Virtual reality, a technology that is still mostly known as a plot device in movies featuring Keanu Reeves and other sci-fi stars, is quickly becoming a real world technology with applications across industries. The rise of VR is creating a whole new realm of possibilities that will change the way we interact with the world. For those not yet familiar with virtual reality, it is a computer simulation of an environment that can be explored by a person using special hardware. The most common type of VR experience involves a headset that displays images in front of the wearer’s eyes. The images are viewed in 3D and the user can move around to explore different aspects of the virtual environment. This immersive digital experience is a game changer for the way that we interact with the world and our own bodies.
The ability to pick things up, throw them and bend down to look at objects or stars up close is a remarkable and empowering sensation. The immersive aspect of VR is further enhanced with the inclusion of haptic devices that can simulate touch. The most common form of VR is used for entertainment, such as games or cinematic experiences. This is the result of VR’s innate appeal to people’s sense of play and desire for novelty. However, VR can also be utilized for more serious purposes that are changing the world in profound ways. In recent years, VR has become a tool for journalists to create immersive reports that would be difficult or impossible to produce in any other medium.
For example, The Wall Street Journal created a VR roller coaster that tracked the ups and downs of the stock market and RYOT produced Confinement, a virtual film about solitary confinement in US prisons. Virtual Reality is also being used in the field of education and training, where it can be used to help students study for tests or for corporate employees to learn how to use a new piece of equipment. Companies can even hold meetings in a virtual environment, allowing participants to attend from their home or office without having to travel. As the technology progresses and becomes more affordable, it will be even easier to implement in a wide variety of business settings.
In fact, eMarketer predicts that by 2022 over 52.1 million people in the United States will be using VR at least once per month. As the VR industry continues to evolve, some of the big tech companies are working on headsets that do not require any wires and have almost imperceptible latency, making it possible for users to see and manipulate images as they would in real life. This is another significant step towards the ultimate goal of a fully immersive VR experience, which could eventually include a more realistic sense of touch as well. As the technology grows and develops, it will continue to revolutionize the way we live our lives.