Here we’ll look at the applications of virtual reality technology. That’s to say what we can do actually do with it. For the most part for the good of yourself or others, though there will be some unwelcome uses too.
Some are obvious and wide-reaching. I’d be tempted to classify the broad banding of experiences as an application. I’d be tempted to classify playing games as an application.
But these are specific activities.
In my mind an application of something refers to how you apply it, what need it satisfies. And we all have different needs at different times, for different reasons, and for varying lengths of time.
Like so many other aspects of virtual reality it’s a broad subject. One that we’ll need to chunk down on initially, with each application explored in more depth on its own page.
Here’s our starting list. Some can also fall into the classification of experiences:
- Entertainment – Games, Movies, Video
- Knowledge – Education, Training
- Physical Health – Rehabilitation, Sport
- Mental Health – Treating Disorders, Psychological Therapy, Phobia Treatment, Altered States, Personal Perception
- Encouraging Creativity
- Telepresence & Person To Person Communications
- Live Streaming
- Business Activities
- News & Media
- Law & Order – Jury Placement, Crime Reconstructions
- Warfare – Flight Simulation, Attack Training, Medical Training, Evacuation
- Motoring – Car Tests, Driving Simulation
- Construction, Building, & Real Estate
For now let’s start with entertainment, knowledge, commerce, and the specific application applied to psychological type therapies of how mental states can be affected by interaction between virtual reality and hypnotherapy. We’ll tackle the others at a later date.
For a useful site that looks at each of the VR application in-depth, see these pages at VRS.org.uk
So we’re starting big, and this is the broadest application of VR you can get. Each element should (and does) have its own dedicated page. And of course entertainment comes in different forms for different people. Building knowledge can be a form of entertainment for some, for example.
Another huge aspect of VR that is set to take pole position in the list of beneficial experiences.
This brings in such subjects as learning, education, and training, but we also need to mention tourism type experiences which deliver information on destinations. This info can range from places you’d want to visit on vacation through to historical places or somewhere of archaeological interest.
We know that developing and maintaining physical health can depend on a number of factors. Eating well, getting sufficient physical exercise, and even our mental state can all have an impact on how healthy we are physically.
Virtual reality experiences in these areas will of course include those related to physical exercise in many forms, though we can also expect material that helps us learn about the right types of foods and other experiences that help our mental state on a psychological level.
This is a fascinating subject and will lead us into some areas of intense debate. The question is ‘can carefully crafted experiences in virtual reality change the way we interact with the real world?’.
For the better hopefully, although we have to be cognizant of potential negative impacts.
The answer almost certainly has to be yes, given the actual basis of VR is to create virtual experience in our brains as if it was real. And it’s our brains that are the target of psychologically motivated therapies. Inherent in that must come the ability to create mental states that have value for us.
Examples include encouraging empathy by placing us in another persons shoes, or working on our brains to develop a hypnotic state while in a virtual reality environment.
This page at HowStuffWorks on Psychotechnology is a valuable read to gain some insight into the multiple potential uses of VR technology in psychological support.
We could immediately associate the subject of commerce with its most widely used everyday face – shopping. And shopping in virtual reality looks set to be one of the top 20 uses.
But the idea and potential applications of commerce in virtual reality are much wider reaching than a consumer based trip to the clothes store.
In fact they’re probably going to be too numerous to mention in entirety. So for a flavour of what might be possible let’s consider a couple of examples:
I don’t profess to know a great deal in this area. But farmers visit cattle markets and auctions right? They may need to buy machinery. They may need to visually examine foodstuffs? Could virtual reality take a farmer into those environments remotely and save time or money. Not completely is probably the answer, but certainly partly.
If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to find yourself in a position where you can buy a new car, you’ve probably encountered those multiple trips to car showrooms. Of course you’ll still have to go take a test drive in real life, but the leg work to et a feel for different shapes and interiors could at least partly be handled in a virtual car showroom.
This is one area that fascinates me. Could VR lead to a whole generation of artists that may never have existed without it?
