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Benefits of Virtual Reality

VR Cover

I started Virtual Perceptions for many reasons. Like many working in the immersive reality industry, I am drawn to the new like flies to a flame, keen to follow what comes next. This started with video games, but then grew to an overall, fascinating area – the benefits of virtual reality as a whole.

Virtual reality can help with training, where people can gain new skills without endangering the lives of others. Learning new experiences becomes more vivid and memorable as users can interact with a virtual world, beyond books and web pages. The technology also provides an overall experience which grabs people’s hearts and minds, making them want to share widely with their friends and family (myself included). ‘Revolutionary’ is the best way to describe virtual reality, and VR in 2019 is set to be an interesting year for it.

This article will explore the numerous benefits of virtual reality , from mental health to learning and beyond.

benefits of virtual reality

CONTENTS

Benefits of virtual reality in training

Medical applications of virtual reality is a rapidly growing area. One reason is that it allows people to be trained without harming others. Doctors can practice their skills without touching a real human body. No-one wants to be the first person ever being operated on by a junior doctor, and it will happen at some point. Yet this process helps to address issues before they arise.

It Is Global. Virtual reality is not just a thing in the United States alone. People all over the globe are learning to embrace the technology. Some of the biggest virtual reality conventions are actually held in other nations. Some of the leading companies behind virtual reality are located overseas as well. Virtual reality is gradually becoming a great way to connect with people from around the world. No matter the distance, this technology can bring people together.

One new VR surgical tool is Laduma. The company is an immersive consultancy which has been working to create a new 360 experience of a S-ICD procedure , normally performed on people at risk of a cardiac arrest. The experience allows doctors to get a view of the process, next to a doctor in an operation room.

These immersive qualities help to improve training in virtual reality without a tool being picked up. While expensive, experiences like these help doctors hone their craft and learn, without being in the operation room. Hands-on experiences will always trump other forms of training – yet it provides a great groundwork to build on. The benefits of virtual reality in medical practices are massive and should be financed where possible.

benefits virtual reality training

Learning real life experiences in virtual reality

There are mutiple experiences which help people learn in virtual reality. I can cite many, but one I found the most interesting recently is debiasing teaching.

Companies tackle racial bias in numerous training programmes; a notable example is Starbucks in 2018, who shut 8,000 of its stores for training. Organisers delicately handle the situations to educate their employees in the best way possible. These trainings are important – yet if they are mishandled, they might have unintended consequences. In some cases, employees walk away from sessions feeling shame or being shaken by the experiences. These experiences have an adverse effect on the mental health of employees who work in the company.

It Can Take You Places. One of the best experiences of virtual reality is using the technology to travel to places that you haven't been to. The right simulation can allow you to walk around some of the most important places around the world. In addition, virtual reality allows users to watch special documentaries that put them right in the middle of the action. Some of the top film companies are now producing documentaries made specifically for virtual reality headsets.

Clorama Dorvilas designed a VR experience to remove the shame and guilt felt afterward, via debiasing techniques. ‘Companies can spend millions of dollars on extremely ineffective, and virtually useless training that can have an adverse effect which can hurt the company even more,” she said. “Bias training shouldn’t be there to shame. People should feel good about making others feel accepted. Debias isn’t something that you can work out in a day. It’s a behavior that you have to work through. We want to give people the capacity to work in a safe and comfortable space.’

Dorvilas found that empathy allowed people to humanize each other, and applied that to VR. Numerous studies shows that unconscious bias impacts education and teaching, as it shapes how people teach and how they see relative achievement. This shaped the creation of Teacher’s Lens, an app which provides simulations in VR and reduces bias in a safe and comfortable way. The app presents the teacher with a racially diverse classroom, and tracks who the teacher interacts with. In this way, the benefits of virtual reality are made clear.

benefits virtual reality learning

Virtual reality and experiences in social spaces

Recently I attended the Raindance Film Festival , which provided excellent coverage of the very best in new immersive movies. From Judi Dench talking about trees, to the life of Jesus Christ, the diverity of films is astonishing to see. Yet one area I find really interesting is the use of social spaces. Hubs by Mozilla tested users in different spaces, while Mozilla partnered with Jessica Outlaw and Tyesha Snow of The Extended Mind to review the user experience of the platform. These insights help illustrate the benefits of virtual reality in social spaces.

