13 May 2016

The idea of a “virtual reality” isn’t new—in terms of pop-culture portrayals, VR has a history that the Verge actually traces back to the 1950s—but the tech itself has finally progressed to a point where it’s infiltrated industries and, through innovative and inexpensive solutions like Google Cardboard, has, really, entered the mainstream.

From sports to surgery, virtual reality is changing the way we experience the world. Check it out!


Whether you’re a star athlete or a spectator, when it comes to sports, VR is changing the game. Stanford football, for example, has invested in the technology to train its quarterbacks, giving them the sensation of being in the game and passing under pressure, sans the very real damage to their bodies that comes with taking hit after hit. And it didn’t just improve safety, but skills, with improved passing ratings for Kevin Hogan, the QB who trained with the tech.

VR is also being implemented to enhance the spectating experience. The Golden State Warriors, for example,  live-streamed their first game in VR, giving fans with a Samsung Gear VR headset the opp to experience the sport in an entirely new way–and making the NBA the first major sports league to live-stream a version of a game in virtual reality. We’ll chalk that up as a W.


Virtual reality has opened up the world for classrooms–in a very literal way–and Google’s Expeditions Pioneer Program gives students the ability to go on field trips to faraway lands, without ever leaving the classroom.  (How’s that for a Magic School Bus experience?) As Wired put it, “using cheap cardboard headsets, Android phones, and a teacher-operated tablet, Google Expeditions lets students experience 360-degree views of places like Machu Picchu, outer space, and caves in Slovakia.”

No parental permission slips required.


One of the most awesome aspects of virtual reality is its ability to place the wearer in a dangerous or high-risk situation–without the danger and risk. This, obviously, makes it a perfect tool for military training. Wareable does an excellent job explaining how virtual reality is being used to train the perfect soldier. Whether trainees are in a harness strapped to the ceiling, experiencing a simulated parachuting scenario, or snipers are perfecting their practices using an Oculus headset, VR allows the military to better prepare soldiers in a safer environment, through a more cost-effective method. Consider that war won.


The benefits of using VR in medicine are similar to those of implementing the tech in the military, with VR reducing costs and risks that would be incurred in real-life scenarios. (And we can all agree we’d prefer the newbs to hone their OR skills in a VR environment than hitting the table straightaway.) In October, Mashable ran a cool piece on developers in Canada who are building interactive virtual spaces that can be used to assist in training surgeons for complicated operations by immersing them in an OR-type environment and connecting the surgeon’s actual hands to the “body” of a VR patient. Virtual reality is also in the early stages of being used as a tool to help treat mental health. While not a perfect, all-in-one solution of course, it could be used to augment therapy and other traditional treatments.


If there’s one area where virtual reality seems like a natural fit, it’s film, and it’s set to be a far more amazing and immersive experience than what we’re currently getting via uncomfortable (and ridiculous looking) 3D glasses. The fact that VR is the future of film is epitomized by the fact that high-profile directors like Ridley Scott have already begun their foray into the medium that Sundance this year added an immersive media section centered around virtual reality.

VR is set to forever alter the way we make and see–or, rather, experience–movies. Though we might pass on a super-immersive VR Texas Chainsaw Massacre re-make


Virtual reality has already started to change the way we design in many ways, but this shift isn’t relegated to tech. Architecture firms are taking the medium into account as well. For example, firm NBBJ worked with Visual Vocal to develop a platform designed to help make decisions and aid in collaboration. Using virtual reality allows users to interact with models from different perspectives, and a 3D model naturally becomes something that can be shared and easily manipulated to study and really explore different variations on a potential structure.


This is exemplified by The New York Times, an obviously established institution with a history dating back to the mid-1800s, which has jumped on board with NYT VR. This turns readers into viewers, giving them the opportunity to experience news in an entirely different way–and all they need is a smartphone and Google Cardboard. The NYT is even  investing in 6 VR films in the next year, ranging from exploring outer space to a profile of a town in Iraq to the Olympic Games. While print may be a classic medium, VR allows for the exploration of topics in a way that’s never been seen before.


Much like the military and medicine instances, VR can be used to mitigate risk and reduce costs for O&G, an industry in which errors not only result in lost money, but worse, lost lives. While EON Reality is, admittedly, a company offering this service, they sum up VR’s benefits well: “By preventing the rare low probability [and] high consequence events from occurring (such as loss of containment, explosions, and/or fires), companies can reduce the costs and risks associated with loss of infrastructure, environmental impact, production losses and training expenses.”


U.S. car dealers annually spend a casual $2.75 billion on interest in order to keep new cars on the lot, but what if that large, expensive inventory was instead reduced to a simple VR headset? Some dealerships (Audi, for instance) are implementing virtual reality to give potential customers the opportunity to test out models, colors, and features in a virtual environment and really get a feel for their car of the future…new-car smell not included.


Whether Mom’s a workaholic never home to tuck the kids in or dad’s a deadbeat who doesn’t show up, um, at all, now there’s no excuse! Samsung recently announced a plan to connect parents and kids so they can share the important ritual known as the bedtime story. This tech gives parents the chance to not only tell their child a story but really interact with and experience it with them inside a virtual world, no matter how many miles separate them in the real world.

Take that, Goodnight Moon.


Want more VR? Check out SlayTime, a virtual dragon-slaying experience!