A lot of us probably thought by the year 2020 society would be a little more…futuristic. While flying cars kind of exist already, we’re a long way off from zipping down the block to Trader Joe’s to grab a tub of maple butter. Sure, most of us are exposed to artificial intelligence on the daily between smartphones and in-home devices, but we don’t have robots roaming the streets (yet).
There is one piece of tech that has silently been integrating its way into society, without playing an integral role in (most of) our daily lives: Virtual Reality.
Many of us are probably familiar with the concept. Many of us may have even experienced it before. You’re at a family gathering, a younger relative has one of the new headsets they want you to try. You put it on and are clunking around underwater until a great white shark appears in front of your face, it scares you half to death, everyone laughs, the end.
But what are VR’s applications in today’s society other than scaring other family members?
It turns out the commercial side of VR that we are familiar with is just a drop in the bucket.
The US military is one of the largest adopters of virtual technology. The Air Force, Army, and Navy uses VR techniques not only for training and safety enhancement, but also to analyze military maneuvers and battlefield positions. Trainings include flight and parachute simulation, medic training, virtual bootcamp, and vehicle repair. Virtual Reality Exposure Treatment (VRET) is also being used to effectively treat veteran soldiers and civilians alike for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Applications for VR in modern medicine seem almost endless. Stanford medicine uses VR to prepare surgeons and educate patients of their own surgical procedures. They utilize CT scans and MRIs to create 3-dimensional models that both parties can see and manipulate. Imagine getting a 3D tour of your own brain. This is already a reality.
Recent work from the University of Cambridge has found that VR could be more effective in detecting early Alzheimer’s disease than traditional cognitive tests. This research has massive implications considering the rapid growth of the disease combined with the fact that only 1 in 4 people actually get diagnosed.
The potential of virtual reality outside of entertainment is quite literally amazing. We could go on about the current uses of VR in business, education, construction, sports, science, engineering, telecommunications, media, programming, music…you get the idea.
Although the thought of people “escaping reality” seems like a plot point in a sci-fi horror movie, the fact is VR has the potential and capability to save lives and enhance the human experience.
We’ll continue to highlight some of the mind blowing applications of VR as the technology progresses. Maybe next year I’ll be able to virtually fly my car to Trader Joe’s for some of that maple butter…