Immersive TechnologyAugmented RealityVirtual Reality

The Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Terms You Need to Know

Each new technology has its specific terms–right now it is time to learn the most frequently used terms in virtual reality and augmented reality.


One of the impediments in becoming familiar with new technologies is understanding their terminology. Developers create certain terms to describe physical parts, actions and ways of operation, and these terms are passed on to the general public. However, in the incipient form of a new technology, its terms tend to have obscure explanations, or none at all. But since virtual reality and augmented reality have become so popular, their specific terms have received clear and easy to understand explanations.

Even if you are just a basic user who enjoys a virtual reality game every now and then or uses an AR shopping app, it is important to know a few terms, as they appear in the descriptions of headsets and apps and in specialized articles talking about the most recent VR and AR games and devices.

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For this reason, we consider this the right moment to put together a glossary of the most frequent terms used in augmented and virtual reality. We have tried to give you clear and succinct explanations for each term, without making any assumptions about your degree of familiarity with the technology.

AR Space: the surface on which augmented reality objects are added to a real life image. The AR space is mapped so that holographic items can be superimposed accurately over the real life image. For instance, a piece of furniture in an augmented reality shopping app will be placed on the empty space in your room by mapping out the image captured by your phone’s camera.

Aspect Ratio: the aspect ratio is the proportion between the vertical side of the screen and the horizontal side. This is an important factor in determining how virtual reality and augmented reality objects appear on the screen. For instance, if you have an older model 4:3 aspect ratio TV set, widescreen VR programs will appear in the middle of the screen with black lines at the top and bottom.

Eye Tracking: advanced virtual reality headsets have the capacity to track the movement of the user’s eyes and direct them to a specific area where game action or other interactions can be experienced.

Field of View: also known by the abbreviation FOV, it represents the number of degrees in the horizontal visual field of virtual reality devices. The larger this number, the more realistic and immersive the VR experience is, because the user’s eyes will perceive the virtual reality environment all around them.

Haptics: this is the feedback VR users experience through vibration and sound to the interactions with virtual reality objects. Good haptics means that the interactions are extremely realistic, and users can almost feel objects in real time as they touch, grab or throw them.

Judder: any destabilization in augmented reality and virtual reality images is called judder. For instance, when the image is blurry, moves too fast or in slow motion – all these are examples of judder, which can cause motion sickness.

Latency: latency is the period of time virtual reality devices need to adjust the graphics to the user’s head movement. Many users experience the effects of latency when they make sudden movements, like turning around or shaking their head to the right or left.

Refresh Rate: moving images, even in television, are in fact a series of still images shown at a fast speed to create the illusion of smooth movement. Refresh rate indicates the speed at which the images are displayed. The higher the refresh rate, the less perceptible its latency.

Spatial Desync: this term describes the difference occurring between a user’s movements in real life and the VR avatar’s movements. Thus, if a user is playing a virtual reality boxing game, and the avatar’s fist hits the opponent, the movement of its arm would stop, while the player’s arm would move further.

Tethered Device: a virtual reality device that needs to be physically connected to a powerful computer. Tethered VR devices are used for highly immersive experiences, such as movies and games with complex and detailed graphics.

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