Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) were the break-out technologies of 2016. The ability to immerse yourself in another environment or have your own environment morphed through technology created a real buzz and broadened our minds to the future of human-machine relationships.
Nearly three years on and outside of the gaming world, it’s difficult to know whether VR has truly delivered on its promise to transform our lives. Roll-out has been slow but it’s picking up pace. In fact, there are lots of exciting and innovative VR use cases currently in the field, but we’ve picked our top five for you.
- In-flight entertainment
Very soon, you could be forgetting the monotony of a plane journey by watching TV shows, films and playing interactive games through a VR headset. British Airways, Air France and Qantas have all announced VR trials to allow passengers to relax in new ways and enjoy the flight. VR headsets will be made available from the seat in front of you and will be cordless to prevent any wires or attachments getting in the way.
- Providing support in healthcare
Traditionally, the role of VR in healthcare has been largely educational; used to support students and surgeons in their studies. For instance, in 2017 the Royal London Hospital launched its virtual-surgery project, in which surgeons in different geographies performed operations together and exchanged best practice.
But now, ‘VR therapy’ is helping to take the technology mainstream. It involves giving patients tasked-based programs to perform within virtual environments. Studies have shown that for patients suffering with terminal illnesses, such as cancer, it can significantly reduce pain. While those with PTSD, phobias and psychiatric conditions such as conversion disorder have all had successful treatments brought by VR personalized therapeutics.
- Your shopping companion
VR is redefining the way we shop and interact with brands. Retailers are releasing applications to allow customers to benefit from a ‘3D fitting room’, where customers can try on several clothes at once. This means when they enter the store, they can make an improved purchased decision and understand which styles suit them most.
In addition to online shopping, VR is improving offline shopping. Firstly, it is helping retailers to redesign stores to match customers’ shopping habits. Virtual reality allows store managers to walk through the customer journey and visualize where to place products and promotions.
Moreover, it can be used as a helpful selling tool. In the UK, Marks & Spencer, a well-known retailer, used VR to allow customers to choose furniture and build their ideal living space.
- Automotive design
Gravity Sketch, a UK-based VR software firm, is working to provide car companies, including Ford Motor Company, with VR tools that will allow designers to not only sketch in 3D but also immerse themselves inside of their sketches, streamlining the design process.
The firm is streamlining the otherwise lengthy design process by allowing designers to skip hand-drawn designs and jump right into working on a 3D model. This cuts the process down from a few weeks to eight hours and enables them to anchor a driver at the center of the 3D model and rotate the design to view from any angle. This means faster automotive design and innovation, and a more thorough experience.
- Space Exploration
Astronauts on the International Space Station are currently using VR headsets to conduct research in space. NASA team members are collaborating in a virtual reconstruction of the surface of Mars and it is claimed that VR has significantly improved their effectiveness and accuracy in determining angles between specific Martian locations. As NASA begins to integrate VR technology into its space missions even more, it’s difficult not to imagine a future where the technology allows us to ride along with them.
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