How Does Virtual Reality Work?

Virtual reality seems common to us now, but it wasn’t that long ago that we couldn’t even imagine getting to where we are now with VR. Virtual reality is a very unique way to experience games, and if you’re anything like us there have been times when you put the headset on and thought to yourself, “how does virtual reality even work?”

There are many highly technical aspects that go into making virtual reality work, but for this we want to focus on three main concepts that will help you understand the basics of VR: head tracking, motion tracking, and sound. With these three tools, virtual reality setups are able to trick your mind into believing the VR is real.

Head Tracking

Head tracking is all about sensing when the user moves their head and controls what you can see. Being able to read three-dimensional movement means the headset has to read how you turn on the X, Y, and Z axis. That ends up translating to up and down, left and right, and forward and backwards. This is what creates the initial immersion of VR, because it allows you to look around the environment like you would in the real world.

It’s very important that there is no lag when a user makes a move. After all, when you turn your head in real life, does the world take a moment to catch up? Of course not. In the world of virtual reality, this is called latency. Ideally, you want a VR setup to have a latency of 50 milliseconds or less, which helps your movements feel real. At Stars & Strikes we use Hologate VR, which achieves this milestone!

Motion Tracking

Another important aspect of virtual reality is motion tracking, which allows the game to track how you move your body and transfer that to your in-game character. Not all VR systems use this, but it can be a great way to increase immersion. Now not only are you able to look around the environment, but you can interact with it directly!

Motion tracking is done two ways as of today. Either it uses cameras to read the way your body moves and tracks that directly to the game, or it uses wireless handsets to track specifically what you do with your hands and arms. Handsets are much more common, and currently also tend to be more accurate. While cameras can catch a wider range of movement, it often takes longer for that information to get to the game and some of your smaller movements can be missed.


Sound is often overlooked by casual players when it comes to virtual reality, but it is one of the most important parts of immersion. Spatial audio is a technique used by game and VR developers that allows users with headphones on to hear sounds as if they are coming from all around them. When developers take advantage of this, they can make it seem like sounds are coming from specific places like behind the player, in front of them, from the left, or even under or above them.

If you have an understanding of these three characteristics of virtual reality, then you have a basic answer to how VR works! If you’d like to try it out for yourself, check out our virtual reality page at Stars & Strikes where we use Hologate VR to immerse you in the fun world of gaming!