The thing that makes virtual reality (VR) so interesting isn’t the technology — it’s the capability for longevity that it possesses.
We’ve all seen technological advancements that were groundbreaking in the moment, but didn’t really become a commodity in everyone’s lives (remember the 3D TV?) When something new in technology becomes a useful and accessible commodity, it’s made a significant impact on our lives. VR is hot and new right now, and it’s planning to stay for a while. The implications of VR are countless and important.
Just take a look at how it’s been put to use already:
- NASA launched a new initiative in the Mars 2030 program, in which astronauts use VR to simulate life on Mars and prepare for their missions.
- Medical schools have used VR for students pursuing a track in surgery, allowing them to practice procedures in a controlled and safe environment.
- Immersive virtual reality therapy is a new form of rehabilitation for patients with brain and stroke injuries. Studies from Mindmaze have found that it enables individuals to regain cognitive and motor function faster than physical therapy.
There have also been some pretty weird applications of VR:
- Swapping genders in virtual reality
- Cooking in virtual reality (not real food)
- Virtual reality job simulator (yes, this is real).
- Guillotine simulator in virtual reality, in case you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be beheaded during the French Revolution.
Regardless of what VR is used for, it’s going to change how apps are designed, how websites and videos are experienced, and much more.
Just imagine the change in user interfaces for our devices. Not to mention how incredible the experience of VR is — it feels as though we’re back in a version of 2007, when the thought of having a phone that worked like a computer was unreal. VR is something novel and groundbreaking, which is something we haven’t had in a while (since the iPhone was released). The original iPhone was a pivotal moment in technological history, and everything after that was simply an expansion or improvement of it.
Now we have VR, the beginning of something huge, and the years to come will likely take the form of improving and refining it to an expected standard of performance that’s accessible to everyone (think about how today, having a phone with more than 16GB storage at a reasonable price is a must). It’s a pattern we’ve seen in the past, and it’s starting again.
One of the most well known companies in the industry, Oculus, just updated their VR model Rift, for room-scale VR motion controls.
“When virtual reality fanatics argue about what headset is best, two arguments tend to prevail: “The Oculus Rift is more comfortable,” and “only the HTC Vive does roomscale VR.” Soon, that second argument won’t matter as much. Thanks to a recent update, the Rift’s Oculus Homesoftware now boasts support for up to four tracking sensors — doubling one of the basic requirements the hardware needs to be used for accurate, room-scale virtual reality.”
At the moment, most VR headsets, like the Oculus Rift, are pricy and bulky. I say “bulky” because one day something as thin and small as an eye contact lens will be the standard for VR. Just like the giant cell phone brick from the 80s evolved to the super thin smartphones we have today, VR will only get smaller, more streamlined, and thinner. That’s what’s happened with pretty much every tech device we’ve come to know in the past 60 years. The TV was once a box, now it’s flat panel. The computer once took up a room, now it can sit on your lap. The cell phone was once a brick, now it’s a thin slice of glass and metal.
People have described VR as an experience that manages to blow their mind every time.
I’ve tried it out on Google Cardboard and it was simply amazing. It was kind of scary, too. The experience is all too real and it’s incredibly convincing. I would describe it as a disembodied experience whereby you inhabit someone else’s person in a different world. Something like a dream. These teens react to playing a terrifying horror game on VR. It’s insanely real.
Now, VR is awesome but, I can’t help but to draw out some possible negative implications.
Technology has evolved to become more wearable, and it’s something that’s picked up a lot of speed in recent years, especially with the resurrection of smart watches when Apple and Samsung started making their own. Why is it that the evolution of technology has been centered on wearability? Everything gets smaller and accommodates the shapes of our bodies and clothes so that we always have access to them. Are we facing a new form of human evolution, as well? Or devolution? I know it sounds extreme, but VR seems to be the first step into a realm of technology in which our devices are no longer an extension of ourselves, but in which we are an extension of our devices. VR is completely immersive and dominates our most important senses of sight and hearing sound. It has the capacity to render reality mundane, because it offers us a form of escapism from the constraints of our realities what we are used to. Just consider this video, in which VR is taken to an extreme, grim level.
Or watch the cinematic masterpiece, “WALL-E” and you’ll know what I mean.
Or perhaps you just really want to take a vacation: