Don’t get me wrong, there are some great virtual reality (VR) games out there, but VR, AR and MR are going to shape our future in so many more ways than gaming. Here’s a list of industries that are already adopting VR and how this could impact the future of that industry.
For those who aren’t quite up to speed with VR, here’s a very brief definition: VR is the term used to describe a computer-generated environment that someone can explore and interact with. A user is immersed in the environment and the brain is basically tricked into thinking what someone is seeing in the virtual world is real.
VR allows engineers and designers to experiment easily with the look and build of a vehicle before commissioning expensive prototypes. Brands such as BMW and Jaguar Land Rover already use VR to hold early design and engineering reviews to check the visual design and object obscuration of the vehicle - all before any money has been spent on physically manufacturing the parts.
VR is saving the automotive industry millions by reducing the number of prototypes built per vehicle line.
JLR are using VR to hold engineering reviews earlier in the vehicle development process.
Healthcare is one of the applications where VR could have the most significant impact. Healthcare professionals can now use virtual models to prepare them for working on a real body and VR has even been used as pain relief for burns patients.
VR can also be used as a treatment for mental health issues, with Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy thought to be particularly effective in the treatment of PTSD and anxiety.
The problem with online shopping is that we can’t try on the clothes we want before we buy them, which results in us buying two sizes and sending one back, or ordering one size and praying it fits your shape and size. This could soon change with body-scanning technology in VR, which would allow us to try on clothes in the virtual world to see what they would look like in person.
One of the key players to watch in bringing you a VR shopping experience is European retailer, ASOS, who have invested in software development company, Trillenium.
And it’s not just fashion getting a makeover. Last year, eBay launched 'the world’s first virtual reality department store' in partnership with Australian retailer Myer. Is this the future of shopping?
vRetail are using VR to enhance the shopping experience.
Imagine being able to try your holiday before you buy it. That’s exactly what the future could hold. The industry is taking the first steps to enabling you to go on guided virtual tours of hotels, restaurants and tourist landmarks.
Thomas Cook launched their 'Try Before You Fly' VR experience in 2015, where potential holidaymakers visit stores in various countries to experience the holiday in VR before booking it. There was a 190% uplift in New York excursions bookings after people tried the 5 minute version of the holiday in VR.
Google Expeditions is another way tourism can become more accessible. Users can travel the world from the comfort of their own home, allowing people of all ages and backgrounds to explore coral reefs or the surface of Mars.
You can look round properties from the comfort of your [existing] home - no estate agent or sacrificing your weekend needed. This allows people to explore houses online and then only view the ones you’re most likely to love in person. Matterport are leading the way and have already scanned thousands of homes using their scanning hardware.
Matterport 3D camera produces realistic scanning of buildings which you can then visit in VR.
VR is gradually changing the way that architects design and experiment with their work. VR makes it possible to see not just what a building or space will look like but how it will feel. For home-owners, they can experience the space before it is physically built and make real-time changes, which saves the customer and the architect time and money (as well as increasing satisfaction on completion of the project).
Architects have been using 3D models for years but using immersive tools such as Revit Live allows them to understand and explore the space at the deepest level possible.
You can now play multiplayer poker in VR with Poker VR. It’s just like being in a real casino where you can talk to other players and read their body language. Currently they have a prize pool with prizes totalling $5000.
The L&D market is beginning to open up to VR, with companies such as VirtualSpeech providing VR training for soft skills. They combine VR apps with Web VR and work with companies to integrate their corporate training into current LMS. This makes training more accessible, cheaper, and increases learning retention levels.
Learn and practice communication skills with VirtualSpeech.
Lloyds Banking Group have introduced a VR exercise to assess graduates for its 2017 intake. In the future, virtual environments could replace assessment days and interviews themselves, saving on cost and time for both the employer and the potential employee.
VR is being used in the entertainment industry to heighten experiences with 360 films (JauntVR) and increase your emotional connection with them and/or the characters. Disney Movies VR, for example, takes the user to red carpet events and to an interview with ‘The Jungle Book’ cast.
VR could also revolutionise the way that media content is made. Flipside is now the fastest way to make shows that can be viewed through traditional channels like YouTube, Twitch, or Facebook live and inside virtual reality itself.
