In our last post we covered a number of ways in which Virtual Reality is being used for some fairly strange applications which range from slightly odd to plain bizarre. However, the effectiveness of VR for education and skills training is astounding (see our article on it here). Learning simulations are incredibly effective with VR, delivering up to 100% greater retention and 30% higher test scores than with traditional teaching methods. In addition, VR is opening up new avenues for teaching and exploration in vastly diverse areas.
This article (and the next) are a countdown chronicling the pioneer attempts of some very useful, and practical, ways in which virtual reality is being applied right now.
- Space Exploration
The movie Gravity did a fairly bang up job of what it’s like to be in space. It’s tough and it’s hostile. So it’s no surprise that simulations have always been a go-to for trainee astronauts to understand such environments. NASA’s Mars 2030 program is using virtual reality to simulate life on the red planet. Astronauts are being trained for spacewalks and simulations on the International Space Station. Scientists are using 360 degree video from the Mars Curiosity rover to virtually experience the planet’s terrain and plot safe exploratory routes that are a far cry from the often wrong predictions previously based on 2D images. With the growth of affordable VR headsets, soon every one of us could have the opportunity to explore different planets from the comfort of our own living room.
Surgery is tough. It’s complicated. The tiniest mistake could cost a life. Students go through several years of high intensity training to become surgeons, and they need to be nearly perfect by the time they do. VR allows students to practice procedures as many times as it takes to get them right without the limitations of equipment availability and cost implications. In April 2016, Dr. Shafi Ahmed famously performed an operation on a cancer patient which was filmed in 360 degrees. Through the use of VR, students worldwide could watch as if through his eyes and observe the entire procedure. VR is also useful in simulating new surgical procedures and testing them on virtual models before ever attempting to replicate them on living patients.
Solders need a lot of rigorous training. They need to understand and operate a lot of equipment. They need tactical knowledge and spot decisions that don’t cost unnecessary lives. VR allows them to practice and hone their skills in safe environments. The Air Force has long used simulators to train pilots. Now similar training can be imparted to every soldier using virtual reality, giving them the opportunity to test their combat skills and decision making in simulated combat environments.
Visit the pyramids at Giza after breakfast, take a tour of the British Museum before lunch, spend the afternoon going for a relaxing scuba dive off the coast of Mexico, and climb Mount Everest before teatime. Fantasy, you say? VR makes it possible. 360 videos already offer tours of various tourist destinations around the world, and it’s only a matter of time before it is part of street views so you can wander around just about anywhere in the world. Without ever leaving your chair.
Ever wanted to play Marlon Brando’s role in The Godfather? Or tiptoe around the house in Paranormal Activity? What about gaping while Godzilla leveled an entire city around you? In 2014, interactive film viewing premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and now there’s even a virtual reality cinema in Amsterdam. YouTube horror series have already gained massive viewership from die-hard scare junkies among the millions of VR enthusiasts around the world. It won’t be too much longer before VR cinema is mainstream everywhere.
This has been half a countdown of the various exciting doors opened to us by VR technology. The next post will cover our top five picks for amazing uses of virtual reality. Stay tuned.