It could be argued that when it comes to the transition from the physical to the online world, humanity is at a crossroads. We are seeing this transition in many aspects of everyday life: retail, communication, entertainment, and even education. Simple tasks, such as taking a cab or ordering food, have become digitalized and can now be done with the click of a button.
In most cases, this boils down to the convenience online technologies provide. Sometimes, however, technology allows you to expand upon what is currently possible. The rise of virtual reality (VR) is an example of this, offering opportunities to explore the physical world in a virtual environment.
The beginnings of virtual reality can be traced back to the 1960s when Ivan Sutherland created a simulated environment for viewing films. Since then, VR has had its ups and downs, with the latest Web3 news and updates driving the technology forward. Read on for an overview of the rise of VR and its impact on gaming, education, and more.
The past few years have seen a surge in the popularity of virtual reality technology. Big names such as Sony, Microsoft, and HTC have been investing heavily in VR hardware, while independent developers continue to push the boundaries with creative content.
The common idea that VR goggles are only for gaming is quickly fading away. Space and military simulations have been used for decades to train personnel and operate complex machinery. The healthcare industry is also starting to embrace the technology, using it for medical procedures and surgery – but also in patients, for instance, in CBT therapy, to help them fight anxiety.
At the same time, virtual reality is becoming more accessible and affordable every day. Just ten years ago, personal computers that were powerful enough to run VR hardware were extremely expensive. Today, they are more affordable and come in a wide range of specifications to accommodate different needs.
With that, the idea of the metaverse was born. Just to clarify, the metaverse is a collective virtual space where people can interact with each other in a simulated environment. It has been described as an extension of reality, allowing people to communicate, and even create new digital objects. The Second Life could be considered a predecessor of the metaverse, with its virtual world allowing people to do just that.
The idea of the metaverse goes in hand with other technological marvels such as blockchain and artificial intelligence. Meta, formerly known as Facebook, pushes towards implementing a virtual world of its own, claiming the name Metaverse. As such, its current state leaves a lot to be desired – but at the same time, it is the most ambitious attempt at creating a metaverse so far.
The COVID-19 pandemic opened a new chapter for virtual worlds, with people turning to VR for social interaction. Lockdowns and concurrent social distancing drove more people to try out virtual meetings, events, and even parties. However, these possibilities do not translate well to the corporate environment, which led to a lot of bad publicity, creating a stigma around VR’s usage in business.
In fact, virtual reality does have a place in the corporate world. Companies are utilizing VR for creating simulations and training sessions, allowing personnel to interact with virtual objects without compromising safety or breaking the bank.
Healthcare and military use cases are just the peaks of the iceberg. The list of industries implementing VR as a tool for daily operations is growing, and even today encompasses everything from automotive, aerospace, and architecture to education, entertainment, and marketing.
Explaining each and every use case of VR is beyond the scope of this article, so let’s focus on two particular fields – entertainment and education.
It goes without saying that virtual reality has had an immense impact on the entertainment industry. In 2015 YouTube was the first platform to introduce 360-degree videos, allowing users to explore the surroundings of a particular video. While those videos were available on any device, they arguably cemented virtual reality as a technology that can be used in everyday life.
As the hardware and software continue to evolve, so do VR games. Popular titles such as Beat Saber or Half-Life: Alyx are just some examples of how virtual reality lets you immerse into the game world like never before – all that while acknowledging the flaws of current VR technology.
Unfortunately, VR sets are still not as affordable as they would have to be in order to become an everyday entertainment tool. Even if you buy a high-end headset, there are still other costs associated with it – such as a gaming computer or additional accessories like headphones and controllers.
Yet, the future looks bright. With the introduction of 5G technology, we are seeing a new wave of headsets that require no additional hardware – only a Wi-Fi connection and a mobile device to stream games through them.
Education isn’t an area in which you see many radical changes, and the current schooling system requires a lot of resources to be effective. And so, while there is little chance of VR headsets appearing in the classroom anytime soon, virtual reality can, in the future, find its place in the educational system.
VR allows you to learn through experience – and this is why schools specializing in technical and scientific education are quickly adopting the technology. Simulations, such as those used for pilot training, require a lot of resources to complete, yet they provide invaluable experience when just on a computer screen.
Microsoft HoloLens, a self-contained augmented reality (AR) headset, is one of the tools that are being used for educational purposes. Although it does not provide a full virtual experience, it does a great job of illustrating complex concepts and processes, such as blood flow in the human body.
The global education system is slowly rooted toward focusing primarily on soft skills. There are many approaches to that, all with one principle in mind: to create an environment that allows students to gain experience and develop skills necessary for future employment. Virtual reality is one of the tools that can help achieve this goal, as well as supplement the more traditional teaching methods.
The gimmicky portrait of virtual reality as a tool for gaming and entertainment is slowly fading away. As technology continues to evolve, professional VR hardware moves from a professional environment to everyone’s home.
The potential of virtual reality is tremendous, and, as already realized in many industries, it can revolutionize the way we interact with the world. Yet, this requires a comprehensive approach, which some companies fail to realize.
At the end of the day, it is up to us to decide how we want technology to shape our future – and virtual reality has a huge potential in that.