Future Uses for Virtual Reality
Several exciting virtual reality games were among the many promising developments unveiled at this years E3 video game trade show. Allowing users to enter digital realms more realistically than ever before, it’s possible that these games also indicate a larger trend – the successful integration of VR capabilities into devices outside the entertainment and gaming industries. The presentation of numerous virtual reality games at the E3 expo suggests that power of gaming might be able to propel investment into other peripherals – such a health and education – where VR holds additional untapped potential. Beyond the Oculus, Hololens and Morpheus, here are a few additional areas where the success of VR will make a major splash:
VR has begun to seep into the healthcare market, gradually being adopted by doctors to perform a diverse array of tasks. Human body “simulation” is a fantastic example of health applications for VR, wherein 3D technology enables physicians to interact with remote patients in a virtual environment. Combined with other machines, this same technology can be used for diagnosis without having to complete any form of invasive surgery. However, speaking of surgery, many doctors are now able to complete remote tele-surgeries, accomplishing tasks from entirely different locations with the use of robots and highly precise force feedback. The technology is in place for VR’s surgical success.
Additional VR applications in the realm of health include PTSD treatments, phobia therapies, brain damage treatment and assessment, and the alleviation of chronic pain. Even further, many people suffering from injuries or other mobility issues may find new “life” with a VR system. If they cannot get into the “real world”, VR may stand in as the next best thing.
As mentioned initially, video games have pushed a number of VR products into their early phases of success – but that isn’t the only direction we can expect to see VR entertainment going.
First, as a concept for film and stories, VR goes back over a century, having appeared in classic movies like Tron and The Matrix. More than that, though, it promises a whole new outlet for creative expression. This has already led to the creation of events such as the Second Life Film Festival, the first showing of its kind done entirely in a virtual setting. A short VR film also appeared at this year’s Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals, indicating more new growth in the space. Much as faster fiber optic internet connections drove the success of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, we can expect to see VR impacting both the content of our films and the way we experience them. The appearance of a holographic Tupac at Coachella 2012 is just one great example of how we may utilize VR in the future to augment our entertainment.
Education and Training Skills
Advanced VR has the potential to make educating children and adults even more immersive. The capability of the technology means that field trips that were once out of budget or impossible would now be easy to do. Imagine a room full of children taking a virtual tour of the International Space Station led by one of the astronauts currently in orbit. In a recent interview, Jeffrey Jacobson, the director of Boston-based PublicVR, spoke on the topic saying that “a substantial body of research from industry and the military shows that immersive virtual-reality experiences can serve as effective training tools to help people learn to perform new tasks.”
More than that, it allows for students to dig deeper into topics, exploring up close what they couldn’t access previously. Particularly relevant for disabled or home schooled students, the next classroom might be inside a VR headset.
In other “training” applications, VR has already been used to great success. For years the military has been using highly advanced flight simulators to train pilots, but with new VR it will be possible to train all sorts of specialties using detailed programs that can be altered to almost any scenario.
But that doesn’t have to be limited to the military, either. VR can be used to train anyone from power plant operators to forklift drivers, presenting them with various situations to ensure that they are capable of handling them in realistic settings. VR may never be a total substitute for the real thing, but it promises more opportunities for eager learners.
The acceptance of VR will also change the primary aspects of digital marketing. Using algorithms that already exist to help target ads based on search results, it would now be possible to place products directly into virtual spaces. Does a game have a soda can on a table? Now it’s a Coke can specifically for you, and a Pepsi for your friend that drinks more Mountain Dew. Branded experiences like the simulated shuttle ride that toured the country for Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar are also a great avenue for VR to explore.
Perhaps the most ambitious use of VR is in space, where we can use remote control and robots to explore in ways we never have been able to previously. From the Curiosity rover on Mars to comet lander Philae, we are learning more than ever before about our universe, all from the comfort of our home planet.
These are only some of the many applications of this amazing technology. With advances in VR, we are finding new ways to improve our lives, our health, and our understanding in ways that would have been impossible just a generation ago.