Certainly there are already a number of apps and games that are based on encouraging creativity – from building weird-looking contraptions through to creating walk-around full 3D works of art.
Relaxation activities come in many forms, and we all take our relaxation in different ways. For some it may be reading a book, for others a long trek up a mountainside. Listening to music, watching videos, learning new stuff. They can all be counted as forms of relaxation.
And nearly all can have applications developed in virtual reality that will enhance the relaxation level.
We’ve come a long way since the age of dial phones and the first press button phones in the early 1980s. Mobiles now are a critical part of our lives, increasing the number of person to person communications we make.
In VR this is a field which has the potential for huge growth. To say it could radically change how we communicate on a personal and business level would be an understatement.
Communications within VR applications start to take us into the realms of social chat in virtual environments. No disembodied voices here, we’re talking about communicating over long distances as if you were standing next to each other and can both see each other as if you were really together.
There is huge scope for some groundbreaking developments in the advertising world by using virtual reality, and one leading start-up firm – Immersv – are leading the way in the field.
Immersv have developed ads that respond in different ways depending on how long you look at them. Maintain your gaze long enough while wearing your VR headset, the ad recognises your interest, and transports you to a kind of ad virtual cinema which then displays other advertising of games or virtual experiences.
Early indications are they work well, though of course there may be a novelty factor at play. Even with this possibility though, it seems likely that VR ads will become an inherent part of the experience.
Being able to live stream VR footage opens up a whole world of interesting possibilities, from eSports through to motor racing and bike riding. It offers the chance to stream any adventure based activity in real-time, and to individuals or to multiple parties. Virtually anything you want to display or let someone see could be streamed in VR in real-time.
To do it effectively will need an app and a very high quality data connection.
We’ve already talked about the applications of VR in commerce, and you could include those in business activities too. But business is a much wider subject than just selling and buying stuff.
In normal day-to-day business we will see virtual reality used in intra company and outside the company communications. Training for staff, demonstrations of products and services, home working – all sit under the business category and could contribute to wide changes in the business world.
We’re already getting used to picking up our daily dose of news via news websites and Twitter or other social networks.
Some major news providers are sitting up and taking notice of how they might present new in virtual reality. Certainly it would add a totally different dimension to a news report, offering the possibility of engaging watchers in ways and to a depth that was previously impossible.
If you’ve ever served on jury service in the UK, you’ll know how much time (and money) is wasted sitting around waiting. Delays, change of mind by the accused, insufficient collection of evidence. These all appear to contribute towards a process that appears to be heavily broken.
There has to be some potential for streaming trials in virtual reality to reduce costs. What’s not so clear though is whether forensic type investigations could ever be performed virtually.
Certainly though you’d have to think that reconstruction of crime scenes could have some valuable uses.
The uses of VR in training soldiers is well documented and has reportedly already been used, even before the explosion of interest in virtual reality that we see now.
Combat training, medical support, flight simulation, and fitness conditioning are all areas where using virtual reality can be employed to enhance performance.
But it’s not all about fast cars and fun, it will even be possible to use virtual reality to learn a large part of the driving skills you need to pass your driving test, and also to improve those skills.
In the construction industry, the uses of VR can include visualisation of building structures and effective internal design. While from a person in the street perspective we can expect to see increasing use of virtual reality to showcase new homes and even take prospective buyers on internal tours of FSBO real estate.
Travel applications take us into a wide world of possibilities. You want to visit the Grand Canyon? The Taj Mahan? The Eiffel Tower?
Of course the world has become much smaller with reasonably priced air travel, but for many of us these types of places would be out of reach. For the price of a VR headset (and maybe some PC improvements) these and many other well know travel hotspots can be within inches rather than thousands of miles.
To summarise. obviously we are only skimming the surface here of the ways in which VR can entertain us, improve us, teach us, and help us.
But of course that’s not the design intent of the page. That intent is to provide a virtual doorway if you like, a selection of routes that will take you to the applications that will deliver what you need or want from virtual reality experiences.