It’s Here and Now: Virtual Reality

Unless you’re Patrick Star from SpongeBob and have been living under a rock, you’re probably familiar with the Netflix series phenomenon, Black Mirror. Even the name sounds intimidating and intense, but I digress. 😶

Now, one of Black Mirror’s episode explores the trending sensation of virtual reality and the potential (not absolute, keep in mind) alarming and horrifying consequences that it bears for our distant (or maybe not so distant) future. (By the way, I’m referring to Playtest from episode 2 of season 3 if you’re curious hehe). If you’re not a Black Mirror fanatic (which I definitely am not 🙃) and haven’t watched the episode yet, then it tells the story of an American traveler stuck in Europe who accepts a one-time trial job offer from a video game company – unbeknownst to him, his life is about to become literally forever changed. No spoilers here, you’ve got to watch it for yourself.

But I’ve talked enough about Black Mirror. While the story that this episode employs is particularly extreme (for now, at least 😳), virtual reality isn’t all bad and scary. In fact, it’s being used and conceptualized today (for good!) in ways that you might never expect. Used in the best interest for humankind, virtual reality has the power to alter the way we experience everyday life.  

Entertainment

For the everyday person like you and I, one of the most obvious ways we can incorporate or use virtual reality is through entertainment. Maybe it’s through video games, museums and galleries, theme park rides or even movie theatres! The possibilities are endless.

However, even if you haven’t had the chance to experience virtual reality yourself, you’ve likely seen the white egg-shaped capsules in malls before … these capsules bring users into a different reality, a different dimension. With these capsules, you can experience what it’d be like to be in space with no gravity, or somewhere deep in the middle of the jungle surrounded by tropical trees and wild animals, or even what it’d be like to actually play your favourite hero in your favourite video game. With virtual reality, you decide what world you want to immerse yourself in.  

Space

Space, space, space. If you’re like the 99.99% of us, you’ve probably never been in space and never will be. Sigh 😪. But that’s okay, because we don’t need to be in actual space to experience what it would be like, thanks to virtual reality. At CES (a global technology exhibit event), NASA used virtual reality technology to allow guests to feel what it would be like onboard some of their various spacecraft vehicles and machines.

Along with this, NASA used virtual reality in actual space to control robots on Mars and provide astronauts with a way to de-stress. At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, researchers connected Oculus Rift (a virtual reality device) with motion-sensing equipment from the Kinect 2 sensor and Xbox One game console to control a robotic arm with the operator’s gestures. How cool is that!

Medical

Believe it or not, virtual reality used for medical purposes can help stop the brain from processing pain and cure soreness for patients. Yup, you heard that right! Just by immersing yourself in a different reality, your brain can actually minimize pain. For the patient, virtual reality offers motion and visual based experiences that help fix brain discordances. With this innovative and unique process, the time patients spend in the hospital is significantly shortened and the cost of treatment is lowered.

Another way virtual reality is used in the medical field is through 3-D models that help plan surgery operations. As you can figure, being a doctor and performing high-risk surgery is no easy feat. Virtual reality helps doctors visualize 3-D organs on actual 360-degree graphics (instead of on 2-D paper, which as you can imagine, doesn’t do much). With virtual reality, computed tomography (which is a representation of a cross section through a human body) can be used to create 3-D images in real-time.

Shopping

For those who are guilty as shopaholics, this use of virtual reality is probably your favourite. If you don’t already have enough excuses to go browse through your favourite shops, this one should top the list.

Trillenium is working on developing an augmented and virtual reality shopping experience that allows users to immerse themselves into a different universe (or so feels like it for the shopaholic 😜). Trillenium is exploring the viable possibility of allowing shoppers to virtually try on merchandise through their mobile devices, switching through different options with every swipe. With this kind of service, shoppers would be able to point their phone at their feet and swipe through shoes, as if they were physically putting them on with every swipe.

Along with this, Trillenium has already developed and released virtual tours of entire stores where shoppers can experience real-time shopping in the comfort of their own home, or anywhere they want. In fact, massive online retailer, ASOS, is already on board with Trillenium for this. Imagine being able to shop (and not just online!) from your couch or bed. Sign me up!!

Ambiguity Is the Future’s Best Friend

As discussed above, not all cases of virtual reality are morbidly traumatic and frightening (ahem, thanks a lot Black Mirror 😩). Some of them actually help to make people’s lives better and make some of our everyday processes more efficient – which all makes for the world to be a better place 😌.

In the future, near or far, don’t be surprised to see virtual reality used more ubiquitously in all kinds of industries. Who knows where the future might take us …

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