Virtual Reality Glossary of Terms – VR Terminology

Learn the VR lingo

As virtual reality (VR) becomes mainstream and embedded within society, there are specific VR technical terms you will want to familiarize yourself with and adopt into your vocabulary. It’s beneficial to learn and understand these terms in order to make educated VR product purchasing decisions that will help you achieve the immersive VR experience you desire.

If you are a novice or a working professional who is interested in pursuing the vast amount of career opportunities within the ever evolving VR industry, or your current industry or profession is beginning to experiment and adopt immersive technologies, then many of these terms should become a fixture within your every day use.

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Augmented reality

Simple definition: Augmented reality is the overlaying of digital data or elements on top of the real world, supplementing reality and allowing you to interact with both the real world and the digital elements.

What does this mean for you?

Augmented reality technology is still a couple years behind virtual reality, but devices like the Microsoft HoloLense are beginning to become available for developers. Once this technology hits the consumer market in a few years, we will start to see a convergence of augmented reality and virtual reality in what’s known as ‘mixed realities’.






Field of View

Simple definition: The field of view (also known as field of vision, or FOV for short) is all that you can see while looking straight. This is the extent of your natural vision. The average human field of view is approximately 200 degrees.

What does that mean for you? When researching virtual reality headsets (also known as head-mounted displays) you will see that there is a specification for field of view. Most current VR headsets have a minimum field of view of 90-110 degrees, which is a baseline for a great VR experience. The higher the field of view, the more of the environment you will see as it will extend to the edge of your vision, and as a result, the more immersive experience you will have. Think of this like the difference between an IMAX movie theater screen and a regular movie theater screen. The IMAX screen is much larger and therefore takes up more of your field of view, which allows you to see more creating a more immersive experience.

Frames Per Second

Simple definition: Frames Per Second or FPS for short refers to the number of times an image on the screen is refreshed each second.

What does this mean for you?

The higher the frames per second, the smoother the motion appears and the more comfortable your VR experience will be. This is extremely important for virtual reality because slow or choppy motion will often cause nausea. In order for you to feel comfortable while experiencing VR, ensure you purchase a VR headset that can achieve at least 90 frames per second. Most VR headsets on the market today achieve 90 to 120 frames per second. This is also known as the screen refresh rate and is sometimes identified in Hertz (90Hz or 120Hz).





Simple definition: Input refers to the method of control you will use for virtual reality. This could be a mouse and keyboard, a gamepad, or even motion-tracking.

What does this mean for you? Most VR experiences today use the standard gaming input device like the mouse and keyboard, gamepad or a slightly modified controller for each hand. As virtual reality matures, more input devices will become available like gloves, body suits and full body-to-finger tracking which will allow for a much more natural and realistic experience, allowing you to reach out with your hands and interact with the virtual environment as you would in real life. 





Motion Tracking

Simple definition: Motion Tracking is the ability to record your movement and the movement of objects in real-time.

What does this mean for you?

Motion tracking is what allows you to move around in an environment just as you would in real life. When you lean in to look at something in a virtual world, you will get closer to that object. Just like you would in real life. Motion tracking is one the biggest components required to tricking your senses into thinking you are really participating in the virtual environment.




Positional Tracking

Simple definition: Positional Tracking is the ability to record your movement and the movement of objects in real-time. This translates to you being able to move around and rotate in the virtual world. Movement: Forward and backward, up and down, left and right. Rotation: Pitch, yaw, and roll.

What does this mean for you?

Positional tracking is what allows you to move around and rotate in a virtual environment. The more accurate the positional tracking, the more it will feel like you are in that environment. Positional tracking is one of the biggest components required to trick your senses into thinking the virtual environment is real.

When researching VR headsets and accessories, you will see a specification for positional tracking. It will say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and may also include the sensors it uses and the legacy time. Most high-end VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive will have positional tracking or room-scale tracking which is the ability to track your movement and the movement of objects like input devices within a particular space. Entry level VR headsets like Google cardboard and mid-performance VR headsets like the Samsung Gear VR does not include positional tracking.

Latency refers to the speed at which the virtual world reacts to your movement. When it comes to latency, the less latency the more comfortable the experience will be. The rule of thumb is for latency to be sub 20 milliseconds. The lower the number the better. Higher than 20 milliseconds could mean you may feel nauseous when using the VR headset because your movements are not syncing with what you are seeing. Much like sea sickness.

