The Many Applications For Virtual Reality
Since the sale of Oculus VR to Facebook in 2014, the development of Virtual Reality has been followed with avid interest by developers, marketers and consumers alike. The technology has been used to create countless immersive experiences for companies in the retail industry, and is a valuable training platform for a number of different organisations, including the international military. However, as the quality of VR hardware and software improves, there’s scope for a whole lot more.
After a $66 million USD investment from Disney, Jaunt VR is one startup working on the creation of virtual films. At the moment, the films are between three to five minutes long, but as headset comfort improves so will the length of time that people will be able to wear them. In a VR film, audiences will be participants instead of passive spectators. The experience becomes all the more convincing when you add other senses (like touch) to the usual sight and hearing.
2. Real Estate:
Virtual apartment tours already show potential buyers what their new home will look like before it’s even built. VR is also used in Architecture as part of the building and design process. Being able to create and display a virtual building is very useful when applying for planning permission and funding, as board members are able to see exactly what the finished product will look like. In future, board members might expect to see virtual constructions before supporting any major work of construction.
Earlier this month, Google released a virtual tour of the National History Museum, London, which features over 300,000 specimens from the museum’s extensive collection. Via a headset, users can visit the museum from the comfort of their own homes – or schools. VR is a valuable tool for education, as it can take students anywhere in the world. Subjects like History and Geography will be totally transformed by this, and there’s also huge potential for virtual tech in both STEM subjects and the arts.
VR has long been used by a number of military organisations for training purposes, cutting down costs and improving efficiency. Virtual training programmes have allowed trainees to experience high risk situations without actually being in danger. Recently, VR technology has been developed for use in the field, giving medics a virtual layout of the area of conflict and supplying them with vital information. In the distant future, countries might even engage in virtual conflict instead of putting their citizens at risk.
Bored of staring at a brick wall at the gym during your weekly cycling session? Stick on a headset and suddenly you’re pedalling through a leafy green forest, listening to the birds singing in the trees. As the health and fitness industry expands, so will the number of fitness enthusiasts, and so will the demand for entertainment in gyms. Gym-goers could always go outside, of course – but a lot of people would rather run indoors on the treadmill, transported to a sunny virtual track, than brave the rain. Of course, headsets will have to become incredibly lightweight to enable these experiences.
Thomas Cook have pioneered VR in the travel and leisure industry, with virtual tours of luxurious hotels to the streets of New York. However, this is all about persuading the customer to actually visit certain locations… In the future, customers could enjoy the holiday of their dreams from their front rooms, removing the need to plan, pack and arrange flights. VR would allow for extensive customisation, too. Imagine being able to adjust the heat of the sun, or the colour of the sea…
Nonny de la Pena has led the way in immersive journalism, creating three virtual reality investigations into the crisis in Syria, brutality on the US border and hunger in Los Angeles. These VR stories place the user in a reconstructed environment, bringing the issue to life. VR could cause massive changes to journalism and reporting, letting the audience see all angles of a news story. By creating more transparency, VR will encourage reporters and camera crews to avoid emphasising (or ignoring) certain aspects of a scene.
We all know what it’s like to miss out on tickets to a much-anticipated gig, but with VR, music fans can still attend the concert. Virtual Reality offers the next best thing to actually being at the event, and although the majority of these experiences focus on sight and audio, developers are working to incorporate touch and smell. Eventually, you could be virtually jostled around an arena that smells of beer, or squelch about in digital mud at a festival.
9. Sales and Marketing:
VR has been used by numerous different companies from Topshop to Stella Artois to create unique experiences for consumers. By dishing out branded cardboard headsets, first released by Google, businesses can offer VR to most of the population – all they need is the headset, and a smartphone. While HMDs like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive remain fairly pricey, cardboard headsets are still the cheapest and easiest way to make virtual experiences accessible.
10. Social Interaction:
Although not technically an industry, VR has the power to change the way that we interact with each other. In the 1990s, alternate reality platform Second Life gave users the opportunity to live completely different lives. Despite a lack of success, the programme showed that it was possible for VR to impact social patterns. Take online dating, for example – you could meet up with a potential match via a virtual chatroom before deciding if you want to meet in person.
As VR becomes increasingly immersive, industries will face continued disruption… and this is just the beginning.
Which other industries will be affected by the development of VR? Have you tried out a VR headset? Please share you thoughts in the comments section below.