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Try to imagine this scene: you’re walking down the Cannes Films’ Festival red carpet. There are hundreds of people staring at you and photographers are trying to take your picture.
You’re chatting about the weather with your favorite actor, and behind you, there is a crowd of fans striving to get your autograph.
But this isn’t an ordinary festival. You don’t need to be well-dressed and can even sit on your couch throughout the entire event. Sounds weird, right?
But there is nothing strange about this situation if we’re talking about virtual reality. Can you believe that by just putting on VR glasses, you can become the recipient of a prestige award, dive down to the bottom of the deepest ocean, touch an exotic animal and even walk on the Moon? It seems like some kind of fantasy, but VR technologies can turn all these things into reality.
So what is a virtual reality and how can it be used in our everyday life?
Let’s check out real-world cases and examples.
Back To Basics
VR is becoming mainstream in the world of modern technologies. We often hear the term “virtual reality”, but do you know what it actually means? We bet that when you hear these words you at once think about realistic scenes in games or films. But do you really know what is behind it all?
Let’s test your knowledge!
Virtual reality uses VR equipment, usually in the form of a headset, in addition to physical spaces or "holographic" environments, to create realistic-looking images, sounds and other sensations that make a person feel as though they're in a virtual environment. Virtual reality is often mistaken for augmented reality (AR) or mixed reality (MR). But we’ll learn why these terms are different a little bit later.
It’s hard to believe, but the first-known account of virtual reality was back in the 19th century. So as you know the history of its development was very long. We don’t want to waste your time on long, boring stories, so let’s just take a glance at the main turning points: In 1838, a research experiment by Charles Wheatstone showed that the environment we see around us is actually just a combination of two-dimensional images we receive from both our eyes. Our brain then processes these images into one large image. Back in the day, people could emulate VR technology by looking at two stereoscopic images, which were placed side-by-side inside a stereoscope headset. This allowed the user to immerse themselves into the world presented to them, which made them feel as though they were actually there. Later on, the well-known View-Master stereoscope was developed and used so that people could go on "virtual tours".
Morton Heilig, a cinematographer, invented the Sensorama in the 1950's. This device was a theatre cabinet which looked like any other basic arcade game. The difference was that it could stimulate all of your senses, instead of just stimulating sight and sound. This was quite the breakthrough, as it had never been done before.
VR technology later progressed, as we can see with the creation of the first VR headset prototypes in the 1960's. These were: the Headsight, theTelesphere Mask and the Sword of Damocles.
The term "virtual reality" was something no one knew about until 1987 when it was first used by Jaron Lanier, who, at the time, was the head of VPL, a visual programming lab.
In 1990, SEGA and Nintendo released the first-ever gaming console which featured VR glasses, but they weren't very successful in sales because the console ended up being too expensive for the average user.
And finally, in 1991, VR devices became affordable for almost everyone who wanted to discover the futuristic world of virtual reality.
AR/MR/VR: Which One Is Which
So that was a little bit of history (and thank God those “dark” times when VR devices were really huge and massive are far behind. You know, it would be quite uncomfortable and even weird to play the TOP Steam games with those huge things on your head). But as we mentioned previously, there are two other “realities”, which are often confused with virtual reality in the classic sense. We mean augmented reality and mixed reality. AR, MR, VR… Sometimes it’s too easy to get mixed up with all these acronyms. But in actuality, there is nothing difficult about it. Let’s set things straight:
- To experience the fascinating world of virtual reality you need to have a specific headset which generates realistic-like sounds, images, and other sensations. The beauty of VR devices is that they create an imaginary environment for you, which leaves no space for your existing, everyday reality.
- Let’s face it: who hasn't played Pokemon Go when it was all the hype last summer? It was exactly what we consider to be augmented reality. AR is a kind of fantastic “addition” to your already existing reality. Mobiles and tablets are used the most when it comes to AR technology (but custom headsets can also be used). With the help of your device's camera, specific apps add digital elements to your environment. So don’t be surprised to see a funny digital creature running along the street!
- And, as you’ve probably guessed, mixed reality uses your the real world, combining it with a virtual one. The main feature is that the real and "fake", or virtual, objects co-exist and even interact in real time. For example, have you ever fought with a huge terrifying robot right in your office? Thanks to mixed reality it doesn’t seem to be a fantasy anymore.
Not By Games Alone: Real-life Uses Of VR
Just so you know, VR technology has become a favorite tool not just among computer geeks and passionate gamers.
Yes, without a doubt, it’s extremely popular in these areas. However, there is a common misconception that VR can only be used in these industries.
With the intense development of technologies, it’s not a secret that VR can impact every industry. So we decided to check out the most unexpected and intriguing fields that use VR technology.