Presence or 'Sense of Presence'

Simple definition: The sense of being somewhere else than your current physical location, the sense of being in and of the [virtual or simulated] world.

Extended definition:

Your sense of being somewhere else other than your current physical location has a lot to do with how much concentration and attention you put into displacing yourself from the physical world. Comfort, stimulation and interaction all play a role in allowing you to forget that technology is creating what you are experiencing and ultimately perceiving as your reality.




Screen Resolution

Simple definition: Screen resolution refers to the amount of pixels that are displayed on the screen. Much like a computer monitor or television, the more pixels present, the clearer and more realistic the image quality will be.

What does this mean for you? The higher the screen resolution the much clearer and more realistic the VR experience will be. Because the screen in a VR headset is only a few inches away from your eyes, a higher screen resolution is needed so you don’t see each individual pixel.

While looking at a 1080p television may seem like great quality, you typically don’t sit a few inches away from it. If you were to move right up to your television, then you would notice the little pixels that make up the image.

With VR headsets, the screen is split in half to show one image accurately to each eye.

When looking for a mid-level or high-end VR headset, look for a screen resolution with a minimum of 2160×1200 (1080×1200 per eye). Anything lower and you may notice what is called the ‘screendoor effect’, which feels like you are looking through a screen door (you can see the little black dots or lines in the screen)

Spatial Audio (also known as 3D audio)

Simple definition: Spatial audio is used to create sound that originates from a specific point in the virtual world. This is like surround-sound in a home theater setup or at the movies.

What does this mean for you? Sound is one of the most important components to creating an immersive VR experience. Spatial sound allows you to hear sound all around you and also tracks the sound when you move your head just like in real life.

For example, if you heard footsteps to the left of you, then you turned your head left, the footsteps would sound like they are now coming from in front of you. Sound plays a major part in producing a truly immersive experience, and is arguably one of the most important components when creating a virtual reality experience. Spatial sound takes horror experiences to a whole new level in virtual reality.



Tracking is extremely important for a fully immersive VR experience. Essentially, tracking tells the computer where you are looking and what you are doing so that it can accurately draw the virtual world around you. The more precise the tracking, the more  comfortable the VR experience will be.

Also see:
Motion tracking
Positional tracking



Virtual reality

Simple definition: An immersive, interactive computer generated environment or experience that is nearly indistinguishable from reality.

What does this mean for you?

A high level of VR immersion is achieved by engaging your two most prominent senses, vision and hearing, by using a VR headset and headphones. The VR headset wraps the virtual world or experience nearly to the edge of your natural vision field of view. When you look around, you experience the environment the same as you do when you look around in real life. Headphones amplify the experience by blocking out the noise that’s around you, while allowing you to hear the sounds within the VR experience. When you move your head, the sounds within the VR environment move around you like they would in real life.

VR Headset (Also known as Head-Mounted Display HMD)

Simple definition: A virtual reality headset (VR head-mounted display or HMD for short) is a goggle-like device that you wear on your head which generally contains a screen and lenses which allows you to see into the virtual world.

What does this mean for you?

The VR Headset is the foundation of modern virtual reality. Technology has come a long way over the last 50-60 years and what was once a big and heavy VR headset in the early ‘90s is now just a little bigger than a pair of ski/snowboard goggles. Some VR headsets even use your phone as the screen like Samsung Gear VR or Google cardboard. When researching VR Headsets (or VR head-mounted displays) look at whether the screens are built in or if it requires you to use your cell phone. If you are looking for the best immersive experience, the high-end VR Headsets like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive are what you should invest in. But remember, the high-end VR Headsets will require a high-end computer to run them. If you are looking for a great quality mobile VR experience, then the Samsung Gear VR is your best bet if you own a 2015 or newer Samsung smartphone.


Simple definition: ‘Ology’ is the the study of a particular topic or a branch of learning. VRology is the study, or learning, of virtual reality. Virtual reality is the topic of study and branch of knowledge.

What does this mean for you?

Virtual reality is growing tremendously fast and new opportunities and possibilities are opening up every day. We have built this resource with the simple mission of connecting people to their VR passion by simplifying the learning curve and making it easy to connect to educational material, products, people and immersive VR experiences.





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