While many might see virtual reality as simply the newest trend in video games and entertainment, the technology is actually making its way into many other markets—or in some cases, has already been there for a while. Here are some of the more compelling ways that virtual reality is being applied to lives across the US.
The US military has used virtual reality and simulations in their training exercises for years, especially to train soldiers pre-deployment. Immersing a soldier and their comrades in a VR situation allows them to train for the pressures of combat before they experience them. In fact, the US Army has released a game to the public called “America’s Army”, a tool which has proved more effective at recruiting than all their other advertisements combined. Some people fear that this technology blurs the line between war and entertainment too closely, while others support its ability to prepare soldiers in advance for what will happen on the front lines.
Outside the military, virtual reality can be used for many other educational applications for both adults and children. In schools the technology can allow for virtual field trips, exploration of historic sites, and even to teach less tangible lessons about teamwork and trust. One school in Ireland even went on a physical field trip and then went back to school and built a virtual version of the site they’d explored. Adults in professions along the spectrum from mechanics to surgeons can also benefit from VR explorations of the engines or systems they’ll be operating on.
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Virtual reality is actually showing to have implications for both physical and mental health. Stroke and brain injury victims across Europe are already benefitting from a virtual reality rehab program called MindMaze that helps with motor skills rehabilitation. On the mental health side of the equation, VR opens up the opportunity for patients to revisit past traumas or triggers while in a safe environment.
Many manufacturers, especially in the automotive industry, have begun to use virtual reality to build out their products in the digital realm before starting to work on them in the physical one. This way, prototypes can be closely inspected and improved on with a lessened cost and without consuming valuable materials. Engineers and designers can both explore places where issues might arise and make adjustments before actual manufacturing.
What’s perhaps most exiting about all these applications of virtual reality technology is that they’re just the beginning. As the hardware and software needed to experiment become more available and affordable to the common public, innovation in this area will only grow.