To start off, let’s talk about how virtual reality can make life easier for software developers. We don’t want to talk on and on about the advantages of VR, so we have some real-world examples that will show you everything you need to know.
Not many people know that the Department of Computer Science in North Carolina State University exists, and even fewer know that it developed a VR prototype that can come to a software engineer’s rescue.
RiftSketch - is a web-based coding environment you can use while wearing the Oculus Rift which helps developers concentrate on their work specifically.
RiftSketch has a text editor in the virtual world, which appears in front of developers and allows them to make changes that are updated immediately.
It is especially helpful because it can find bugs very quickly and fix them, too.
Many argue that being inside the virtual world, surrounded only by code, makes much more sense than sitting at your computer, trying to come up with ideas on how to change your code.
Your code affects the scene and fills out the VR world - We don’t think anyone would dare to suggest it isn’t an engaging experience.
Another striking example is about a finance company. This proves that a few geniuses can create something special.
Have you ever heard about Intuit? It’s a finance technology company, which became more popular after adding virtual reality to their recruitment system.
So you may ask: what did they do to make it possible?
Intuit’s creative team of like-minded professionals, with the help of the University of Washington, created a virtual experience for their company’s visitors. The most impressive thing is the fact that they developed it in a matter of days. In 10 days, to be exact.
It became a really interesting way to attract the attention of future candidates. Students were happy to have a chance to take a peek into the company’s workflow. All they needed to do is to don some VR glasses and enjoy the company’s culture.
This innovation encouraged not only potential employees but also the existing ones, as it increased their engagement and made the hiring process more entertaining.
Taking not only software developers and the recruitment process into account, we’ve prepared a compilation of other industries that are actively reaping the benefits of VR technology.
Let’s keep it clear and simple - here are other interesting uses for virtual reality:
.1 Medicine and healthcare
This might be hard to believe, but can you imagine that nowadays, doctors can treat their patients with the help of virtual reality. From treating phobias to helping people get back on their feet, this virtual technology opens the door for doctors, allowing them to have a lot more opportunities.
- Spinal cord injury. After many research experiments, scientists learned that an exoskeleton along with an Oculus Rift and other equipment can help people with spinal-cord injuries practice walking.
- Phobias. By combining cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and virtual reality, doctors found a way to create a realistic imaginary world, that they are able to control so that patients can confront their fears.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As PTSD involves dramatic memories, stressful events and flashbacks, the VR headset allows a person to revisit the event they are suffering from in order to overcome them.
- Autism. Similarly to treating phobias, children suffering from the ASD (autism spectrum disorder) are placed into the simulated environments to break down societal barriers and prepare them for real-world situations.
Virtual reality elevated the process of learning and teaching to a new level. It helps students access educational content from anywhere. A vivid example is Google Expeditions - a learning tool that takes students on a VR journey from their classrooms. You can easily explore historical places and swim with the sharks - the choices are endless.
Even future surgeons have gotten into the habit of using VR headsets in their studies. These headsets allow them to watch surgeries-in-progress and actually see what professional surgeons do while trying to save people’s lives.
Being one of the first industries that started using virtual technology, marketing companies continue to implement a lot of crazy ideas with the help of VR headsets.
A striking example of using virtual reality in marketing - Volvo Reality: XC90 Virtual Reality test drive.
Volvo Reality - is a famous VR app that immerses you in a mountainous landscape, where you can enjoy test driving their new cars. What is also interesting and worth mentioning is that you can experience everything without the Google Cardboard Headset. All you need is your smartphone :)
You can experience this virtual life as if it was the reality - by looking in all directions and feeling like you really are sitting inside the car.
Their goal was achieved and many potential consumers had an opportunity to see the design and capabilities of the not-yet-released car. This app became very popular among the people and reached 238 million media impressions.
What is also interesting, the tourism industry has been using virtual reality more and more often throughout the years. They benefit the most from VR systems because they use all these advantages for their own purposes :)
“VRoom Service” is one example. It’s a service that Marriott Hotels created for transporting viewers to their hotels. Using VR glasses people can easily “visit” the rooms and experience virtual travel.
Working with Samsung Electronics America this campaign became the first in the travel industry. They connected technology and storytelling and wanted to show why traveling is so important. What’s more, they added 4D opportunities, like mist and warm air. This exciting journey helped them receive a growing interest to their business and encouraged other travel companies to move in this direction and use virtual reality. You can also see how it looked like by checking the tag #GetTeleported.
Since the start of virtual reality, military forces have been one of its main users. It has been successfully used to prepare a soldier for dangerous situations. Safety is an especially valuable factor as soldiers do not face real risks, despite the fact that the scenarios are realistic and engaging. Usually, 1 in every 20 soldiers injure themselves while preparing for combat, but with these VR simulations, this number drops to 0.
