All forms of virtual reality entertainment are based on experiences, transporting you to a virtual world as if it was real or giving you the real world as if it was at your fingertips. It’s easy to see that the list above covers a wide range of the types of experience that go to make up our daily lives.
It’s experiences that will dictate the future of the technology. Experiences that are out of the normal, which you could never enjoy in real life. Experiences that give you past magic moments, recreated. Experiences that help you decide if you want to feel/see/hear them for real in future.
And the list has no end. Think about every form of human interaction, of the things we enjoy, of the things we don’t, of what we need to learn, things that scare us, and those that make us laugh.
Every one presents an opportunity for creation in virtual reality, every one has the potential for mindblowing impact.
Play & Gaming
The way we play shapes our lives from cradle to grave, and nothing has had more impact over the last 20 years than video gaming. But times are changing with the arrival of high quality Virtual Reality headsets, so much that the face of video gaming could change forever.
Playing games in VR is an experience like any other, but unlike any other at the same time. It’s no longer something which you play out as an external player, but one who is an integral part of the action.
In fact it’s games that will most likely become the major focus of VR in the early years. Already developers are busily creating titles which show the technology off to it’s full glory.
But gaming as an experience – and not just a game – is just the tip of the virtual reality iceberg.
Action & Adrenalin
We love to be thrilled. Although scared is sometimes a better word. You just know that pumped up adrenalin-filled moment when it hits you.
VR lets you enjoy those adrenalin fuelled moments safely, but with a real sense of participation. Climbing a vertical mountain with nothing but a yawning expanse of nothing below, riding the top of a speeding train, flying at high speed through a jagged mountain pass. All the stuff you might want to do but can’t.
Activities you might be able to do sparingly in real life, but now ready and waiting whenever you want. Just don your VR headset and go.
And don’t forget horror. There’s a reason for the success of those horror movie franchises. The endless remakes and next-in-series releases. In virtual reality the potential for getting scared witless is so real you can almost taste it. The makers of the Oculus Rift are actually recommending that developers don’t go overboard with the ‘jump’ scares we see in the best horror movies.
Travel & Tourism
For the tourism industry, VR can be a massive benefit or a killer. There is nothing like really standing at the South rim of the Grand Canyon, diving the Great Barrier Reef, or trekking to lost cities in Peru. Those, and many others, would create memories that last a lifetime.
But with VR you can actually get as close to that real experience as possible without actually doing it. No expense, no time off work, no impact on time. And you can do it when you like.
So why’s that a potential problem?
Learning & Education
The potential in VR for learning and education is immense, given we know that most subject learning is retained by the brain better when it’s accompanied by images.
For professions, the introduction of virtual reality technology can pave the way to home based technical type training, say for dentists or doctors as examples.
For youngsters in schools, the potential might not be so bright, and content will need to be carefully created and monitored.
One early educational VR video is called OneZero Point, which was made for use with the Oculus Rift. It’s a documentary about virtual reality, taking the viewer on a journey through the development of VR and illustrated by a series of video clips.
Training is closely allied to learning and education, but the uses in VR are more centred on professional type ‘remote classroom’ training.
Anyone that’s undertaken professional training with an expert in the chosen field will be painfully aware of the costs involved, both in terms of money and time. This makes training in virtual environments highly attractive, especially in those industries where real skill or intense knowledge is involved.
Dangerous occupations such as fire-fighting, policing, and bomb disposal would be prime candidates for training which presents real life situations without the actual danger present at the same time. More sedate occupations such as flight attendants could also benefit from virtual plane evacuations.
From a similar perspective there are dozens of professions which need varying degrees of skill to perform at a high standard. These range from bricklaying or carpentry right through to dentistry and surgery.
The need to explore is built deep into all of us. Learned from when we can barely walk as toddlers. As we get older it gets more intense. It’s what drives intrepid explorers to delve deep into jungles, dive expanses of dark ocean, and take trips into space.
Most of us can’t do this stuff though. But with virtual reality we can.
Want to climb Mount Everest? Explore the ocean floor? Walk the surface of a planet that’s not earth? One of the earliest exploration based VR experiences of this type is Mars 2030 from NASA, designed to give a feeling of what life would be like on the Red Planet.
But the exploration theme can also appear in game environments. Crytek games are currently working ‘Robinson: The Journey’ for the Playstation VR and PS4.
