Virtual reality is not a new concept. Inventions which encompass our every sense to provide a virtual or “almost” real experience date back to the 1950’s, when French playwright Antonin Artaud encouraged the audience of his plays to see the drama on stage as reality. In the 1860’s. Morton Heilig hailed as the father of virtual reality and built a prototype of his “Experience Theatre” the Sensorama in 1962.
But, how is virtual reality used today?
Virtual reality has been used for longer than many of us realise. Remember the toy the “View-Master” that was introduced back in 1930? That could well be our earliest common example of virtual reality in use. Okay, so today we expect a little more…
Nowadays, the virtual reality is based on computer technology, with high tech virtual reality headsets, at its most interactive headsets are combined with a physical environment which projects additional feeds to our senses of images, sounds, smells, movement, and even to our touch.
Virtual reality is now entering our daily lives in many formats, not just for many forms of entertainment, but for engineering, education, training, therapy and healthcare. It’s also being used for social science and psychology to increase our understanding of and to explore our behaviour. Underlying all these uses will, of course, be the marketing and advertising that permeates every aspect of our lives.
What Is Virtual Reality
The dictionary definition of virtual reality describes a “computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that we can interact with”. Early virtual reality viewing or gaming like the Sensorama, or the classic arcade Battlezone, needed a person to enclose themselves within the machine parts. Today, mostly, a device comes to you in the form of a headset. Even gloves, other accessories, or full suits for a complete experience.
(PS If you are a millennial and don’t remember Battlezone, Google it! Gaming, thankfully, has progressed a little in the past few decades.)
If we look at the meaning of the words – virtual, meaning near or almost, and reality, our experience or how we live. So the virtual reality is “almost-life” or “near-reality”. This gives a better understanding of the scope of virtual reality.
How Can Virtual Reality Be Applied to Our Daily Lives
Virtual reality is an area of technology which is quickly advancing – as it makes its application in our domestic and professional lives increase. As more sophisticated technology is created, lower-priced options become available for almost anyone.
Virtual Reality at Home
A good headset with viewing options only is available for around $80, for motion control and more you can join the market from approximately $300. If you are looking for a taster of virtual reality at home, Google Cardboard or equivalent starts from $8.
You can use virtual reality at home for gaming, to engage with friends, or avatars, in social surroundings, build a whole virtual life or indulge in a little adult virtual reality entertainment. You can watch three-dimensional movies, travel the world, visit museums, or attend your favourite concert.
Virtual Reality and Learning
It may be a while before mainstream education sees virtual reality headsets and accessories in day to day use. However, there are applications for learning, from museum visits to geographical adventures. Simple gaming headsets can be used for learning at all ages either at home or in school.
Students can interact more fully with learning programs using virtual reality devices, or get a more fulfilling experience of literature, history or economic and scientific modelling.
Virtual Reality and Healthcare
The healthcare sector is one which seems to be adopting virtual reality at a high rate. Software giants Ubisoft and Amblyotech are developing a program to help children with “lazy eye” or amblyopia. Other apps in development simulate physical and mental conditions to support healthcare professionals and carers understand better the needs and experiences of the patient. Breakaway Ltd is working with partners to develop simulation platforms to train nurses on paediatric emergency situations with programs such as Pediatric Sim.
The opportunities for healthcare are enormous, from training doctors and nurses to understanding conditions and how they restrict the sufferer to improve treatment. Virtual reality in healthcare is a fantastic and positive example of how virtual reality is used, and will be used, in our lives in the future.
Virtual reality is also being used to understand social and psychological behaviour through programs which assess, and give experiences, and sometimes where subjects can learn from their interactions in a safe and private environment.
Virtual Reality in Science, Engineering, the Military and the Workplace
A few more examples first, a classic example of virtual reality for training is flight simulators. Used for commercial, military and space training, flight sims have been in operation for over 30 years. The UK has used virtual reality in military practice since the 1980’s, and NASA since the 90’s.
For engineering, virtual reality gives depth and perspective to computer-aided design (CAD). Virtual prototyping is far cheaper than producing real material prototypes in early stages of product development. Products can even be tested for resistance to wind, weight and other elements.
Virtual Life Applications
By now you should have an idea of the breadth of the virtual reality use in everyday life, sometimes without even knowing about it. Now, we will talk in more depth about some of the sheer numbers of developments for the virtual living, healthcare, and at work.
Here are the top 5 virtual life applications:
#1 Gaming: EVE Valkyrie
Probably the most well-known virtual reality game is EVE: Valkyrie, an action-packed dogfighting adventure set in an alternate reality. Players pilot an array of spacecraft either in single or multiplayer modes.
#2 Entertainment: YouTube VR
We’ve picked YouTube VR purely for the range of 360-degree experiences you can choose from. The YouTube App can be used on Google Cardboard, Daydream and Gear 2. YouTube VR is exclusive to Google VR.
#3 Healthcare: KindVR
Though not available everywhere, KindVR based in California has been working with hospitals in America and Canada on a virtual reality drive to help patients coping with pain and stress. It’s designed to help patients remove focus from their pain, and there is even a video of KindVR in action at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.
#4 Education: Star Chart
What could be more enthralling for students of all ages than an augmented reality astronomy app? Navigate the night sky and learn. Float in space around the planets, or gaze in awe at our solar system while understanding a little more about the massive scale of the universe. Education alongside healthcare is a yet another sector to experience the power of virtual reality.
#5 Engineering: Sixsense MakeVR
A virtual 3D modelling application that doesn’t use CAD. Instead, a multi-touch interface enables the modelling process allowing users to manipulate CAD-based robust models in the same way as the real work. A click of a button sends creations to a 3D printer. Though not an advanced CAD design app, and there are a good few on the market, we chose this example for the simplicity and potential application for education and entrepreneurs.
How is virtual reality used in the real world and our daily lives? The answer is many ways, and importantly, the way virtual reality features in our daily lives is proliferating. Not just for entertainment and our social experiences, but for essential developments to improve our physical and mental health, educate us, and help businesses and organisations engineer, analyse and grow.
Do you have any examples of how virtual reality can be used? Maybe something that you are already experiencing and don’t know about? Share with us in the comments below!