Virtual Reality is a technology which makes use of software to generate a three-dimensional environment allowing access to life-size objects. It is one of the trending technologies that has gained a lot of attention lately and is being regarded as a revolutionary concept in the technology world. As per a recent report by a website, virtual reality will replace high street shopping by 2050, where users will use VR headsets to try on their clothes and indulge in the atmosphere of a simulated store.
Although the concept was mentioned for the first time in a Science fiction story back in 1935, today we are witnessing its actual implementation in a wide array of applications. The most common use of VR can be seen in the gaming world which is now dominated by companies like Sony, HTC, and Facebook’s Oculus. However, it’s not just the games where VR can be put to use. Apparently, the Virtual reality trend is being explored for other areas as well.
Here, we have chalked out 15 Virtual Reality applications that are likely to form a significant part of the tech world in the next few years.
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As we all know Virtual Reality has changed the gaming experience to a great extent. Gamers can put on headsets, gloves and through bio-sensing, those movements are detected and fed back to a computer which then transforms these actions on the screen. Moving on, another application of VR relates to a theme park where this technology transforms the park into a space full of supernatural and scary visuals which are physically not possible.
Apart from the above two uses, the VR users can also enjoy an enriched feel of the movies as well as music. Talking about the former, people can put on their VR headset and watch a movie with a theater-like view even while sitting in their living rooms. Moreover, the 360-degree function lets you be a part of the movie. Discussing the latter, there are certain apps which focus on visualizations and videos in a way that engages the audience at a personal level.
During the last few years, several professionals including the managers, instructors, and therapists have been using VR in order to provide training. It’s also being used in schools and colleges to offer VR-based interactive sessions in the classroom. Whether it’s History, Literature, or Economics, VR has become a new way of imparting education.
In September 2015, Google introduced its Pioneer Expedition Program, whereby thousands of students are provided kits containing all the important tools that were vital for them to go on virtual trips. Soon it is going to be a common trend for students of one country to go on virtual educational trips with students residing in other countries.
Gone are the days when people used to visit museums along with a guide book or agents accompanying them and illustrating about the antiques. Now you can just put on your VR headset and then take a tour of the whole museum whereby you can even walk through the pieces of art. Moreover, students can also avail rides in roller coasters to learn about the history.
Further, Samsung Gear VR headset enables the users to interact with the artifacts, for example, the Bronze Age exhibit at the British Museum. Also, those who wish to enjoy the details without being physically present at the place can now use Google’s Cardboard Headset to learn about the American Museum of Natural History.
The healthcare industry has adopted virtual reality simulations at a big scale for the purpose of diagnosis and treatment with the help of 3D models. Efforts are being made not just for imparting medical training but also to develop apps that could teach people some life-saving procedures. Besides, it is also put to use for helping patients to deal with phobia, extreme pain, and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
A famous incident where virtual reality saved a life happened when doctors at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami used Google Cardboard to treat a baby who was born with one lung and half heart. They used 360-degree image technology to map the baby’s heart and then planned a surgery which was other impossible to perform.
Virtual reality is being explored at several law schools so as to use it for solving cases. Jurors can be given VR headsets in order to inspect the situations in a 3D view where they can highlight certain objects and look closely at the facts in a 360-degree setup. This would avoid any kind of confusion, thereby helping in making a quick and correct decision.
Researchers at Durham University are working on a robot system which is inspired by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. It merely needs an app or computer program to perform without relying on texture scanning, gaming engine or 3D-rendering.
Through a VR Laboratory, NASA has made use of this technology to train the astronauts for spacewalking. Most commonly, it’s used for the International Space Station (ISS) which is a collaboration of various countries. Today almost all the astronauts know how to spacewalk when they step out of their spaceship. Besides, it’s also helping in controlling the robots sent on Mars and helping the astronauts to de-stress.
In another space project, Oculus Rift was combined with Kinetic 2 sensor and Xbox One gaming console to control a robotic arm through the operators’ gestures. NASA also shared this technology at CES where people could get an idea as to how the astronauts viewed everything while entering the Orion capsule.
7. Automotive Manufacturing
The application of VR in the automobile industry is quite vast starting from the design stage to prototyping and then virtual test drives. It’s quite helpful for the manufacturers as well as for the customers. It helps in reducing the product cycles, physical prototypes and can be used for an endless number of times. The engineers can inspect the elements closely in order to determine any potential damages before they are actually built. Apart from this, customers can avail a virtual test drive while sitting at their home.
