Virtual reality has the potential to change how we live, how we socialize, and how we work. In the past few years, as more VR systems have hit the market, they’ve already started to make inroads in multiple different industries. VR has been around much longer than most people realize, even if it didn’t always look the same as it has in recent years.
Early attempts at virtual reality have been around longer than you may think if you broaden the term to what is seen as VR or VR-adjacent. For example, in 1929, Edward Link created the “Link Trainer,” which was the earliest example of a commercial flight simulator. It was controlled by motors linked to a rudder and used a steering column to modify the pitch and roll while a small motor-driven device mimicked potential disturbances. This filled a void by providing a safer way to train pilots in the United States, a technology that was perfected just in time for World War II. As technology improved, more streamlined versions of flight simulators came out, but all of them served to create safe and immersive ways to teach pilots how to fly a plane.
NASA also found ways to use VR technology, working with the company Crystal River Engineering on Project VIEW. VIEW was a VR simulator created to train astronauts and featured a headset as well as gloves that could simulate touch interaction. Several years later, NASA engineer Antonio Medina developed a VR system that would allow a person to pilot a Mars rover and even took into account the time delay that would occur in real life.
When you consider how VR changed the world, it’s important to note that the impact of this technology has extended beyond teaching physical and technological skills. VR has also been used to improve mental health. In 1997, Georgia Tech and Emory University collaborated to create a VR treatment for PTSD in veterans. With this technology, a person can be exposed to traumatic triggers in a controlled manner using a virtual environment.
The impact of virtual reality in the world is especially noticeable in situations that require innovative approaches to education. For instance, in the healthcare industry, VR can help to facilitate a better physician-patient relationship and create better telehealth interactions. When physicians use VR technology, they can explain a medical issue in a way that is detailed but still easy to understand. VR can also be used to teach medical students in a way that allows them to hone their skills in a safe environment, getting hands-on training with no risk to living patients.
Virtual reality can also provide training for emergency service providers like firefighters, police officers, and soldiers. VR can immerse people in a simulated emergency or disaster situation so that they can practice their responses in a consequence-free environment.
Virtual reality can change the world of classroom education as well, as it can provide students with memorable and immersive experiences. Since all of these activities take place within the classroom, there’s no worrying about money for field trips. VR offers a chance for students of all income levels to experience places they might not otherwise get to see with the benefit of being easily monitored by teachers to ensure that they are not goofing off or getting into trouble.
As the cost of VR technology decreases, the potential benefits of VR in the professional, educational, and entertainment industries could be life-changing. One answer to how virtual reality will change the future is increasing the ease of conceptualization for industries like real estate and building renovation. VR could also offer shoppers the opportunity to try on clothes in the comfort of their own home before placing an order or virtually check out the amenities at a resort before booking a vacation.
Combined with augmented reality (AR), virtual reality allows people, places, and objects from the physical and virtual worlds to blend together in environments where anything is possible. Industries are currently working on melding these two realities together to create breathtaking experiences for consumers that will break down the barrier between real and imaginary and offer experiences that will change the way people live, work, and play.
If you’re still questioning how VR will change the world, just look around you. Especially with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased interest in creating virtual experiences that allow people to communicate with others and experience the world around them without having to travel. Virtual reality is growing at a monumental pace in industries all over the world and is poised to continue that growth.