Even if you still didn’t have an opportunity to get acquainted with virtual reality, this is very likely to change over the course of the next few years, because these days VR is everywhere. And you would be very wrong to assume that it is only limited to the realm of interactive entertainment (although it is true that it is one of its most obvious and promising applications). Virtual reality finds a way into all aspects of human life: from gaming and entertainment-oriented virtual experience to education, health care, and tourism. And as the technology behind it gets more and more sophisticated, it is only a matter of time before creative people find new and unexpected ways to use it in many new areas.
We have gathered information on the most important applications of VR technology (both existing and prospective) that should serve as sufficient motivation for any programmer, app developer, and tech specialist to turn his or her attention to this area of experience.
Gaming is the most obvious sphere in which virtual reality can be utilized, and it is probably through it that most people are going first to encounter this technology. According to Valve, the owner of Steam, the largest platform for digital distribution of video games, the number of monthly active VR users grew by 160 percent year-over-year. This means that the demand is here, and statistics say that the supply isn’t far behind.
Which is impressive if you take into account that VR technology is still in its infancy, with all the corresponding issues: limited quality of the experience along with high price (if you set aside cheap imitations, the cheapest fully-fledged VR system, PlayStation VR, sells for $350). If people are ready to pay this much for the benefit of getting access to a limited (so far) selection of often wonky VR experiences, one can only imagine what will happen to the market once the technology is perfected and introduced adequately across the board.
However, even now spending a few hundreds of dollars on hardware (plus paying even more for games) is not the only option to bring VR to the general public. Amusement parks like Viri VR Melbourne give people an opportunity to experience virtual reality with their friends for a fraction of the price they would have to spend on VR hardware.
The range of potential applications of VR in retail is mind-boggling. Imagine the world in which you can see any product in action before you buy it without going to the trouble of visiting the store? One of the most obvious areas of application is automotive industry. As each car model is unique in its own way, driving it has its own quirks and peculiarities that can only be experienced, not described. As buying a car is always a significant investment, it cannot be approached lightly, and it is only natural for the client to be willing to test drive all models offered by the company in question and not just the ones that are physically present in the dealership. Moreover, a virtual test drive eliminates all the potential risks associated with allowing a client to take a car for a spin: a virtual car cannot be damaged, after all. As a result, it is an advantage for both the customers and the dealers.
Another interesting and promising application that is already widely used by a number of brands is store space planning. Merchandise positioning is a much more sophisticated process than many people are led to believe, and creating physical demos for it is quite arduous and time-consuming — especially if you take it into account that it is often necessary to go through several iterations before an optimal result is achieved. Using VR to create virtual stores allows one to gather and process information much faster.
3. Health care
So far the application of VR in health care has been fairly limited, but even in its current position, it is a very promising direction of development. It is already broadly used in medical training (a student can, for example, take part in surgery without risking harm to the patient) and mental health treatment. The latter is particularly interesting — virtual reality can be used to work with various neurological and psychological conditions such as PTSD, phobias, and anxiety by exposing the patients to virtual simulations of triggering situations.
4. Education and training
NASA has been using virtual reality simulators since the 1990s, and since then they have become an important part of many different training programs for dangerous and high-risk professions. Military, firefighters, pilots, and many others actively use VR simulators to teach rookies how to make right decisions in extreme situations without any risk to harm either themselves or those depending on their actions. Another benefit of such an approach is that it allows one to train for any number of scenarios in a short period of time.
High school and college education can benefit from VR as well, for example, in the form of virtual field trips that allow students to visit faraway locations that would be difficult, too expensive, or outright impossible to visit otherwise.
Applications of VR in tourism range from virtual experiences that give people an opportunity to experience faraway locations without leaving the comfort of their living rooms to the approach taken by many hospitality brands. They offer their clients virtual tours of their hotels and other services to give the customer a taste of what he can expect from the real thing.
VR is everywhere
All in all, as you can see, virtual reality is everywhere and is quickly permeating all the aspects of our existence. These applications are but a tip of the iceberg — in the near future we are going to see new and exciting ways of introducing VR into many other industries. And all this will require many new app developers and programming specialists in this sphere — which is why it is a good reason to start learning about it now.
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