Remember when 3D was a big thing? It revolutionized our way of viewing the world and it altered our outlook towards technology. But science never stops advancing, and new cutting edge technologies emerge every day. Here are some stupendous applications of virtual reality which will be commonplace in the near future.
Applications of Virtual Reality in Education:
Teaching and learning are two processes that have been going on since our ancestors first struck two stones together to generate sparks of fire. The only difference between now and then is that we teach and learn a lot better and also exchange a lot of information. A lot of the things that are taught today gradually become obsolete over time. Hence we have to keep learning, it’s a continuous process.
The possibilities of using virtual reality to impart education are endless. It can enhance learning experiences by a hundred folds. It provides students an opportunity to LIVE in the environment the teacher creates.
For example, it is difficult to explain to a 4th grader the concept of how planets revolve and orbit the sun, but put a headset in front of the student and she can glide through the solar system, touch Mars, whirl around Mercury and experience what’s happening, all thanks to VR.
This also applies to students pursuing higher studies like medicine and engineering. A student can enter an organ, look around every vein and artery and gain a better understanding of how the human body works or dive deep into a machinery and observe the moving parts in detail.
Using VR can tremendously reduce the time taken to grasp new information and hence encourage more students to take up challenging subjects as they become simplified. Also information, in its truest form, without any degradation, can be passed on from to students. A long time ago, we used books to do that. The mantle has probably passed on to virtual reality.
Applications of Virtual Reality in Military training
One of the most effective applications of virtual reality can be seen in training facilities. It is difficult to train professionals like soldiers and doctors for worst case scenarios. It is also tricky to give them a live demonstration of the situations that they are likely to encounter on the job.
The US military is already using VR headsets to recreate war environments where soldiers are able to experience the battlefield and intense conditions of a war zone. They are being taught to strategize and practice complex maneuvers in rough terrains.
Another common example which we can relate to is Driving Simulators. It goes without saying that the amount of risk involved with beginner drivers on roads is very high. They not only endanger their own lives but also impose a danger to others around them. This risk is brought down to zero by the use of VR simulator as it is really difficult to damage a simulator. There are simulators for every kind of vehicle that needs a license to drive like car, bus, truck, airplane, space crafts and many more. The most important reason for using simulators over learning with real vehicles are the reduction of transport time, the safety, economy and nonexistence of pollution. So now you can worry a little less when you lend your car to your friend who claims to have practiced on a simulator.
Applications of Virtual Reality in Architecture and Civil Engineering
Over time technology has changed the way we build our surroundings. Earlier, construction planning and designing used to be an elaborate process which was time consuming and cumbersome. It involved big blue print sheets and a lot of technical representations of the landscape which was basically 2D geometric jargon.
Development work on VR software for urban designing started in 2007 and by 2010 a prototype software was developed to automate all processes, from design to virtualization. It handled all the aspects by passing data into a video game engine to create a virtual interactive simulation of the buildings and terrain. (Land development beyond 2015)
Architects can benefit hugely from this technology as they can create interactive immersive environments of the project for their clients to experience and convey their ideas efficiently. Future applications of virtual reality have the potential of causing a massive upheaval in marketing and publicity of real estate business. You don’t have to drive all the way to the site and wait for the agent to show you around, just put on the VR headset and take a virtual walk in your potential dream home. DIRTT is an interior construction company that is working on bringing this application of virtual reality to market.
Applications of Virtual Reality in Tourism, Heritage and Arts
We all feel mesmerized whenever we visit any monument or a historical place. The glory of a bygone era emanates through the ruins. We cannot help but ponder, “How did people live in those times?”
Now with VR we can actually live in those times as kings, warriors or peasants.
This technique of visualization was first applied in 1994 for Dudley Castle England. It provided visitors a complete “3D walkthrough “of the reconstruction the main keep of Dudley Castle. Many historical sites are in critical condition, no longer safe for public, have been destroyed completely or no longer exist. All these places can be re-created accurately as VR immersive experience environments. Uses of virtual reality in tourism will bring you the thrill of travel and exploration without you having to leave your couch.
