With Ready Player One recently hitting cinema screens across the country, mainstream discussion around Virtual Reality has been reignited.
When headsets Oculus Rift and HTC Vive launched 2 years ago the hype surrounding VR was at fever pitch. It soon hit a lull when it became evident that most of us could not set aside the hundreds and in some cases thousands of pounds required to become an early adopter. The ability of manufacturers to get these headsets on people’s heads was also an issue; how can you splash that amount of cash without fully understanding the experience?
Virtual reality featuring in big blockbuster films will only help in introducing the concept to a much wider audience than just those who follow the tech and gaming industries.
While it may be some time before virtual reality becomes a customary household device, much like a digital home assistant i.e. Google Home and Amazon Echo, the application potential of virtual reality is far greater than a home entertainment device. This immersive technology has the capability to change the way we work across many industries. The impact on the video game industry is apparent, here are eight areas in which virtual reality soon will or already is changing.
While there has always been a disconnect between academic learning and work experience, virtual reality in schools and universities is bridging the gap by putting students in “real” life scenarios where they can apply their knowledge. This extends to virtual field trips too, without the expenses and resources normally involved, in a way that is far more engaging for the students than a traditional class room lesson; how about a science lesson taught on the moon?
Deciding which university is right for you can be a daunting prospect but virtual reality can make it easier. The University of Sheffield, Manchester Metropolitan University and Nottingham Trent University are just a few that are now offering virtual reality tours of their campuses, facilities and courses. Instead of requiring people to travel miles around or to the country, they can have Open Day experiences from the comfort of their own home.
Virtual reality’s most obvious capability is to transport you to somewhere completely new, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that this has massive potential for the tourism industry. It is already starting to be used by tourism businesses across the world to promote trips and holidays, such as Tourism Australia. Google Earth VR is available right now and is the next evolution of Google Street View, allowing you to view anywhere in the world in 3D, albeit in relatively low quality. As the technology becomes more immersive, how long until we forego the plane completely and spend our holidays exploring the world’s wonders from virtual reality?
Whilst we know all about matching candidates with clients, there’s only so much a candidate can know before a placement is actually made. Often it can be only until someone joins a company that they truly find out what exactly the experience of working there involves. With virtual reality, not only can potential employees be shown around their new work place (especially beneficial to international candidates), but they can also virtually perform aspects of the job itself, all before an application is even sent. The other side of this is employers using virtual reality to insert interviewees into test scenarios to assess the candidate’s suitability. L’Oréal is one company that is beginning to do just that as part of its graduate assessment scheme.
Online shopping has changed the retail sector over the last two decades and virtual reality could be the next technology to make waves. VR offers an extension to online shopping as it allows the user to see (and potentially feel) what they’re buying in a much more dynamic and interactive way. The potential is perhaps best demonstrated by Chinese retailer Alibaba, whose Buy+ app transports you into a virtual shopping mall. IKEA have released their own app which puts you in a designable and interactive kitchen space as a representation of their products. Audi and Volvo have used VR as car showrooms and test driving experiences. As more companies start to adopt the technology, online shopping could soon have all the benefits of visiting physical stores.
The change virtual reality brings to medical care is perhaps the most vital as it can literally save lives. The technology is becoming adopted by doctors and surgeons for preparation for complex procedures. Used together with CT, ultrasound, and MRI scans, 3D visualisations of patients can be created, giving doctors and surgeons an invaluable insight to what exactly they’ll be operating on, long before any patient risk is involved.
The charity sector has been one of the quickest to venture into the world of VR. One of the biggest challenges for charities is to fully engage the public in hopes of raising awareness and donations. Alzheimer’s Research UK have released a VR experience called ‘A walk through dementia’, as have The National Autistic Society with ‘Too Much Information’ and Animal Equality with ‘iAnimal’. These are just a few examples of the 360 degree videos charities are developing to attempt to demonstrate to the public what those suffering have to go through every day. VR’s ability to completely immerse the user makes these experiences especially impactful.
Virtual Reality also has implications for the elderly and care homes too. Instead of feeling confined by the limitations old age can bring, VR opens up a new world of opportunities. For example, seniors in Minneapolis have been piloting a virtual reality program for wellness with great results. Another particular issue often felt by the elderly is loneliness. While the internet has helped connect people the world over, the immersive and interactive nature of VR will take this to another level. Far beyond what video or text chat can achieve alone.
We’re already starting to see the foundations being put in place for our virtual futures. From the way we’re taught in school, to how we find employment, or the way we do our job, to how we’ll spend our retirement. VR could become an important part of many aspects of our lives and we cannot wait to see it unfold.