Virtual reality, and its close partner augmented reality, used to be the stuff of science fiction. But now that both technologies have become more practical and accessible, they’re changing the way we handle our personal relationships, professional lives and recreational habits. We’re now able to be part of an experience, or be present for an in-person encounter, without leaving our homes.
VR is the immersion of a user into a computer-generated experience, while AR is a platform that superimposes imagery onto the user’s view of the world. These technologies are founded in our innate need as humans to connect with others and explore, so science has found a way to make that happen, where distance, time or other factors would otherwise be prohibitive. However, some aspects of our lives are more fitting for VR/AR than others. Here are a few areas where I expect technology-enhanced realities be game changers.
VIRTUAL REALITY AND AUGMENTED REALITY IN TOURISM
The tourism experience has already seen the impact of VR and AR, in hotels, airlines and cruise lines. They’re implementing technology that enables potential travelers to position themselves within an environment before actually booking. Qantas has developed an on-board 3D VR solution for its long haul flights, showing passengers the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef and Hamilton Island. Its success in driving tourism to these destinations has led the company to take the technology from pilot version to permanent feature.
SHOPPING WITHOUT THE CROWDS, TRAFFIC OR PARKING HASSLES
Shopping at physical locations brings familiar headaches, but online shopping isn’t also without its drawbacks. VR and AR combine the best of both worlds, to create a shopping experience that’s more personal than the canned stock photos and product descriptions. Trillenium is one company that’s expecting to cash in when the use of consumer-grade VR/AR headsets starts to rise. Shoppers can picture themselves in store, browsing the aisles for products, rather than inputting search terms and hoping to get the right hits. Trillenium’s founder also hopes to develop technology that will help small business owners create their own VR/AR marketplaces as well.
VR AND AR TRANSFORM THE GAMING EXPERIENCE
Virtual and augmented reality have been traditionally associated with gaming, but the players will soon become the developers of the experience. Technology enables more gurus to become the storytellers, creators, writers and directors. There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the releases of Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Playstation VR and the HTC Vive, and we’ll see whether the hype is justified in 2016.
BE THERE FOR THE EXPERIENCE, NO TRAVEL NECESSARY
VR and AR will make it possible to attend those birthday parties, weddings, graduations and other special occasions – even if you can’t physically travel to the location. We’re not talking about a video chat or Skype; VR/AR can put the user in the room with friends and family to engage in personal encounters.
VIRTUAL TOOLS FOR USE IN THE REAL WORLD
The flexibility of VR/AR environments makes them ideal for the creation of software and tools, especially for training purposes. Software engineers would potentially be more productive when surrounded by a 3D world, instead of staring a monitor. Surgical interns can actually operate on a “live” human being, rather than using cadavers to learn techniques. VR and AR can also be successful as tools for medical treatments, wherein the disabled can experience walking, those with phobias can engage in exposure treatment and patients suffering from PTSD can confront their triggers in a safe, controlled environment.
Do you think virtual and augmented reality will have a real impact in the coming months? My thinking is that it will have the most pronounced effect in areas where it enhances human connection. I’d like to hear what you think, so please share in the comments.