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The use of VR is quite common among US and British Defense bodies. The virtual reality simulators are used by US military to train the soldiers using non-commercial versions of the video games like Virtual Battlespace 2 and Unity 3D. The simulated and immersive environments created through this technology helps in learning them about war like situation so that they can prepare themselves before actually facing a war.
Talking about Britain, an electronic design consultancy named Plextek has been providing training to the country’s Ministry of Defence since the late 1980s. Here trainees learn how to bandage a wound under enemy fire or deal with the situation of a soldier getting hemorrhage when the air is filled with smoke.
VR is not just helpful in manufacturing cars rather it also helps to manufacture other heavy vehicles, home appliances, and factory-based products at large scale. Companies can manufacture simulated prototypes and then discuss the details at a very less cost and time.
This not only helps in evaluating the product at an early stage but also enables the engineers, marketing team and sales team to give their respective feedbacks before the product is actually released. It can also aid in getting a response from the end consumers through a trial version.
Virtual Reality can also be utilized in rendering an enriching meditation experience for ensuring a healthy mind. You are no longer required to go to a secluded and peaceful place to meditate. In fact with the help of VR headsets, you can simply enjoy exotic locations with natural scenic beauty while sitting at home.
Guide Meditation VR is a virtual relaxation app which offers the users access to a wide array of beautiful locations that can be visited virtually. It comes with 4 locations and 9 free guided sessions. Users can even customize it by adding or removing the background music as per their preferences. It also measures your heart rate and helps in relaxing by removing all the stress inside you.
The fashion industry has also been using VR technology in interesting and creative ways lately. Right from the virtual fitting of clothes in a simulated environment to catwalks and ramp shows, the application has seen a wide-scale popularity. Nowadays, brands shoot fashion shows with green screens in a 360-degree view and then the audience can view it with different virtual backgrounds.
Many brands are also shooting for a photo shoot in a simulated environment, for example, Elle partnered with Google Cardboard in 2014 to create a multi-city 360-degree fashion shoot. Apart from this, owing to the popularity of wearables, the fashion brands are getting involved in this field. Dior even introduced its own VR headset and became the first ever fashion brand to do so.
As mentioned at the very beginning of this article a recent report has stated that VR is going to replace the high street shopping by the year 2050. After the introduction of online stores, virtual stores are also going to become a common trend among the shopaholics. Customers would be able to take a virtual tour of the products, try on the clothes and then AI (Artificial Intelligence) shop assistants would help them buy what they want along with offering valuable suggestions.
Recently, Alibaba has offered a virtual reality store in China under its program Buy+. Although it’s still under trial, millions of customers have shown interest in the program. Customers can simply wear their headset and remotely visit the store, look at the products, enquire the prices and then buy anything they like. The deliveries are promised to be carried out within 2-3 days.
The key players in the construction spaces namely architects and designers are also getting a lot of benefit from virtual reality. It allows the users to inhabit spaces in a 3-dimensional setup. The hand drawn sketches are now replaced by computerized images which in turn reduces time and cost.
It helps the designers to create everything from the building to flooring but also aids in studying an emergency situation. This would help in determining whether it will be safe for the occupants to leave the premises on time.
14. Developing social skills
Apart from the commercial and educational uses of Virtual Reality, the concept is also very helpful for social causes. It can be helpful in helping children and adults deal with their autism by putting them in scenarios which enable them to learn and interact with simulated avatars.
In this, the brainwaves of the affected people are monitored throughout the program.
The professors working at the University of Texas have even created a program for autistic individuals to assist them in developing social skills. The created situations include a job interview or an interaction with the neighbor, whereby the user is required to interact with the avatars and judge their behavior.
Advertising is another field which has integrated Virtual Reality in order to grab the attention of the masses. Whether it’s for tourism, hotels, flights or a consumer product, brands are using this tech to lure the customers. VirtualSKY is a service that offers this facility through an app. Users can either use a headset or smartphone and they will be guided to a 360-degree view of the brand’s product/service. This has become the latest method for brands to popularize their offering whereby the customers are sure to get fully immersed in what they are being shown on the screen with surround sound. There couldn’t be a better way to attract the customers.
These are the 15 virtual reality applications that we have enlisted along with the recent developments. Undoubtedly, as predicted, 2016 has turned out to be the year when VR transformed from virtual to reality. However, we are yet to witness a lot many explorations and applications of the concept in the real world.
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