In the words of Crytek the exploration game gives you an “unparalleled sense of presence in a game world as you assume the role of a young boy who has crash-landed on a mysterious planet. With freedom to explore surroundings in 360 degrees of detail, players will become pioneers by interacting with the rich ecosystem around them and unearthing incredible secrets at every turn.”
With our appetite for social interaction amply displayed by the success of such institutions as Facebook, it’ll be no surprise that the social interaction possibilities afforded by VR may be high on the list of most used applications within a short time frame.
Very soon you’ll be able to chat to your friends half way across the world as if they were next to you, meet new friends in person without either of you leaving your house, go to virtual parties, and hook up with distant family members at a minutes notice. And all of this in different environments, ranging from a millionaires house to the moon.
The VR experience is so real that some users have admitted to having social anxiety feelings during a session, and even display facial expressions and body language as if they were in a real encounter.
Apps that offer social interaction experiences include:
Oculus Social Alpha – allowing up to get together in different virtual environments. You can watch videos together, and of course just chat.
CONVRGE – may well end up being the champion app, given it’s able to bring together Gear VR and Oculus headset users into the same virtual environment.
vTime – similar to Oculus Alpha, vTime puts you into social situations in a range of scenic locations. Popular locations are likely to include rivers, mountains, and caves.
There are two ways of looking at sports in VR – either you’re doing or you’re watching.
From a doing perspective, you’re going to find the whole range of sports. Basketball, football, tennis, skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, biking, and many more. They’re in the form of games or 360 videos which place you right in the middle of the sporting action, though practice type apps will be popular too.
In the field of watching sports, already there is VR content available for boxing matches, NFL games, and skiing.
Some firms are focussing on the 360 video sports market. EXTREME Sports are a good example, having announced a production partnership in early 2016 with Virtual Reality Entertainment for a wide range of 360 degree content.
EXTREME’s videos are expected to work on all VR platforms.
You’ll get a daily dose of exercise by just donning your helmet and playing some sort of strenuous running and shooting game, but there are also options for true gym type exercises too.
VirZoom is a great exercise type VR game. Based on pedalling a bike in order to set new gaming records, it blends the idea of gaming and exercise perfectly.
Players need to pedal to get through the game, and past ‘obstacles’ such as tank battles or fire-breathing dragons.
Of course you’ll need to hook up your bike to one of those static bicycle mounts (or use an exercise bike). Alternatively VirZoom will come with it’s own bike which will be fully integrated with the game.
Virzoom is expected to have a wide audience with compatibility confirmed with the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or Playstation VR headsets.
Therapy & Health
More and more reports are focusing on the potential therapeutic benefits of VR technology, ranging from experience-related psychological treatments for issues like drug abuse, through to those designed to increase empathy or encourage empathetic responses.
Self perception, or the lack of a positive amount of it, is another area that’s come under the microscope. We know that many disorders can have a psychological cause. Perfect examples of this can be seen in eating disorders. Bullemia, obesity, and anorexia can all have root causes allied to the sufferers perception of themselves or their bodies.
Using VR imaging it may be possible to enhance the viewpoint someone has of their own bodies, what type of person they are, or how teach them new responses to certain situations which might normally cause harmful ones.
If cleverly done, using therapy based experiences could help alleviate a wide range of adverse human responses.
Art & Creativity
I’m not an artist, but can appreciate the feeling of intense satisfaction that creating something from nothing must bring.
One of the deeply fascinating areas of VR, experiences in art and creativity can appeal to a broad spectrum of people. I’m probably a bad example of a ‘creative’ person (apart from building websites of course!), but the idea that I could put on my headset and step immediately into a canvas environment and paint a three dimensional image – that I could then walk around and view from different perspectives – is pretty mindblowing.
And this ability to create extends past art itself as many of us would know it. You can create objects – buildings, furniture, any sort of device – within virtual reality software. For a good example, take a look at the Fantastic Contraption game.
Fear & Horror
Fear of course can be felt in different ways. Other experiences listed here such as mountain climbing or riding roller coasters can invoke fear.
But where virtual reality could really put the jitters up is in horror genre gaming or video. Many early adopters of VR technology are saying that the horror type experience can be one of the most intense.
In fact, Oculus themselves have advised developers against inserting ‘jump’ type scares into their content. The feeling of isolation and terror that could be felt while in a VR environment can lead to a nasty experience for some. If you have trouble watching horror movies, then walking into a virtual world of horror is going to be unpleasant to say the least.
