Virtual reality is becoming more mainstream by the day, seeping into our daily lives. But how can we prepare for the future of virtual reality?
What is virtual reality?
Virtual reality is a simulated experience that either replicates the real world, or takes you into a new dimension. VR technology, such as head mounted displays, immersive rooms, data gloves or wands, allows users to enter this virtual realm.
When wearing or using these devices, we’re immersed in a computer-generated environment- a pretty incredible, modern phenomenon to say the least. VR is more than just fun and games though, it’s changing the very foundations of how society functions.
What is most impacted by virtual reality?
In a society perpetually impacted by technological advancements, it’s inevitable that VR affects education. An increasing number of schools are using VR to accompany curricular activities. In fact, some schools think VR is vital for helping pupils prepare for the future. While the software is still expensive and quite complicated to manage, schools are aware that we’re moving away from simply ‘learning’ a subject to actually ‘feeling’ the content. VR also means students can explore new avenues and engage with different learning styles.
The entertainment industry has also reaped the rewards of recent VR inventions and upgrades. For example, several VR pop-up bars have appeared in London in the space of a few months. Visitors can grab a drink before playing with high-tech VR systems, adding a little variety to their usual night out. Taking a trip to the movies? You might find VR there too! Tribeca Film Festival 2019 had an entire selection of immersive, VR films. One of them included the horror ‘Gymnasia’, a 6-minute VR experience blending 3D 360-degree video, stop motion, miniatures and computer-generated graphics.
VR is now widely accepted as a useful training model for new recruits in the army. It offers the armed forces an affordable and readily available way to bring field medicine, fire combat, boot camp exercises and a variety of other military training scenarios to life. A diverse range of situations can be tailor-made to help soldiers prepare for any number of potentially life-threatening scenarios.
Even advertisers are tapping into the campaign-marketing potential of VR technology. The International Red Cross recently used VR in a charity advertising campaign to showUK families what it’s like for families living in war-torn countries. Due to its immersive, experiential nature, VR can take such campaigns to a whole new dimension, which helps to increase awareness about particular causes.
Online games are already pretty interactive, but virtual reality has taken this to a whole new level! VR is revolutionising the online casino industry. VR casinos first opened in 2015, but more and more are setting up on the market. Among some of the most exciting gambling VR games, gamers can bet on virtual horse races. They get the chance to watch the race right before their eyes as they cheer on their chosen horse.
VR allows researchers to view and share data in brand new ways. For example, scientists can analyse the way in which cells work in more detail than ever before. Delving into minuscule structures, once only viewable with the most advanced microscopes, could now lead to revolutionising our understanding of the body and how it fights disease.
VR is disrupting the business world too. With this technology, businesses can train staff in risk-free, cost-effective ways through the simulation of true-to-life situations. Oculus’ VirtualSpeech, for example, is a new public speaking training system, which can help employees gain confidence. Photorealistic visuals “trick” our brains into believing that what we’re seeing is real, allowing us to learn from these interactions with the virtual realm.
What might we expect from VR in the future?
VR experiences are quickly finding new avenues and taking on new roles in our lives, which suggests the future is bright for this technology. Among other advancements, developers have been working on VR-enabled therapy to address a variety of mental health problems. As an example, VR can simulate scenarios in which psychological difficulties occur, meaning it could be used to allow mental health sufferers to gradually confront fears or traumas.
Since VR means offers experiences of another place on a virtual scale, it will no doubt change the world through its replication and mapping of foreign environments. Users will be able to learn the ins and outs of cities they’ve never been to from using VR. This could extend to specific locations; visiting museums, galleries, town halls, shopping centres.
The possibilities are limitless
The extent to which VR will change our future is still largely unknown. Despite the amount of money already invested into VR, we still haven’t even scratched the surface. According to research firm, International Data Corporation, worldwide spending on augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) is likely to reach heights of $160 billion by 2023, up from the $16.8 billion in 2019. HTC and Sony strongly believe that VR will continue to disrupt the tech world and soon even overtake the smart technology empire.
PlayStation have big plans for their VR headset, for instance, which could completely rewire the gaming industry. Shawn Laydon, former president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment America, has said that “none of us are going to be able to imagine what [VR] will look like 10 years from now, the change will be so dramatic’. Only time will tell.