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Figure 1.1 Simulation of controls of a car with a head-mounted display or a simulator screen.
(Illustration: PSA Peugeot Citroën, with permission)
and innovation. Though virtual reality today depends on computer science for its devel-
opment, we believe that this domain will eventually become an independent sector of
research and activity.
1.1.2 Definitions of virtual reality Origin and simplistic image of virtual reality
We have been using the term “virtual reality'' for more than fifteen years. This term
is debatable and has been questioned by some. The oxymoronic expression virtual
reality was introduced in the United States by Jaron Lanier in the 80s. Since this name
is now common, it is pointless to change it. However, as J.P. Papin points out, virtual in
English means “indeed'', “practically''. The French translation thus does not imply this
meaning. It would have been better to use “substitute reality'' or “vicarious reality''
or even better “vicarious environment''. The word “vicarious'' is used in psychology
and physiology where it refers respectively to a process, a function or an organ that
replaces another process, function or organ.
Defining virtual reality is an indispensable task. In literature, we still find defini-
tions that inappropriately mix the purpose of virtual reality, its functions, applications
and the techniques on which it is based. Some have even defined virtual reality merely
by the use of one or another interaction device. It is this simplistic image that was unfor-
tunately circulated in the media: A person using a head-mounted display with different
controls to interact (data glove, paddle, steering wheel, etc.) that are connected to a
computer (Figure 1.1). We must reject these approaches, firstly because they are centred
on only one particular technology, and secondly because they are extremely restrictive
in terms of scientific issues related to the complexity of the dimensions involved in the
interaction between the human user and the virtual environments. In the following part
of this section, we have given definitions with various levels to give a clear picture of
the domain of virtual reality. These terms and definitions are derived from discussions
in the editorial committee of this treatise regarding the definition, scope and purpose
of the domain, from the definitions proposed in the previous editions of the treatise
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