This year’s E3 had a number of shocking announcements and presentations from the Final Fantasy VII remake to the trailer for Star Wars: Battlefront, but none were so prevalent as the wide range of virtual reality machines getting actual game previews. This is part of a wider trend toward using VR in a number of media. Here are just a few ways that VR will become a major part of our lives in the coming years.
As mentioned, E3 showed us several new applications for virtual reality in the gaming world. No longer a neck-injury-inducing screen, new VR technologies are actually making the gaming experience more immersive. From the first-person shooter Halo demo to the co-op Walking Dead game and the enhanced reality options demonstrated with Minecraft, it’s clear that VR has finally found out how to make games that utilize its technology effectively.
There is an enormous variety of applications in healthcare for VR that can change the way we approach medicine. The technology has already been used successfully to help patients experiencing phantom limb pain and also as a treatment for burn victims that can both distract them and put them in a “cooler” seeming environment. It can be used to teach children with autism to recognize social cues and learn practical skills as well as assist in remote surgery for doctors.
Other than video games, there are still plenty of ways that we can use VR to give us a richer entertainment experience. For example, it may be possible to film movies and television in 3D, putting the viewer at the center of the action. While they can’t control that action, they can at least feel like it’s happening around them.
Imagine being a kid and taking a field trip to the International Space Station where one of the astronauts gave you a tour. With virtual reality, this would not only be simple, it could be done for thousands of kids around the world simultaneously without even leaving their home, thanks in large part to advances in connectivity like fiber optic internet. VR also provides opportunities to explore subjects in depth that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible. Why dissect frogs when you can explore a virtual human body with interactive parts, for example?
There is no limit to the types of training that can be done with virtual reality. In many ways, advanced flights simulators have been used to train pilots for years. Now ground-based training in everything from advanced military strategy to forklift operation can be simulated in VR, allowing the trainer to adjust any aspect to better address the particular needs and weakness of the student.
VR opens up whole new opportunities for advertising. Combining advertisement algorithms with product placement, it will now be possible to “brand” things in the virtual world, for example, set specifically to the user . Why does that virtual mug have to be blank when it can say “Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando”? Why should those billboards be for generic products rather than targeted at the user like modern banner ads?
The applications for space exploration are nearly endless. Right now our long-range abilities are limited to controlling robots from enormous distances, but what if we could do so much more precisely? We could simulate the landscape around our probes and translate simple actions into commands. Further, we will be able to improve our training significantly, putting astronauts in situations they will likely really encounter.
There is almost no limit to what we can do in a virtual world. Given enough creativity and innovative thinking, this technology can vastly improve our lives and the way we live them.