change, the easier it is for new entrants to get caught up to speed, the better it is for all involved.
If you would like an opinion on a particular headset, technology, or course, you can reach out to me directly. I tried to avoid preference in listing these resources (although I've denoted some favorites in the learning section).
I will keep this list updated as new content surfaces but if you feel I’ve missed an important resource that should be shared with the community, please send an email to kristian [at] notiontheory [dot] com or message me on twitter.
Table of Contents
VR Headsets 👓
VR headsets can be separated into two types: stationary VR (3DoF) and walkable VR (6DoF). If you’re in the market for a headset, your main considerations will be available space, budget, and ease of setup. For a more detailed list of VR headsets in the market, be sure to check out the VR Fund’s industry landscape brief.
3 Degrees of Freedom (3DoF)
3 Degrees of Freedom (3DoF) headsets involves stationary (seated or standing) experiences that measure the rotational movements along the X (roll), Y (pitch), and Z (yaw) axes.
6 Degrees of Freedom (6DoF) headsets allow for walkable experiences around a physical space. In addition to the 3 degrees of freedom tracked for rotational movements, 6DoF also measures translation across the X (surge // forward, backwards), Y (sway // left, right), and Z (heave // up, down) axes.
Complementary VR Technologies 🔧
The subset of technologies enhancing VR experiences and links to interesting experiments.
- Tesla Suit
- Hardlight Suit
- Haptx Glove
- VRFree Glove
- Tactical Haptics Reactive Grip Motion Controller
Publications, newsletters, and podcasts for those lengthy commutes.
Publications & Blogs
Places where you can find healthy conversation happening about all things VR.
- Virtual Reality Subreddit
- Women in VR Facebook Group
- Virtual Reality Facebook Group
- Oculus Rift Subreddit
- HTC Vive Subreddit
Courses around the web, books, Youtube lectures, and quality reads.
- The VR Book by Jason Jerald, PhD (paid online PDF or print)
- Virtual Reality by Steven LaValle (free online PDF)
- A Guide to the Technologies, Applications, and Human Factors for AR and VR by Steve Aukstakalnis (paid online ebook or print)
- Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality by Jaron Lanier (paid online ebook or print)
- Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do by Jeremy Bailenson (paid online ebook or print)
- Marketing New Realities: An Introduction to VR & AR Marketing, Branding, & Communications by Cathy Hackl and Samantha Wolfe (paid online ebook or print)
- Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution by Jeremy Bailenson and Jim Blascovich (paid online ebook or print)
Watching & Listening
Far from a comprehensive list, but these particular pieces have helped guide the way I think about and create experiences in VR.
- 71-part VR Youtube Lecture Series by Steven LaValle
- John Carmack OC4 Keynote
- VoicesofVR #130: Immersion & Coherence being the two key components of Presence in VR
- VoicesofVR #183: VR Presence, Virtual Body Ownership, & the Time Travel Illusion
- VoicesofVR #292: The Four Different Types of Stories in VR
- VoicesofVR #600: Jaron Lanier’s Journey into VR
- VoicesofVR #605: Future of Mixed Reality Lightfields with Otoy
- What is Virtual Reality by Brenda Laurel
- Applying Human Centered Design to Emerging Technologies by IDEO
- VR Interface Design by Mike Agler
- The Future of Virtual Reality by Chris Milk
- Immersive Design by Matt Sundstrom
- How WebVR Is Going To Bring VR To The Masses by Owen Williams
- VR / AR Prototyping For Everyone by Pavel Laptev
- UX Pointers For VR Design by Timoni West
Design✒️ and Development 💻
Frameworks, tools, programs, and useful links to get you started with VR design and development.
3D Modeling and Animation Programs
3D Models (free / paid)
Industry Research 📃
If you’re interested in learning about the leading research efforts in virtual reality, the brief list below is a great starting point to seeing what the industry is up to.
- University of Hamburg Research Lab
- Stanford University Virtual Human Interaction Research Lab
- Oculus Research Lab
- Disney Research Lab (Visual Computing and Human Computer Interaction research areas)
- Facebook Research Lab
- Nvidia Research Lab
- Microsoft Research Lab (Computer Vision and Human Computer Interaction research areas)
Industry Terms & Definitions 📚
As you read through articles, research, and plunge deep into comment threads, you will come across commonly used terms and acronyms that may need explaining. Below is a list of the most commonly used terms with a short definition for each, but this is by no means a comprehensive list nor the only definition that may be used by others in the industry.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual Reality are computer generated environments with an intent to replace the real world environment (that you exist in) with a simulated environment.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented reality, like virtual reality, are also computer generated environments but with an intent to enhance the perception of the real world environment, rather than replacing it.
Cross Reality (XR)
Cross Reality is used as a catch-all phrase (hence the “X”) to encompass immersive technologies that blend the digital and physical worlds, like virtual reality and augmented reality.
360° video uses an omnidirectional camera to capture video from all angles; each video frame is then stitched together to create an single immersive 360° video that can be viewed.
Head Mounted Display (HMD)
A head mounted display (HMD) is simply a wearable device placed on your head that has a display for one or both eyes.
Inside Out Positional Tracking (HMD)
Inside-Out positional tracking places the tracking sensors onto the VR headset itself rather than mounting them separately in a environment, as seen with current headsets like the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift where the sensors are placed at a safe distance from the user.
Computer Vision (CV)
Computer vision is the process of computers mimicking human vision to understand and predict visual input. Computer vision is used in a host of applications such as identifying scanned text in documents, object recognition in autonomous vehicles, and swapping faces with your dog on Snapchat.
Human Computer Interaction (HCI)
Human Computer Interaction is a field of study looking at the interactions between a person, a computer, and the interfaces required to facilitate this relationship such as a GUI (graphical user interface) or VUI (voice user interface).
Lightfield technology is a type of camera capture where the angular information of light is obtained and from this information, we replicate environments in a virtual space by computing the captured light ray angles.
Foveated rendering is a graphics rendering technique that uses an eye tracker combined with a VR headset to show a high-quality image in the center (foveal) area of vision and a low-quality image in the periphery vision, improving the computational cost of rendering graphics.
Interpupillary Distance (IPD)
Interpupillary distance is simply the distance between the pupils of your eyes. This measurement is used by the HMD to optimize the screen in front of the user’s eyes for the best viewing experience.
Frequently Asked Questions 📬
What is the difference between VR & AR?
At the most basic level, VR is virtual objects in a virtual space (simulation) and AR is virtual objects in a physical space (real world).
The goal of VR is to create simulated experiences that are indistinguishable to all of our senses from reality, giving us the superpowers to recreate experiences that we otherwise would not be able to in the physical world. This could be visiting Mars in the year 3020 or traveling inside the human body to learn about white and red blood cells.
The goal with AR is to create a highly contextual layer of data over the physical world to enhance the perception of what the user is seeing. This could be customizing an empty living room with virtual furniture or seeing weather details when you look at the sky such as wind speed, precipitation, and temperature.
What is the difference between VR and 360° video?
360° video is often grouped under the VR umbrella since all VR headsets (3DoF and 6DoF) support viewing 360° video content, but there are a few key differences:
- 360° video displays a live action scene whereas VR displays a simulated environment
- 360° video is a fixed perspective from the camera point of view, meaning you can not navigate around your environment unless the camera itself moves. With VR, you have more mobility to navigate and explore environments.
- 360° video can be delivered via social media (Youtube, Facebook) without the need for a stereoscopic viewer as is required by VR (webVR is the exception).