For the past two years, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have been popular topics of conversation in the tech world. While the conversation originally centered around video game entertainment from in 2016 (Augmented Reality) to the PlayStation VR in 2017 (Virtual Reality), the technology can affect more than just the gamer crowd. In this post, we’ll explore VR, its potential uses and the hot products on the market this holiday season.
What is Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality technology uses headsets and other tech tools to generate a realistic immersive experience through images, sounds, and other sensations. It is used to simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtual or imaginary environment. One example is that it can make you feel like you are in the world of a video game. It can also simulate the experience of operating heavy machinery.
Virtual reality differs from augmented reality in one main way: it is completely immersive. Augmented reality superimposes virtual or imaginary elements onto actual reality. Think, for example, of Pokémon Go and how it would superimpose characters onto the user’s actual environment.
How Can Virtual Reality Be Used?
Though most of the media attention on Virtual Reality has been its potential effects on gaming, there are many more applications for the fully-immersive technology.
Fitness and therapy are two uses that can help improve overall health. Though fitness machines involving full virtual reality are still mostly prototypes, there are some exciting new possibilities on this front. Companies such as Icaros and Widerun have built machines that use virtual reality to motivate subjects to move and work their muscles. Virtual Reality can also serve therapeutic purposes. Full-emersion therapy can be (and has been) used to treat stress disorders such as anxiety and PTSD.
Another use for virtual reality involves training employees for high-risk situations in a low risk environment. Surgeons, for example, need to have a safe training environment that can mimic the stresses and unpredictability of a trauma situation. Another example of workplace training through VR is simulating the use of heavy machinery. Without risking damage to expensive machinery or human harm, employees can learn how to use equipment in a controlled environment.
Ever been in a building where the design just didn’t make sense? Architects, urban planners and engineers hope to use virtual reality to make design problems less prominent. If a client can tour a home before it is built or walk through a city before construction starts, these design professionals can catch and address design flaws earlier and save money in the process.
What are the hottest VR products this holiday season?
Though the uses of virtual reality technology will continue to spread, the focus this year is mostly on gaming and other forms of entertainment. VR headsets may top the holiday gift charts this year. Here are the major names you should know.
Smartphone-Only Virtual Reality
The first and least high-tech versions of the consumer virtual reality headset were the Google Cardboard kit, the Google Daydream View and the original Samsung Gear VR. Though the Google cardboard kit will work with just about any smartphone, the Daydream and Samsung only work with their individual phones and work through a series of apps.
More Advanced Virtual Reality Systems
The PlayStation VR is a good middle ground between smartphone-only VR sets and full immersive reality. Combined with the PlayStation camera and move two-pack, this system allows you to be surrounded by and take part in some of your favorite video games.
The most advanced systems: however, can be found through Oculus and HTC. The Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive involve immersion in site, sound, and touch, and are comprised of some of the most advanced virtual reality technology. This technology comes at a high cost and necessitates very high-quality computer or video game equipment along with the actual headset and hand controls.
Virtual Reality, though still expensive, is making strides in accessibility and usability. Though consumer use now is relatively small, expect to see more widespread use in coming years. Maybe one day, in the not so distant future, we might be experiencing the Football game on the field or finding out what it's like to fly from a bird's eye view.