VR Terminology 101: Learn The Basics

VR Terminology 101: Learn The BasicsHave you been itching to jump into the world of virtual reality? Almost have enough saved up for that VR headset sitting in your Amazon cart for an extended length of time? There are many terms associated with virtual reality concepts that need explaining before you can truly understand what it is and how it works.

Even if you’re not a VR newbie, maybe you keep hearing others mention a certain term and you’ve been wondering what it means. Let’s brush up on some of the basic terminologies.

Basic Virtual Reality Terms

Degrees of Freedom (DoF)

Degrees of freedom is a term used to explain the lengths that headsets go to map your physical movement and track it in the VR world as your simulated representation. You might also see this referred to as DoF (degrees of freedom).

The most common degrees of freedom are:

● 3DoF (meaning three degrees of freedom) – this degree of freedom tracks your head’s movements by pitch, roll, and yaw, but will not track its position in physical space.

● 6DoF (meaning six degrees of freedom) – this degree of freedom tracks your head’s movements by pitch, roll, and yaw, and also tracks its position in physical space.

Clearly 6DoF headsets are superior to 3DoF, which seems to be being phased out.

Field of View (FOV)

The field of view is commonly referred to as FOV. It means everything your eyes can see at any given point in time.

VR headsets you can purchase on the market today have a field of view that is much smaller than what you can see when not wearing a headset. When wearing a headset, you will have a black border around the lenses because of the space around them inside the headset.

Some higher-end headsets are wide enough that the black border is not as visible, making your view inside the VR world appear like you are looking through a set of goggles. Users report it is easy to forget about that border and this immerses them even further.


While in a VR setting, there are various forms of simulated content that are interactive. In order to interact with these simulations, you’ll need some form of controller.

Some high-end headsets such as the HTC Vive Cosmos, Oculus Quest, and Oculus Rift S come with a controller for each hand.

Playstation also offers VR. Some games require the brand’s Move controllers, but others allow the use of standard PS4 DualShock controllers.

Other types of controllers include the Valve Index Controllers that hook around your palm and knuckles and detect finger movements and pressure. These controllers are unique to any other controller currently available.

Facebook’s Oculus Quest has hand-tracking technology and does not require a controller. The headsets can track the length of hand and finger movements with a fairly decent level of accuracy.

Inside Out vs. Outside In Tracking

● Inside Out tracking refers to a system that relies on built-in cameras to track movement from inside the headset outwards.

● Outside In tracking refers to a system that has hardware external to the space being tracked. In other words, it isn’t built into the actual headset.

Interpupillary Distance (IPD)

Interpupillary Distance or IPD is a common term you’ll see when researching headsets. It means the length of space or distance between the center of your pupils. This affects how well a person will see a VR display within a headset. Some headsets are adjustable to fit better for varying lengths of IPD.

Motion Sickness

A common side effect of wearing and using a VR headset is motion sickness. Some people build up a resistance to this over time, commonly known as gaining your “VR legs” (like getting your sea legs on a boat).

Symptoms of motion sickness are nausea and discomfort and happen most often when your body’s physical movements don’t match your VR self’s movements.

These are just some of the terms you’ll see while wandering through the VR world. The length at which you decide to learn about things before you dive in is up to you, but knowing the basics will definitely help you to understand what to expect on the way.

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