The team found that smaller spaces promoted closer conversations. In larger areas, when the team enabled special audio, participants felt they didn’t connect to others as they moved away from them. This was because that the further away they were, the lower the speaker volume, meaning the more isolated the user became. The Extended Mind team concluded that the type of space influenced behavior ; a wider space pulled users to explore, while a smaller office-like space promoted more intimate discussions. In a sense, size matters (in design). Along the same line of logic, the contents of the room changed how users saw its purpose as well. Adding a door which cannot be opened meant one user saw the space as an interrogation room; a fabrication in their mind rather than the intention of the designers.

The VR Bandwagon. With hundreds upon thousands of people wanting to get their hands on a VR device that was still in development, huge companies, including giants like HTC and Steam, Google, Lionsgate and Samsung, among others, started heavily investing in virtual reality technologies and experiences.

Such experiences are fascinating to follow, and tell us about the future. Wandering around a virtual environment can become commonplace, and may well become the norm in years to come. In China, it is common for WeChat users to share their details after a business meeting, instead of business cards. It is not a stretch to say meetings will be virtual for many in the years to come.

Benefits of augmented reality

Many people do not know the difference between augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality. While VR puts people in a virtual world, augmented reality places virtual objects on the real world. This allows users to interact with them, and play with one another or compete.

Pokemon Go is the smash hit in 2016 which gripped the world. While the hype has subsided, Niantic still boasts a dedicated playerbase which pays for the service. Their upcoming game, Wizards Unite, may grip the world again. I predict it may happen.

Pokemon Go showed that the benefits of augmented reality are social in nature. Games can bring people outside, compete, and play. It lets children and young adults interact and trade. In several cases, it brought new customers to cafes as they become hub spots for players. Wizards Unite may have the same effect when it comes out in 2019.

It’s not all going to be plastic. Today, virtually everyone loves everything about VR, which accounts for the magnitude of its success. But the technology continues to evolve at a breakneck speed. One focus of technological advances related to VR is the engineering and design of the headset. Expectedly, there are ultra high-tech and complicatedly designed headsets out there. But some tech wizards have taken it one step further, thereby making it way more accessible to everyone. Now, there are tutorials about making VR headsets out of pieces of cardboard. Not only has this opened a plethora of possibilities for VR, it has gotten people to think in creative ways to upsize their experiences.

In 2020, we can expect Apple to release their AR glasses , which can have new benefits as well. Solutions like maps on tables is beneficial, as people can plan how they go to work. Or it can display products before buying them, to better inform purchases.

The benefits of virtual reality in the future

The public is beginning to see the benefits of virtual reality. Many mainstream papers cover developments of the technology for treating depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues. Social spaces like VRChat take over YouTube for a few weeks, as viral videos are shared widely. Doctors cite how virtual reality helps them develop professionally, and become better practitioners.

While these benefits are clear, more work needs to be done. Governments should invest more in the technology, with small steps already being made by the UK government. Investors should finance new projects, provided the return on investment is clear. Most importantly, curious enthusiasts should take more risks and try the experiences out, and support the ecosystem.

Developers will use bother virtual and augmented reality to help the public. The VR headsets can be used at home for entertainment, or learning via new experiences. Augmented reality can help learn new languages by labeling furniture. The applications are wide and being tapped. It is a matter of time before the mainstream public uses it as well.

iGlasses. While today Apple is infamous for their use of “i” in their products, they weren’t the first ones to come up with the idea. In the 1990s, a company known as Virtual I/O came up with a headset that was capable of color 3D stereoscopic vision, as well as head tracking. Known as iGlasses, the device had a price tag of just under $1000. While the glasses were fully capable of delivering an immersive experience, they didn’t truly ignite the consumer market.

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Tom Ffiske

Editor, Virtual Perceptions

Tom Ffiske specialises in writing about VR, AR, and MR across the immersive reality industry. Tom is based in London.

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