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Michael Batty, Hui Lin and Min Chen

Virtual reality (VR) has entered geography in various guises over the last 20 years, building on the basic notion that, when users of digital technology need to be immersed in the experience of computation, then special purpose technologies and environments must be built to make this possible. We review the brief history of this field and then focus on four distinct developments that mark contemporary technologies: 3D representations which are best seen in virtual city models, virtual worlds which mix humans, computable agents and geographic motion, virtual geographic environments (VGEs) which integrate model processes and users in integrated collaborative spaces, and augmented realities which mix the real and the virtual using analogies which incorporate mixed and blended virtual environments. We conclude by arguing that the use of VR in geography is by no means in a stable state and that we might expect quite profound developments in these technologies where users and computers are integrated in diverse and surprising ways in the not-too-distant future.

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Michael Batty, Joana Barros and Sinésio Alves Júnior