In our last post we began a countdown of what we think are ten amazing uses of Virtual Reality. Before that, we also did a quick rundown of some ways in which VR is being used for some fairly strange applications.
This article picks up where we left off and covers our top five picks for the best of non-gaming virtual reality applications today.
You’re on the soccer pitch, blitzing with the ball. You’ve chosen the perfect angle to the goal. The goalkeeper’s focus is intense, but not as intense as yours. The defenders are closing in on all sides. You’re alone, far ahead of your teammates, sprinting for glory. There’s a chance, just the tiniest chance that you can score. But should you pass to a midfielder instead? Play it safe instead of going for glory? The decision is snap, pure instinct. You deliver a powerful shot to the far top corner. The ball curves through the air. You can’t breathe as you wait for it to pass the goalkeeper’s outstretched arms. The defenders turn to watch with bated breaths themselves. And finally it does cross the goalkeeper’s hands. And flies over the bar. You feel your heart sink. Maybe you should have passed the ball instead. Then you press the restart button on your headset and try the simulation again.
Virtual reality holds enormous possibilities for both viewers and players of sports. Events are already being filmed in 360 degrees so one can watch LeBron James as he soars overhead for a dunk or Christiano Ronaldo as he shoots on goal. Players are also now using VR to train so that they can learn to make better split second decisions on the field. The Netherlands team used VR to help train their players for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Virtual reality might just be what gives teams a winning edge in the future of sports.
- Crime Scene Investigation
Image traipsing into a crime scene and trying your hand at being Sherlock Holmes, deciphering clues and trying to solve the case. Using VR, police departments around the world are recreating crime scenes virtually, allowing their officers to study crime scenes as many times as is necessary to locate the smallest pieces of evidence. They have found that, if used properly, virtual environments can help the investigation process from its earliest stages all the way to a courtroom conviction. All of this without once contaminating physical evidence. Even after all materials have been removed from a crime scene, the virtual capture can allow police to revisit the scene again and again. 3D reconstructions of crime scenes can also allow juries to experience the environment in far greater detail and realism than they could ever do with photographs. Many investigators believe that by 2020, CSI using VR will be widely used, trusted, and being applied to solve a variety of crimes.
If you’ve known someone who’s been in a bad accident, suffered a stroke, or had brain injury, you would know how long and laborious the recovery process can be. It’s not inexpensive either and could cost upwards of $150,000 a year. For patients undergoing such therapy, it is vital that they are calm, relaxed and free from memories of the trauma they have undergone. Immersive virtual reality therapy is a new form of rehabilitation. Patients can wear headsets and walk on a treadmill while looking at relaxing and familiar scenes. Some biotechnology companies have shown that VR therapy enables patients to regain motor and cognitive function faster than with conventional physical therapy when treated in safe, controlled, and anxiety-free environments.
Not only is virtual reality being used for physical therapy, but also has vast potential for applications in mental therapy. An undeniable global mental health crisis exists today. An estimated one in five people in the U.S. have a diagnosable mental health disorder, and many doctors tend to over-prescribe medications which may do significant harm while alleviating symptoms. For many disorders, there are effective treatments that don’t require drugs. These can be effectively administered using VR – for PTSD, cognitive behavioral problems, anxiety, phobias, and stress.
There’s some incredible stuff that VR is being used for in engineering today. Virtual environments are particularly useful in teaching the construction and workings of complex machines. Car and rail construction manufacturers are using VR for prototyping during the design process to produce several virtual test versions – a cost effective streamlined process. VR is being used to train employees whose jobs involve dangerous environments such as in power plants, and oil and gas rigs and refineries. Everything from the design of jet engines to genome sequencing is already being trialed in VR.
It is also already being applied extensively to architectural design and walkthroughs, a trend that is only expected to intensify as ever greater adoption takes place. Some educational institutions such as Deakin University (Australia), University of Michigan, and Stanford, among others, have already constructed dedicated Virtual Reality spaces specifically for teaching their students via VR. Nowhere else is there greater affinity for virtual reality than in engineering. And it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
Finally, we come to our winner. We’ve already written a lot about VR in shopping on the Bigthinx Blog. E-commerce is a massive industry. In developed countries, online shopping accounts for almost 15% of all money spent. Using VR, people receive a far more interactive and realistic shopping experience than with smartphones or computers. They can shop in real-time and even interact online with their friends.
Most people still prefer to shop in-store rather than buying online, which flies in the face of conventional wisdom that online shopping is the be-all and end-all of retail. A staggering 76% of shoppers still prefer to shop for apparel in brick and mortar stores. But consumer behavior has changed. Combining convenience with experience is the new way forward, say recent studies. VR/AR is the next step in delivering such in-store experiences to customers at home or, well, in stores. Although still in its infancy, 55% of consumers believe that VR e-commerce will impact their buying decisions. 62% are interested in trying VR shopping. Nearly a quarter plan to buy a VR device in the coming year. (See our full article on it here)
(On a side note, Bigthinx has developed an app that creates an entirely virtual apparel shopping experience. It’s called “Lykagluv” because, well, that’s the way one wants their clothes to fit. Follow Bigthinx on Twitter or “Like” us on Facebook to stay updated on it.)
That concludes our list of the best not-for-gaming virtual reality applications today. Of course, beyond this list there are plenty more uses for VR emerging every day. Adoption is rapidly growing and virtual reality seems like it is set to be the mainstay of humanity’s arsenal of productivity boosting tools. Are you a believer yet?