One of the earliest VR horror titles to be seen will be the Rift exclusive title ‘Edge of Nowhere’. This leads you on a descent to madness while searching for a lost expedition crew.
Sounds a little like ‘Alien’ doesn’t it? If it is anything like the space horror that’s become one of the greats, it might be one to avoid if you didn’t sleep well after watching the original movie.
Online shopping has become one of the core activities on the internet, up there with video watching and social interaction as the most popular online activities. As such, it’s just waiting for the virtual reality touch to be applied.
There are some limits in the way that shopping in full virtual environments will work, and I’nm not convinced it can be applied successfully in every instance.
Adult experiences in VR are probably best presented by focussing on two specific areas – sex and gambling. Both big stuff of course. You could argue that there may be ways to experience VR activities in alcohol consumption or drugs, though at this point it’s not easy to see how they could be applied.
Sex and gambling are deep enough subjects to focus on for now though, but I don’t want to talk about either here given the impact they might have on those who may be too young. To read more visit the password protected page here on virtualreality101. Contact me via the contact page for access.
For anyone who’s into festivals and music concerts, here’s your chance to relive those memories whenever the mood takes you. That unforgettable trip to Knebworth last year could easily be replicated in virtual reality, either with official footage or even by creating your own with a 360 degree camera.
Sports events too could benefit, as could any event that could be filmed and streamed either live or captured for subsequent broadcast.
Out Of This World
We’ve seen in our list that VR experiences can take many forms. They cover the full range of events that fill our daily lives, both from a normal and an extraordinary perspective. By extraordinary, I refer of course to those activities we might struggle to undertake either due to prohibitive cost or physical limitations. Examples might include climbing Mount Everest or swimming with Great White sharks.
Examples like those are extremely improbable for many of us, but they are possible in real life if we had the money, the skill, or the physical attributes to enjoy them. But there are some places we’re never going to go, even though they do physically exist.
I’m talking about places not on this earth of course.Ever fancied a trip to another planet? Curious about what you might see? In virtual reality, you can go to Mars.
Heritage & Archaeology
We all love a piece of history, and exploring old buildings or monuments is a great way for us to get in touch with the past. Some memories such as this can actually help us relive important moments from our own past, evoking feelings we may have pushed away a long time ago.
On the virtual reality page of Wikipedia it mentions that ”the first use of a VR presentation in a heritage application was in 1994, when a museum visitor interpretation provided an interactive “walk-through” of a 3D reconstruction of Dudley Castle in England as it was in 1550”
There. If that isn’t a perfect illustration I don’t know what is!
England of course has a very rich historical background, and there are many buildings that could be the focus of a virtual tour, but the same could be said of almost every country on the planet. Widening out horizons by seeking virtual presentations of historical importance throughout the world can give some valuable insight into how different cultures were born and have evolved.
Archaeological experiences in VR can also ‘visits’ to ancient natural wonders, old towns or villages, or revealing presentations of famous sculptures or buildings.
To summarise – you’ll need a VR headset to fully enjoy virtual reality experiences, but it’s the experiences themselves that really count. The headset is an enabler, and one which can lead us into multiple worlds.
I’ve tried to list the different types of experiences on this page, but the reality is there are so many to list. They can vary depending on the subject, and then further on what type of person you are.
We each see things differently, we each take something out of an encounter in a different way depending on the things that have happened to us up to that point.
For anyone who’s ill or disabled, VR could offer experiences which you can never take advantage of in real life, or with great difficulty.
For anyone who has someone close, or has a message they need delivered in future, you could make a 360 video and hold onto it for posterity, for when that person or persons are no longer around.
Alternative VR Experiences
I said above ”you’ll need a VR headset to fully enjoy virtual reality experiences”. The active word here is ‘fully’. You can actually watch many of the 360 videos without headsets, and get an approximation of what you’d see with a headset.
On Facebook there are already plenty of channels showing 360 content – videos which you can drag with your mouse to look around the scene. Google are taking a big interest in these, and have started a series called ‘Spotlight Stories’.
For a wide range of options you can try out Youvisit. They’ve built a platform that demonstrates all that VR has to offer, all streamed in ultra high resolution direct to your device.
Youvisit’s solution overcomes any problems associated with delivery of low resolution imaging, presenting virtual experiences with a true ‘real-life’ feel. With a full and growing range of content presented in formats for both 360 degree video and VR headset viewing, Youvisit look sure to be one of the prime destinations for virtual reality experiences for a long time to come.