Major Applications of Virtual Reality
Just about everyone knows that augmented reality is used to catch Pokémon with Poké Balls. Those who keep up with tech news know that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are the future of video games. But few people know that VR/AR is already being widely used in many other fields. Here are some of the most notable uses.
VR is a basic training tool for astronauts, simulating, for example, life aboard the international space station. Since 1990, NASA has had a dedicated VR lab in Houston, where it trains astronauts in extra-vehicular activities (EVA), among other things.
Ground simulations of missions not only enable learning but also allow problems to be experienced and fixed ahead of missions, and to improve procedures and designs.
VR and AR already have numerous military applications. Generous budgets in this field have meant very interesting projects, which will eventually have civilian applications. The American army relies on virtual reality to train its fighter pilots, paratroopers, and sharpshooters.
But VR has other uses above and beyond training. Though we can’t name them all, here are an interesting application:
Norway is studying the use of AR headsets to give tank-bound soldiers a 360° view of their surroundings. The idea is for tank-mounted cameras to reconstitute the surrounding environment, augmenting it with night or thermal vision and superimposing useful data and variables on it. This development would be huge for soldiers who, until now, had to peer at their surroundings through narrow slits or periscopes or, worse, stick their heads up in a gun-turret, turning themselves into an easy target.
VR can also play a role in remotely controlling drones, robots, submarines, and other equipment, enabling the remote operation of highly precise demining robots, for example.
Movies and Entertainment
The movie industry is eager to capitalize on VR. It was recently revealed that Lucasfilm is working on a VR project featuring Darth Vader. Though we’re having trouble imagining what a VR movie experience will look like, we are looking forward to finding out.
Several amusement parks are already offering VR/AR experiences. For example, rollercoaster riders wearing VR headsets are immersed in a different environment, such as a space battle, where the visuals of the virtual universe capitalize on the physical sensations of the actual ride
The VR revolution has been promised yearly for the last thirty years; but this time, it’s going to happen, because the cost-performance ratio of the necessary peripherals has finally reached the tipping point. What with heavyweights like Microsoft and Sony announcing major projects (Xbox Project Scorpio, PlayStation VR), we can confidently state that 2017 will be the year of virtual reality.
In medicine, VR is not only being used for training purposes, but also for actual surgery, as doctors remotely perform operations through VR and a robot working in tandem.
VR is also being used in the field of psychiatry to treat post-traumatic stress, phobias, eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia), addictions, etc. In fact, VR has given rise to a whole new field of psychiatry: cyberpsychology. VR is also being used in the field of cognitive rehabilitation, for example with people suffering from the aftermath of a stroke.
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