Actually, there are 2 types of military training:
- Immersive training sessions that are used for gaining experience (and for overcoming fears) in, for example, skydiving;
- Situational awareness is about placing trainers in the simulated environments, such as a jungle, for the first time and watching how they develop their skills (navigation, teamwork, survival).
There are numerous benefits and applications of VR, and one of the greatest examples is Striker VR - a company which is developing peripheral gun prototypes that are effectively used for military training.
Soldiers can even feel the gun’s weight and recoil. All this makes a soldier’s experience extremely realistic.
What’s interesting, AR (Augmented Reality) is also taking a more active role in current military strategies. It helps soldiers better their combat readiness and improve their cognitive abilities.
So, as it turns out, “AR” is not only an excellent rifle, it’s also the technology soldiers use to train ;)
Another industry which has entered the era of VR systems is the field of design, and to be more specific: interior design. More and more designers try to attract a viewer's attention by using VR technology. They give people a chance to see their future homes from every angle and immerse themselves in the visuals.
It was Lowe’s Innovation Lab that went even further and created a tool for design and visualization. If you were previously afraid of changing your interior, now you don’t have to be!
Since 2015, Holoroom has been giving people the ability to design their dream house using the VR app. And now, you can also use virtual reality glasses to feel like you’re literally standing in that room.
Based on augmented reality technology, Lowe’s Holoroom is on the list of CES 2015 Best of Tech by Digital Trends. It satisfies consumer needs and helps with home improvements.
The future of virtual reality.. to find out more about it, let’s look at the statistics, namely recent estimates by Goldman Sachs. According to this, virtual reality is expected to turn into a $95 billion market, and only by 2025.
As of 2016, certain industries have been using VR technologies more and more often. These industries are:
- live events;
- video entertainment;
In the near future, certain industries will have a higher demand for VR technology because of its increasingly widespread usability. Industries such as:
- the military;
- real estate.
This explains the great success of previously mentioned cases and suggests that large industries have begun to understand the opportunities of VR are literally endless, and with its development and extension they can gain more benefits than ever before.
As VR technology gives people a chance to do things they never could before, the interest in VR life has risen exponentially. You can see this on the diagram which is based on a representative survey of 3,000 people in the U.S. All those VR headsets, VR chairs, and other equipment keep people excited for what's to come in the future.
Once again it attests to the fact that this cutting-edge technology has great potential and its development options are unlimited.
Let us, therefore, emphasis on the most awaiting virtual reality trends in 2018.
All right, we are happy to present our TOP 5 trends in 2018:
.1 Increased availability
The main disadvantage of virtual reality has always been the exact same thing. It was its price. But what the experts promise to change first in 2018 is the price. VR equipment manufacturers realize that this is their chance to attract more customers, so there’s talk that such giants as Oculus and HTC are going to cut the cost of their products. Well, we’ll see.
.2 Usability in the priority
Despite the fact that Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the most popular VR influencers, this equipment still requires improvement when it comes to usability. However, the creators again reassure us that this year is going to be significant in terms of development. And now we are waiting for wireless and self-contained headsets that we will be able to be configured much easier.
.3 More 360° VR videos and movies
In 2017, content creators had already started presenting content in the form of 360° videos. As a way to generate immersive stories, creators claim that we can expect such videos everywhere, and with the help of VR glasses, feel as though we are inside the scene. The same goes for movies. Less 2D formats and more VR experiences!
.4 More VR in advertising
We have already discussed many successful campaigns that implemented the VR technology: Volvo test drive, Vroom service, Google Expeditions, and even Orea and McDonald's. Next year is going to be even more favorable for advertising. So we look forward to seeing the incredible novelties!
.5 Need for VR developers
It seems obvious, that with the development of a new technology, the demand for VR professionals will increase. VR development companies are looking for creative minds to join their teams and make an impact on the progress of VR.
If you made it this far, great! And don’t worry, we’re almost done. Finally
We guess it’s time to admit that with each passing year the virtual reality is becoming more and more popular, and very soon we won’t be able to surprise anyone with it. But we still need to wait a few years before it becomes the norm.
VR is literally taking off. The extreme popularity of the game Pokémon Go (that was a real AR example) proved the fact that the world is ready for virtual reality.
Whether you are a businessman who is looking for some new things to add to his marketing strategies or just a user who strives to make the most of VR systems, this new technology can satisfy the needs of any customer!
As we have already mentioned before, VR gives you a wide range of opportunities that you use however your heart desires. And even though this article wasn’t written with virtual hands, but on an actual keyboard, we still know we’re on the road to a beautiful future, where anyone can experience life like never before! :)