Virtual reality technology may still be in its infancy but it has managed to branch away from its gaming industry origins and seep into obscure areas no one could have previously predicted. Along with artificial intelligence, virtual reality has to be one of the most interesting fields of technology right now. The immersive technology hijacks the audio and visual senses and places the user right at the heart of the experience. The ability to ‘be’ in a completely different environment by overriding both eyesight and hearing comes with literally infinite possibilities, and those in the application development industry are already transferring their skills over to VR applications, as it set to hit the mainstream in the very near future.
As VR develops in sophistication and power it’s easy to imagine a place for it in most, if not all industries. The only thing holding them back is how they go about implementing it. With such a broad scope for imagination there seems to be a lot of trial and error taking place across the business world. VR headsets are improving, with companies bringing out there second and third versions, 2018 looks set to be the year that virtual reality truly enters into the mainstream with cuts in price and a huge of amount of applications being developed by the day.
Traditional design visualization for Architects is almost impossible to get perfect. No matter how hard they try to perfect their visions, until they set foot in the finished structure it’s extremely difficult to tell whether it will represent the desired specifications. That’s where virtual reality comes in, giving the developer the means to get inside the building they’re creating and analyse every single detail of it. Existing applications will even let architects design and implement while they are immersed in virtual reality, allowing for on-the-fly improvements to be made with hand gestures. People will argue that this might restrict the available materials, structures and colors, but with time there will be an endless amount of possible variations and room for customization.
Virtual reality hasn’t always been synonymous with travel, but from a logical perspective it makes perfect sense. The ability to be able to put yourself in any imaginable environment has opened up the doors for application developers to create experiences that show the user the world from the comfort of their homes. National Geographic are one of many organisations taking advantage of VR in an attempt to bring audiences as close to the real experience as possible. We are not far away from being able to access the world’s greatest cities and natural landscapes through integration with virtual reality technology.
Virtual reality headsets are set to be used in the dentistry industry to ease pain and anxiety experienced by patients during procedures. The traumatizing trip to the dentist will eventually turn into just another ten minutes lying on the sofa. In controlled studies carried out in the US it was found that patients using VR as a distraction reported less stress and pain than those who weren’t immersed. Elsewhere in the field of dentistry applications have been developed to educate students on how to master complex procedures to gain more confidence before attempting them in real life.
Car dealers, especially in large city centers, have very little room to showcase all of the models they have on offer. With virtual reality it is possible for manufacturers to show customers their offerings conveniently wherever they like, with no restraints. VR gives customers the chance to see what the car will look like both inside and out, and lets them play around with color schemes, car specs and configurations. Hyundai have gone as far as developing a full 360 degree virtual test drive environment in which users are placed in the driver’s seat with the ability to look around as the car moves through the countryside.
Various projects from media outlets have already demonstrated the potential for VR in the journalism space. Placing viewers in war zones, refugee camps and areas affected by natural disasters is a way to really engage them in the news stories. Unlike the disassociation of seeing something on a television screen, VR will bring people to the forefront of things happening around the world. The aim by the creators is to evoke more emotion in the viewer in relation to the news segment. In segments highlighting negative effects towards people, more empathy can be evoked to attempt to put the viewer in the shoes of those affected and generate an authentic response without media bias.
Several aviation companies are leaning on VR technology to bring flight simulators into the modern age. Simulations have been around for around half a century and have helped pilots get to grips with flying aircraft through training programs. Now with an enhancement in both virtual and augmented realities, these systems can be updated to immerse pilots better than ever before. Systems have been implemented that can accurately mimic flight controls, engine rumbles and wind turbulence during flights. VR will also being extended to the cabin crew, who will be able to utilize the technology for aircraft inspections and the pre-flight process.
Education and the evolution of technology have always been synonymous. Interactive whiteboards, intranet portals, PowerPoint presentations are all based on evolving information technology. In more recent times we have seen things like iPads enter the classroom to help teach kids. In the foreseeable future you can expect to see virtual reality headsets being shared among students as they embark on immersive trips into ancient Egypt for History and view a full scale anatomy of the human body for Science. Virtual reality will bring a brand new tool to schools and teachers who can find creative ways to educate their class through appropriate applications.
