Omar Haque, Hari Roth, Sam Aberle
Whether or not virtual reality is the future is a question for another day. What we do know is that virtual reality is here now. Humans experience and interpret the world through the five senses and the brain’s perception systems. Virtual reality, or VR, aims to tap into these sense to create an experience for the user that is as close to reality as possible. The top brands, including Oculus Rift, Playstation, HTC, and Samsung, have competed for the past few years at making their users feel immersed in a different world.
Although the roots of virtual reality can date back to the 1830’s with stereoscopic photos & photo viewers, our modern idea of VR is a fairly recent one. The 20th century saw many prototypes and concepts but it wasn’t until 2010 when a reasonably priced VR experience seemed feasible. An Oculus Rift prototype was created with rotational tracking, a 90 degree field of vision, and eventually a low-persistence display. As the Oculus began to pick up financial support and media attention, competitor soon jumped onto the budding new facet of the tech industry. According to statista.com, there were 43 million active VR users worldwide in 2016. With the recent popularity of Playstation VR and Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift, that number is expected to increase to 172 million active users by 2018.
While often considered simply a new tool for gaming, VR has various applications in society. Aside from entertainment, it can be used in architecture, sports, and art. Perhaps most importantly, virtual reality has the potential to revolutionize healthcare and medicine. For example, it can be used in surgical training, treatment for PTSD, meditation, exposure therapy, and likely many more to come. The following video shows how VR can be used in medical training:
Perhaps the main reason that virtual reality works and is gaining traction relies in the fact that it elevates almost all of the senses of the user is some sense but it especially extends the sense of sight, and in some new cases touch. It takes things that user may never be able to see in person or have difficult seeing and puts it right in front of them as if they were there. The user can be anywhere they want to be at any time and feel like they are truly there. A person can feel like they are sitting first row at the Super Bowl and hear the crowd roar, walk through New York City, or that they are on a beach in Hawaii and hear the waves crashing. Although it is still early in the lifespan of virtual reality, many things such as these are already very possible and the future is very bright for the industry. The era of virtual reality has just started, as evidenced by the ideas stated in this article by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. One current problem with virtual reality however, is how the media perceives it. Many companies, writers, and sometimes users of virtual reality devices fail to realize that the technology is not widespread enough or have a large enough user base to accomplish their goals. First, the technology is very hard to come across and production wise there are less units in existence than perceived. Next is the price, which is often left out of talks about VR. The device itself can cost anywhere between $400 and $1,000 and this does not account for the phone or computer often also needed to use it. In general, the media which includes news outlets and writers do not seem to think of the price and limited availability of these devices when discussing their current applications and abilities.
VR could be considered a giant step into the future, even with considering todays “next gen.” gaming consoles. But, even with all these new and exciting features with virtual reality, what are some of the impacts that this will have on our society? Well Virtual Reality Society say that there could be some complications with people who have motion sickness. Or however, if certain companies ARE able to commercialize VR there are certain time restraints because the VR environments do take a bit of time to create. Virtual Reality will not only affect the common man, woman, and their transgender child but the business world as well. Forbes have said on their website certain niche markets could form. For example, instead of having your Granddad wither away with dementia in a nursing home; he could be enjoying a lovely virtual day in the south of France, without having to leave the nursing home. Or competitive gamers could introduce VR in their competitions.
The future of VR will bring more realistic and more immersive experiences to the user as it has the opportunity to replace traditional media consumption. Why sit in front of a TV if you can truly feel like you are in a movie or in a sporting event? Once the technology becomes more available to the everyday consumer with a lower price point the almost life-like experiences will allow this technology to gain traction as it supplements, or in some cases replaces, our typical forms of media consumption.