From theme parks to operating rooms, Virtual Reality is technology through which we can open our own minds to new joy, new learning, and new worlds.
Virtual Reality (VR) is a type of simulated experience that allows users to enter digital experiences, usually by wearing a headset with a small screen in front of a user’s eyes. The digital worlds can be replicas of reality, or completely different from anything humans experience. It’s a place of endless opportunity, expanding as far as the imagination can reach.
This day and age, VR has entered mainstream culture—primarily through entertainment avenues, particularly video games. In other industries, it’s also being used for education, business, training exercises, and other practical angles. VR, with its manifold applications, has become a multi-billion dollar industry, with projections for incredible growth.
Generally speaking, in most VR worlds, realistic images, sounds and other sensations that simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtual environment are generated. A person using VR is able to move their head and body and have the movement mirrored in the virtual world in real time. As mentioned, individual headsets with small screens are the most common way to encounter VR, but it’s also used in spaces where multiple larger screens can be accommodated.
Over the past three decades, VR technology and opportunities have steadily entered mainstream retail stores. Commercial tethered headsets by Oculus (Rift), HTC (Vive) and Sony (PlayStation VR) prompted application development in the 2010’s and beyond.
Some Exciting Directions
The uses for VR in entertainment abound. VR-enhanced video games are increasing in availability and popularity by the week. VR film has been used for sporting events, fine art, music videos and—no surprises here—pornography. And roller coasters and theme parks have incorporated VR to match visual effects with other types of sensory feedback, so that customers can enjoy a spray of water at the same time they appear to be plunging into a thrilling waterfall—or plummet into a scene from Harry Potter.
Psychology and Therapy
In social sciences and psychology, VR presents a whole host of possibilities, particularly because it offers a physically safe place to explore mentally and socially difficult scenarios, in a hyper-controlled environment. It’s also a cost-effective tool in many situations, as exact scenarios can be replicated repeatedly, leading to better scientific parameters for studies.
VR can be used as a form of therapeutic intervention—for example, in VR Exposure Therapy (VRET). Therapies in VRET can be used for treating disorders like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and various phobias.
Even more recently, social VR tools are also being applied to help individuals struggling to process grief trauma. Digital recreations of deceased individuals can be created and interacted with in a specific environment, a project intended to facilitate adaptive mourning. A recent South Korean documentary revealed the possible process and reactions to an experience like this—and it drew wildly mixed reactions from across the planet.
Happily, VR has taken a welcome place in healthcare, especially in cases of training and in surgery. In fact, simulated VR operations were first developed in the 1990s, for the sake of cost-effective and low-stakes practices. Operations can be ‘performed’ over and over again, and also be paused and discussed if and when trainees make mistakes.
Business and Education
Many digital initiatives were shifted into a reality when pandemic-fueled lockdowns swept the globe in early 2020. Especially for business and education organizations, prioritizing digital methods of working and learning became top-priority. In the case of education, VR has been used to create immersive experiences for students, providing insight into historical moments in new ways. Viewing manuscripts, rare texts and artifacts, or exploring archeological dig sites are just a sample of the possible projects.
Some public libraries have begun keeping VR technology and headsets available to their patrons, which may be a first step into making this technology more available.
And many companies are looking to VR to provide ways of making digital life exciting, novel, and immersive in a way that face-to-screen life hasn’t always been.
If you’re having ideas about your own industry, or starting to think about applications of VR—you’re in the right place. Cloutel can help you bring your ideas to life.