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Fundamentals of Virtual Reality Technology and User Experience

Doug Bowman

Virtual Reality (VR) technology has been around for decades, but it’s now robust, accessible, and affordable for a wide variety of applications, such as education/training, design/prototyping, marketing, tourism, and therapy. But designing an effective user experience with VR technology can be tricky since VR is a new medium with unique issues and considerations.

In this Live Training, we’ll cover the basics of VR technology, including displays, tracking, input devices, modeling, and run-time software, be showing how they all work together to immerse the user in a 3D world. Numerous real-world examples will illustrate the variety of technologies and the impacts of technology choices.

We’ll also discuss user experience design for VR, including information on the factors that make VR experiences most effective, potential downsides of VR like sickness or social factors, interaction design for VR apps, and ways to evaluate the quality of a VR experience. Case studies will help attendees understand when and why to choose VR, and how to design a VR app that’s usable, comfortable, delightful, and effective.

What you'll learn-and how you can apply it

  • Understand the landscape of VR technologies and how to choose the right setup for your application
  • Design effective user experiences for the unique VR medium
  • Select interaction techniques for navigation, selection, manipulation, and system control in VR applications

This training course is for you because...

  • You are intrigued by the potential of VR for your application and want to explore
  • You want to improve effectiveness in your application using VR, not just provide a wow factor
  • You are concerned about issues like sickness or social acceptance with VR and want to mitigate those risks
  • You want to translate your knowledge of traditional UX design into the new medium of VR


  • Basic UX design knowledge helpful, but not required

Recommended Follow-up

About your instructor

  • Doug A. Bowman is the Frank J. Maher Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction at Virginia Tech. He is the principal investigator of the 3D Interaction Group, focusing on the topic of three-dimensional user interface design for virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). He has consulted on VR and related topics for both large companies and smaller organizations. Dr. Bowman is one of the co-authors of 3D User Interfaces: Theory and Practice. He received a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation for his work on 3D Interaction, and has been named an ACM Distinguished Scientist. He received the Technical Achievement award from the IEEE Visualization and Graphics Technical Committee in 2014. His undergraduate degree in mathematics and computer science is from Emory University, and he received his M.S. and Ph.D. in computer science from the Georgia Institute of Technology.


The timeframes are only estimates and may vary according to how the class is progressing

Segment 1: Introduction to VR (55 min)

  • What is VR and why is it unique?
  • What sorts of applications is VR good for?
  • How does a complete VR system work?
  • Technologies for VR (displays, tracking, input devices, modeling and run-time software)
  • Choosing the right combination of VR technologies

Break Time(5 min)

Segment 2: VR user experience design: general principles (45 min)

  • VR user experience goals
  • Using human perception and illusions in VR
  • Mitigating VR sickness and other user experience risks
  • How traditional UX principles translate to VR
  • Evaluating VR user experience

Break Time (5 min)

Segment 3: VR user experience design: interaction techniques (55 min)

  • Universal interaction tasks in VR
  • Interaction techniques
  • Navigation
  • Selection & manipulation
  • System Control
  • Case studies

Q&A (15 min)