Skip to main content

Virtual reality as a communication process


In this work, we consider immersive Virtual Reality (VR) as a communication process between humans, mediated by computer systems, which uses interaction, visualization, and other sensory stimuli to convey information. From this viewpoint, it is relevant to understand how VR can solve a given communication problem, what is therefore the expressive power of VR system, i.e., its ability in establishing the communication, what are the guidelines to design an effective system, and what are the more relevant models of VR applications. Firstly, we try to clarify the notion of reality in Virtual Reality systems and conclude that reality is not an intrinsic characteristic of VR, rather the result of a conventional way of coding information. The purpose of coding is to lead the observer to the conclusion that the VR set is what is called in italian as verisimile (from Latin veri similis), i.e., “similar-to-the-real-thing”. So the creation of an effective VR application is an artifice or an illusion. But in order to avoid an over-reliance on the creativity of the VR designer, we intend to identify a solid ground on which different kinds of VR solutions can be considered in terms of their ability to solve the desired communication objective. To this aim, we will rely on methods derived from rhetoric to semiotics.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. This concept could be confused to that of suspension of disbelief, when a movie viewer or a story reader is brought to consider as perfectly plausible the narrative and the events proposed to him or her, even if absurd or illogical, therefore far from being verisimile.


  • Agadir N, Marini D (2010) Decision making assessment in industrial process simulation. Chem Eng Trans 19:403–408

    Google Scholar 

  • Alexander AL, Brunyé T, Sidman J, Weil SA (2005) From gaming to training: a review of studies on fidelity, immersion, presence, and buy-in and their effects on transfer in pc-based simulations and games. Accessed 8 June 2010

  • Bowman DA, McMahan RP (2007) Virtual reality: how much immersion is enough? IEEE Comput 40(7):36–43

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fagiolo dell’Arco M (1997) La festa Barocca (in Italian). Roma

  • Gibson JJ (1979) The ecological approach to visual perception. LEA Inc, Boston

  • Goodman N (1968) Languages of art. Italian translation: I Linguaggi dell’arte, Il Saggiatore (1971), Milano

  • Hoorn JF, Konijn EA, van der Veer G (2002) Virtual reality: do not augment realism, augment relevance. Actas del III Congreso Internacional de Interaccion, 2002 Persona-Ordenador (Leganés ES, May 2002), AIPO, pp 154–163

  • Lakoff G (1993) The contemporary theory of metaphor. In: Ortony A (ed) Truth and Metaphor. Cambridge, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  • Laurel B (1991) Computers as theatre. Addison-Wesley Longman, Boston

    Google Scholar 

  • Maldonado T (1992) Reale e virtuale (in Italian). Feltrinelli, Milano

    Google Scholar 

  • Morris C (1938) Foundations of the theory of signs. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago

  • Norman DA (1988) The psychology of everyday things. Basic Books, New York

  • Panofsky E (1927) Die Perspektive als « symbolische Form » . Berlin

  • Slater N (2003) A note on presence terminology. Accessed 8 June 2010

Download references


This work has been partly funded by project VIRTHUALIS, VI Framework Program, European Community, contract n. 515831-2. Special thanks to Alessandro Giusti, who coordinated the group implementing the industrial plant models.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daniele Marini.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Marini, D., Folgieri, R., Gadia, D. et al. Virtual reality as a communication process. Virtual Reality 16, 233–241 (2012).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Virtual Reality
  • Semiotics
  • Communication
  • Realism