VR in art
Human form of expression evolves with time. From cave paintings to our screens, we have taken a huge leap. The latest addition to this list is, of course, VR. Artists all over the world have accepted it as a form of expression for their ideas. They are creating environments which interact with the person wearing the headset, for effective story telling. These virtual art pieces combine multiple media like music, sounds, shapes, colors, 2D/3D graphics, light and motion in a seamless manner.
A duo of visual artist and a painter from Belgium created a virtual journey called STYX. It’s not a game which can be played; it’s more like a movie which transports you to the mythological Greek Underworld River of the same name. The simulation starts with your chair descending and drops you into a boat beneath the floor. You can see sea monsters and dead corpses floating in the water while being seated in the boat. The Grim Reaper or the ferryman is your guide through the morbid journey. To further enhance the experience the artists splash drops of water, blow air around the face of the participant and touch their hands as the ferryman takes the coin away from them. The participants interpret these entire stimuli as part of the VR experience.
This art project is just the tip of the ice berg. As technology improves we would be able to render high definition graphics on the headsets with ease and it will revolutionize visual media completely. So maybe in future, when art connoisseurs show off their collections saying “the art piece has an out of the world feel”, we should take them literally.
While flicking TV channels, I find travel and food advertisements really tormenting. The screen is filled with delicious food and exotic places I wish I could visit. Sadly, gustatory simulation in VR has not been developed (yet) but visual simulation is well-off. A Vancouver based tours and travels company Destination BC has used this fact to their advantage in a very creative marketing strategy (experience it now). They created “VR trailers “of the tourist destinations, which were filmed through the perspective of a person experiencing the journey first hand. These videos just require a headset (see how you can make one yourself here) and you can explore new destinations without leaving the comfort of your couch!
Applications of Virtual Reality in Medicine
Training doctors, surgeons and paramedics is a very important application of virtual reality. Medical personnel can analyze tumors budding in hard to reach places inside the body without the use of the scalpel. Rare diseases and conditions can be reconstructed for trainees to practice on, just like a “rehearsal” before they operate on the actual person. This reduces possibility of fatality due to human error or fatality caused by occurrence of an unforeseen complication during the procedure.
Many psychological disorder treatments require the patient to be part of an illusion which can potentially harm them, for example people suffering with post traumatic stress disorder or phobias. PTSD is commonly found in war veterans, physical abuse victims and survivors of a traumatic disaster. Such events leave a person feeling anxious and vulnerable. In extreme conditions a person suffering from PTSD can no longer continue living a normal life due to anxiety issues.
One of the treatment methods includes exposing the patient to the thoughts and feelings related to the traumatic event carefully and gradually so that they can be replaced with more positive thoughts. The concept of virtual reality is being applied to create that illusion for patients. This method is more effective if the patient is placed in a controlled and imaginary environment. Since it is not real, the patient is more willing to participate and it’s a safe alternative. Also, since VR simulations are highly immersive and controllable, doctors can manipulate whatever is appearing on the screen and stop the process whenever they think is appropriate.
VR is an excellent example of how a seemingly fictional concept of technology can be bought into reality and used in unimaginable ways for the betterment of mankind.
Applications of Virtual Reality in Gaming
VR is evolving (kind of exclusively) through the gaming platform to such an extent that the two words, VR and gaming, can almost be used as synonyms for each other. It has been proven by a visual study conducted by scientists that almost everyone who identifies themselves as gaming geeks show increased heart rate and extreme signs of excitement when allowed to play games on a sleek ergonomic headset which looks damn futuristic and cool.
Several big companies like Facebook, Sony and HTC have pitched in their teams and huge investments in developing this technology. Occulus has already started marketing their flagship headsets.
Albert “Skip” Rizzo is a psychologist currently researching on “design, development and evaluation of virtual reality (VR) systems targeting the areas of clinical assessment, treatment rehabilitation and resilience”. Basically he is one the frontier soldiers who are ambitious about taking VR beyond gaming. In an interview with The Verge he expressed his opinion about virtaul realilty’s future and I believe nobody can sum it up as effectively as he did