Mention virtual reality to someone and most likely the first thing that they associate it with is gaming. Others might think about a crazy ride at a theme park. But, beyond that, they never really considered how it would benefit the world.
The truth is there are many different applications of virtual reality that can and will change the world. The sky’s the limit to where this technology can take us. Let’s explore a few of the areas where VR is making an impact today.
Virtual Reality Entertainment
As I said, the first application of virtual reality that many think of is entertainment and video games. Movies and storytelling are about to change forever with virtual reality!.
Writers and directors will have to be very conscious of the details of the environment. They will need to let users experience the story via interacting with that environment. The challenge is trying to predict how viewers will interact with the environment.
There are also opportunities to visit museums or galleries across the world without leaving your home. You can attend theater performances or your favorite sporting event. Or you can go to theme parks around the world to ride the rides that you might never have been willing to ride in real life.
Virtual reality is also going to power up gaming to a whole new level. With all the VR accessories and peripherals that are out now or in development, games will become more and more lifelike. It’s the draw of gamers to this lifelike experience that will help virtual reality gain mass adoption.
Virtual Reality and Healthcare
Healthcare is one of the most exciting and possibly life changing applications of virtual reality. Today, surgeons can practice surgeries before they operate on their patients, giving them advance knowledge of how they are going to perform the surgery.
Using virtual 3D models to examine the patient and familiarize themselves with the surgery, surgeons are reducing the probability of mistakes that could be life threatening.
Surgeons are also using virtual reality to control robots used in robotic surgery, which are easier on patients than manual surgery.
Other medical applications include diagnosing early disease, providing pain relief, and even improving function for people with Parkinson’s Disease .
Mental health professionals are also using virtual reality as emergent medicine to help patients with phobias and anxiety or depression.
Virtual Reality and the Military
It should come as no surprise that the military is also using virtual reality. They use VR to train and simulate tasks soldiers might be required to perform in the field.
The military is involved with complex and complicated maneuvers and technology, and this helps with getting our soldiers ready for real life combat situations. It is a safe and cost effective way to train for military encounters.
Medics can train using this technology to provide better battlefield care and learn to operate under extreme conditions. Pilots can go through flight simulations. Car drivers can train for evasion or pursuit.
Soldiers can go through battlefield simulations to better prepare for what they will face on the front lines.
Exposure to situations faced in war, such as a sniper attack, in a safe environment will soldiers a higher chance of survival if they ever encounter the real thing.
Virtual Reality and Education
Education, at all levels, and virtual reality go hand in hand. Many kids are visual learners, and there really is no limit to how VR can be used for teaching.
Think about how a class will be able to learn the anatomy of a frog, fetal pig, or even humans without having to touch one.
Astronomy is another subject that can be explored by students through the use of this VR. Imagine being able to soar through the solar system to learn about the planets. Rather than pictures or even videos, they can view our universe from the stars themselves.
What about history? Imagine a child being able to watch Lincoln give the emancipation proclamation or Martin Luther King giving his famous “I have a dream” speech. Kids can sit in on a government law making session or a trial at court. They can explore the world without ever leaving the classroom.
Virtual reality can bring a new enrichment and depth to education, improving the minds of all of our kids. There is one caveat to this however. Empirical data suggests that improving performance by reducing effort may actually inhibit learning or long term retention. We should keep that in mind when adding VR in the classrooms.
Virtual Reality and Sports
Athletes are always looking for ways that they can improve their performance, and virtual reality fits the bill in several ways. With VR, they can dissect the way that they are moving and evaluate where improvement can be made. They can take this information to tweak the way that they practice a movement or action to improve muscle memory.
Athletes can also use VR as a simulator to train themselves for situations that they may face in their particular sport. One company, EON Sports VR, is using virtual reality to help athletes in both football and baseball to train and practice. One area that I thought was really cool is baseball players can prepare for a pitcher they will face by standing at the virtual plate and watching them pitch.
Virtual Reality and Business
Companies are also using virtual reality to improve the way that they do business. We aren’t just talking about product showcasing or marketing. Let’s be clear, this technology will give a huge push to sales and marketing, but there are some other areas where businesses are using virtual reality to grow.
Real estate companies can offer virtual tours to prospective clients without having to leave their office. Businesses can give new employees a virtual tour of the building that they will be working in as well as training to help them acclimate to their new job quickly and easily. Products can be explored using this software for manufacturing and sales purposes before committing resources to their development.
Customer service will another area where virtual reality will have a significant impact. Imagine being able to walk a customer through their problem and solution in a virtual environment. Businesses can thoroughly understand a customer’s issue and customers can better understand the solution.
Virtual Reality and Culture
There are some amazing cultures around the world that can be explored through virtual reality. While some might think this a travel and entertainment application, cultural exploration goes a bit beyond just entertainment. Learning new cultures can improve our understanding of each other and build trust and affinity between people and nations.
There are so many places in the world that need to be explored but most people will never get to in their lifetime. Some of these places are in danger from war and other human acts that can erase them for future generations. This would be a true shame, but the beauty of virtual reality is that we’re able to record and document how they exist today in case something terrible does happen to them.
Virtual Reality and Engineering & Construction
The engineering process and Computers have been an engineers best tool for the last couple of decades. It’s no surprise that engineers are snatching up the use of virtual reality to improve their craft. Virtual reality can improve the way that products are produced through the design phase.
Both railroad engineers and car manufacturers are using VR in their design process. Rails are designed and tested using virtual reality. Car prototype designs are being created in virtual reality and explored during the process of making a new car.
Virtual reality is also making its mark on the construction world. Construction itself may not be able to be accomplished virtually, but architects and other construction experts can use this technology to help them determine the viability of their designs.
They can run simulations to see if there are any ways to improve the construction process itself with materials and more. It can also be used to explore the design, and this could help clients determine if they’re happy with a design or if tweaks need to be made before it is built.
Virtual Reality and Fashion
Fashion is another application for virtual reality that may seem a bit of a stretch, but there are several situations where this could be a very good idea. Designers could create fashion retail stores in virtual reality to streamline the design process and to even allow people to shop. They can have virtual reality fashion shows where people can interact with the fashions being presented.
Virtual Reality and Art
There are a number of media types that can be enhanced with the use of virtual reality. There’s also the opportunity for you to experience music, books, and art mediums in virtual reality. There are interactive books available on the market today that give you opportunity to view videos online. Software exists to let us build models and create immersive experience. How will artists use this to further explore their craft?
Virtual reality is more than just a passing gamer fad and is giving every indication that it is here to stay. Each of these applications has started to change the way that the world works. It’s exciting to imagine what may be coming around the corner with virtual reality.
The world is changing at a quick pace, and often, people can complain about the negative things that can come from technology, but the benefits of VR in so many different fields should far outweigh any negatives.
In the next part of our guide, we will explore augmented reality as it relates to virtual reality.