Published on May 16th, 2018 | by gareth0
Beyond Gaming: The 9 Areas VR is Finding Application
When you think Virtual Reality (VR), you think gaming; and with good reason. Gaming is by far the best known application for VR. VR gaming raked in nearly $290 million in 2017 and that number is expected to grow exponentially to over $2 billion by 2020.
VR is now what first comes to mind when most people think about the features of a Bluetooth gaming headset. While it is radically changing how people play video games, what many don’t realize is that VR is finding innovative application in other sectors too. We look at some of these below.
Gaming is only a subset of the much larger entertainment industry. With VR headsets, home movie watchers can now be deeply immersed in the film experience. Thanks to the headset, they can watch a virtual giant screen that emulates a movie theater or be immersed in movie scenes with the sound effects and imagery encompassing them.
There are now virtual reality platforms that enable users to watch a sports game via a virtual stadium or attend a Cirque du Soleil performance remotely. Concerts are not to be left behind as VR has allowed remote audiences have a live feel of the event without enduring the heat, smells and crowds.
The healthcare industry was an early adopter of VR tech with a number of medical institutions using VR images for diagnosis or treatment. The simulations use diagnostic images from ultrasounds and CAT scans to create 3D models of the patient’s anatomy. This helps both seasoned and new surgeons identify the safest and most convenient ways of locating and extracting a tumor.
Surgeons can also practice complex procedures ahead of time using a realistic model of the actual patient. Beyond the surgeon’s knife, VR can help rehabilitation of stroke victims through immersive therapy that stimulates motor and cognitive functions faster than traditional therapy. It can also be used to treat phobia and PTSD by giving patients the opportunity to face their greatest fears in a safe way.
For the average working person, the most difficult aspect of meditation is finding time to do it. The second hardest part is that even when you do make time for it, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to calm and focus your brain within the limited time you have.
By creating a serene and peaceful virtual paradise complete with scripted guidance and soothing music, VR can quickly propel users to the required mental state and speed up their journey to the Zen garden.
Space agencies such as NASA embark on difficult quests such as the search for life in other parts of the universe. That’s why they are looking at relying on VR technology to not only control robots in space but also to provide astronauts in the international space station with a chance to de-stress.
For instance, NASA researchers connected a VR headset with motion-sensors and used a gaming console to manipulate a robotic arm with the user’s gestures. This is a prototype of what could in future be used to control planetary rovers millions of miles away. NASA has also added a VR treadmill for researchers to simulate a Mars walk and better prepare astronauts for a future landing.
Museums and Nature Tours
The bedridden, the disabled, the infirm and the elderly may have a deep longing to see the world but have practical difficulties doing so.
This is why a number of established museums are collaborating with VR programmers to create a virtual space through which anyone anywhere in the world can experience the museum’s collection without the need to be physically present. New York’s American Museum of Natural History and London’s British Museum are among the pioneers of this trend.
Away from the four walls of a museum, National Geographic has set up an entire studio dedicated to virtually transporting users to some of the most spectacular locations in the world. These fairly low cost yet detailed tours have proven to be a powerful way of making known the role of industrialization and human encroachment in the destruction of nature.
Models are fine and blueprints are great but they cannot quite capture and demonstrate what a car will look like when built. Car manufacturers have relied on high-tech simulation for years. Application ranges from the design process to virtual prototypes.
Ford has been one of the most aggressive in integrating VR into its automotive development process. In its Dearborn, Michigan lab, employees can wear a VR headset and closely examine the interior and exterior of the vehicle as well as have of feel of the seating position well before the car goes into actual production. Problems can be identified early and be corrected before they become too expensive to fix.
While learning from a lecture or a book remains the most widely used method of imparting knowledge, these traditional techniques have consistently been proven as only marginally effective. They emphasize learning by rote as opposed to allowing the student to freely explore and thus deeply understand the subject.
By making simulations of complex theories and distant field trips accessible to a wider array of people, VR can help speed up cognitive learning in a more efficient and effective way. The more immersive learning environment allows students to hear, see and feel an idea as opposed to simply memorizing concepts.
VR apps can provide extensive online tours of an entire store which greatly narrows the gap between the brick-and-mortar shopping experience and online shopping.
The key advantage is the shopper doesn’t have to deal with the difficulties of finding a parking space, the long queues at the cashier or navigate narrow alleys while trying to make their way past a sea of other shoppers. VR shoppers can even get their friends to come along in their virtual window shopping.
Battlefields are fraught with an incredibly high number of potentially deadly threats. A soldier often has only a split second to make a decision that could save their life or that of a colleague. In this regard, the US military regularly uses VR simulators to prepare soldiers for war zones before deployment.
The realistic virtual environment gives teams the opportunity to test their ability to work together as a unit and identify areas of weakness. Such training will better capture the soldier’s attention, is easier to understand and will also be retained longer in memory.
Overall, virtual reality is quickly proving to be much more than a gaming accessory and is facilitating practical solutions that are changing everyday processes.