Virtual instrumentation is the creation of user-defined measurement systems (virtual instruments) using customizable software and modular measurement hardware.
Traditional hardware instrumentation systems consist of fixed hardware components like digital multimeters and oscilloscopes that are totally dedicated to their stimulus, analysis, or measurement function. These systems' adaptability is limited compared to virtual instrumentation systems because of their hard-coded function. The major distinction between virtual and physical instrumentation is that software is utilized to replace a significant amount of hardware.
The software allows complex and expensive hardware to be replaced by previously purchased computer hardware; for example, an analog-to-digital converter can be used as a hardware complement to a virtual oscilloscope, and a potentiostat can be used to acquire and analyse frequency responses in electrochemical impedance spectroscopy using virtual instrumentation.
A virtual instrument is a subset of the concept of a synthetic instrument.
A synthetic instrument is a virtual instrument that is entirely controlled by software.
On entirely generic, measurement agnostic hardware, a synthetic instrument performs a specialised synthesis, analysis, or measurement function. Virtual instruments can nevertheless incorporate measurement-specific hardware, and modular hardware techniques that permit this specificity are frequently used.
Hardware supporting synthetic instruments is by definition not measurement-specific, and it isn't always (or even usually) modular.
Since its inception in the late 1970s, virtual instrumentation has evolved greatly by leveraging commercially available technology like as the PC and the analog-to-digital converter.
Furthermore, software programs such as National Instruments' LabVIEW (IP of NI.COM) and other graphical programming languages aided acceptance by making system development easier for non-programmers.
Some firms are developing a new technology dubbed "HARD VIRTUAL INSTRUMENTATION."
It is claimed that using this technique, the software is executed by the hardware itself, allowing for faster real-time processing.