VR could revolutionise education by enabling students to learn in an immersive, experiential way. Unimersiv have apps that allow users to take a tour of Ancient Rome, explore the human brain, and board the Titanic. ImmersiveVREducation are building a VR classroom / meeting room space with their ‘Engage’ product, where people can learn from lecturers around the world.
Engage application with students learning collaboratively inside a lecture room.
The way that we watch sports is already changing, with several VR companies specialising in watching live sports events. With NextVR, you can watch the NBA, NFL, and other events and LiveLikeVR enables broadcasters and sports teams to deliver live sports viewing experiences on mobile VR.
This is a great way of opening up live sports events to people who can’t travel to the venue or can’t afford tickets to watch the sports in person.
BT Sport broadcasted the UEFA Champions League final in 360 degree VR via YouTube and the BT VR app, all for free. You could watch the game from several locations in the stadium, as if you were actually there. Initiatives like this will help change the way sports are watched.
With VR, you don’t just create life-size artwork - you can be in it. You can actually step into your image and come out the other side. The most well-known application for creating art in VR is Tiltbrush and it’s amazing what some people have managed to paint in it. You can also make virtual 3D models and sculptures with MasterpieceVR.
Tiltbrush lets you create beautiful 3D paintings in VR.
Since VR enables individuals to be places virtually, it provides an avenue for organizers to welcome more individuals into in-person events. For example, Paul McCartney released a 360-degree concert recording through a virtual reality app linked to the inexpensive Google Cardboard headset.
VR can be used in a similar way to enable virtual conference attendance, but event-industry stakeholders are also using it to drive collective experiences among in-person audiences. An example of this was at the Mobile World Congress 2016, when conference attendees wore VR headsets as they attended the launching ceremony of the new Samsung S7 and S7 edge smartphones.
With the rise in popularity for wellness and meditation, it’s not surprising that there are VR applications that enable users to immerse themselves in a meditative space. Guided Meditation VR is one of the most popular and surrounds the user with beautiful 360 images while they listen to soothing music and a guided meditation.
There are several players already building social communities in the VR space, such as High Fidelity, vTime, AltspaceVR, Oculus Rooms and Parties, and VRChat. Altspace is one of the most popular and holds regular community-created meetups on topics from ‘Mingle and Chill’ to ‘Boss Monster’ to ‘Lia’s birthday drawing party’.
Party inside High Fidelity which can host multiple players.
One of the best things about the emergence of VR is its ability to evoke empathy. This makes it extremely valuable to charities as it can be used to increase understanding of an issue.
People are more likely to be moved to action when they are immersed in a situation they would otherwise not be able to relate to, or come close to experiencing. For example, in 2015, Unicef used the video ‘Clouds Over Sidra’ to double their donations towards their work with the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
Marketing is becoming more and more about how companies make customers feel so using VR is a natural extension. Coca-Cola was one of the first companies to try out virtual experiences in their marketing when they transformed their Christmas advert into VR in Poland.
It’s also becoming popular for universities to create virtual campus tours of universities. Princeton, Yale and Columbia have all tried this out as a way of more students to be able to see their campus.
Many real-life hobbies are available in VR, and the immersive experience makes them all the more enjoyable and accessible. If you’re a fan of cultural activities, you can visit museums such as the Natural History Museum in London or, if you’re more of a thrill-seeker, there’s even a VR theme park opening in China. One of the more unique ways VR is being used is by Galatea, who provide a writing and narrative design management tool for immersive storytelling.
VR theme park in China from SLQJ.
As with the military, police forces are using AR and VR tools from companies like VirTra to train personnel in simulated scenarios complete with visual, auditory, and physical stimuli (ranging from barking dogs and street noise to the recoil of discharging a weapon).
The technologies even enable police forces to escalate or de-escalate trainees’ simulated interactions with individuals inside the virtual training environments, helping learners practice making judgment calls and critical decisions under stress.
A group of University of Alabama researchers had collaborated with law enforcement officials to measure brain waves during VR police training. One of the lead researchers said the work may “improve training of officers and positively affect the hiring process.”
You can now watch news stories and documentaries in VR. The New York Times has already entered this space, and it’s only a matter of time before other media outlets join them. In the NYTVR app, you can experience stories rather than just listen to them, as if you were standing opposite the journalist where the story is happening.
VR is likely to influence your workplace, hobbies and social life in the future - and that’s sooner than you may think. The possibilities of VR are endless; the only things we can’t replace in VR are eating and sleeping… for now.