Disruptive Trends: Virtual Reality – Even Better Than The Real Thing
The biggest trend at this year’s CES (the biggest international electronics’ show, where all the latest gizmos and gadgets are profiled), was virtual reality (1).
Where are we now?
Virtual reality (VR) currently is about wearing a headset that looks like oversized ski goggles, (in some cases coupled with sensor-filled gloves), that creates a fully immersive experience when integrated with specifically designed films or games.
You feel like you are actually there and can interact with whatever you are seeing in a seemingly real or tangible way.
With some VR, you can look around you and the film will adjust to give you a 360-degree view in the same way that you look around you in the real world.
You are not limited to one single point of view as in a 3D movie – you direct the action by where you look.
With other VR, by using sensor gloves or by holding sensor tools, you can actively manipulate and interact what you are seeing, making things larger or closer, or feel as if you are handling the object.
With good VR, there is no separation between you and the action. You are there. You are part of whatever is happening. VR is reality redefined.
Right now, all the major tech giants are jockeying to provide the clearest images and the most realistic VR experience. Given the investment by the industry, it is clear that VR is definitely come of age.
Price wise, you can pick up DIY cardboard kits that work with your smartphone, while high-end headsets such as ones by Oculus Rift can set you back a few thousand dollars.
While the technical aspects of the goggles are racing ahead, films and software development has not kept pace. There are limited games and films available, and the killer app or movie that makes VR take off hasn’t yet hit the market. The VR goggles are only as good as what you see through them.
The VR software and app development possibilities are endless. Areas under active advanced development and testing include:
- Medical – Allowing surgeons to practice procedures using VR rather than on patients or medical cadavers.(2)
- Warfare – Practicing military tactics to give soldiers a real experience of being in the line of fire. (3)
- Porn – Virtual sex is one of the first mainstream applications of VR, with movies being synced with sex toys for a more intimate experience. (4) (5)
- Gaming – All the top gaming companies are currently exploring VR. Fruit Ninja is well advanced as a VR game. (6)
- Movies – Studios are exploring adding in VR experiences that audiences can take after the movie. The Martian Experience is the first of this new breed and takes audience members deep into the scenes of the movie. (7) (8)
- Psychology – VR is currently being tested in a range of psychological treatments ranging from PTSD, through to depression. (9)
- Advertising – Big brands such as Marriott, Thomas Cook and QANTAS are investing heavily in testing out immersive experiences, primarily in the travel sphere. (10)
- Theme Parks – Forget 3D rides, VR rollercoasters are the new big thing. (11)
- Architecture – Architects are providing real walk throughs of designs and sketches to identify issues and adjust based on client feedback. (12)
- Retail – People can now try on products and see what they look like in your home. (13)
The next generation of VR are lighter glasses, and augmented reality/holograms instead of goggles. Getting to that level of advancement will make VR even more mainstream.
VR has one standout difference to other disruptive technologies. Currently VR is more of an adjunct to different industries rather than a replacement. This will probably change as people get a greater understanding of the potential that VR holds.
Like most disruptive technologies, ethical dilemmas have not kept pace with the developments.
Given the immersive nature of VR, does VR porn constitute “cheating?”
What about VR killing and maiming through games? Will this desensitise people further to violence?
Then there is the potential in warfare and military to add in VR as an instrument of torture and not healing.
Of course, there are also the societal implications. The temptation to disappear into a virtual world where everything is always warm, welcoming and under your control will generate a whole new addiction problem, and create more challenges with interacting with other humans.
Bottom line, VR is here and will take a greater place in our lives in the coming few years. What we make of it remains to be seen.
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