One field that people may not have expected to see virtual reality is surgery. A point of view perspective of the surgeon can be beamed out via the internet to trainee surgeons, medical students and anyone brave enough to sit through the procedure. The VR technology allows you to be a silent presence, observing the calm concentrated atmosphere of the surgery room. The sounds of the tools lifting from the metal tray and the demand for scissors from the surgeon can really get students fully immersed in the surgical procedure from start to finish, in a way that was just not possible with older technology.
7. Adult Entertainment
The adult industry is worth millions, and with the disturbing rise of adult robots on the horizon it’s about to get a lot more real than moving images on a screen. With VR demos already available for headsets, the experiences have been described as visceral and surreal. Adult industry has moved with the waves of new technology and it won’t be missing out on the opportunity to extend its reach deep into the virtual reality world. As technology advances moral questions about the adult entertainment consumption will be exaggerated two fold and it will be interesting to see how our society reacts to that challenge.
As more and more people are reaping the health benefits of fitness, the industry is exponentially expanding on a daily basis. There’s already talk of a plethora of virtual reality fitness apps in the works that invite the user to strap weights to their ankles and wrists to increase the intensity of their workout. Cycling experiences are being developed in which the user has a bike in the living room (minus the wheels of course) and peddles through different landscapes with the help of a VR headset. No more waiting around for machines at the gym, with the help of VR you can bring the gym to your home!
5. Real Estate
Virtual reality has the potential to transform real estate for the better. House buyers can save time and travel costs by visiting a house virtually without the need to rely heavily on pictures and text descriptions. Estate agents would also benefit by saving time during their working days and concentrate on other important business. Real estate companies can integrate virtual reality technology into existing online and mobile applications to really show off their range without unnecessary appointments. Potential buyers can really explore properties before making the decision to see it in real life, giving real estate agencies a better idea of which customers are likely to want certain properties and thus streamlining the industry.
VR will transform the way we watch sports in a multitude of different ways. You place the headset on and suddenly you’re in the front row of the Staples Center watching the LA Lakers. Players are rushing past you making plays and you have the best seat in the house. Not only that, you will be able to pause the game and rewind your favorite plays to watch them over and over again from different angles from around the stadium. Sports organisations are already in talks about bringing these concepts into reality and I can already imagine an Olympic Games experience where you invite your friends from all over the world to join you to watch the action as it unfolds before your eyes.
The gaming industry has for a long time been underrated when compared to other entertainment industries. However, since its inception with games like Pong it has grown and grown to become a medium that is capable of evoking emotional reactions similar to those experienced during a movie. The graphics have improved considerably and the narratives of some games can, in some case, be even more complex and interesting than most Hollywood films hitting the cinemas today. Virtual reality seems like the next logical step for gaming and has undergone some serious development in recent years. Still yet to hit the mainstream with expensive hardware, in the future you can be sure to see virtual reality at the forefront of gaming.
2. Social Media
Social media has transformed societies across the developed world and has transformed the way we interact with each other on a daily basis. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are some of the Westerns worlds most visited websites with millions logging on every day. Virtual reality is still in its developing stages but social rooms have already been created where users can gather and interact with other avatars in different settings from New York bars to outer space. This will be a transformative experience for people, as they can gaze down to look at their new hands and look in the mirror at their avatar and not them starting right back. Many, including Mark Zuckerberg, believe migrating away from the 2D virtual world to the 3D virtual world is the next evolutionary step for social media.
Retail companies are fast integrating virtual reality technology to allow customers to immerse themselves in virtual shopping experiences. Being able to find out what an online product may look like in real life is something that would save people both time and money. Fashion outlets are using it to show off their new clothing lines and e-commerce sites are busy developing online shopping centers which eradicate the busy and frustrating Saturday afternoon trips to the mall. Consumerism has an unmatchable power in the West and other developed countries, so expect to see a lot of time and energy put into the selling of products via the virtual reality space.