Virtual Reality or VR has been around in one form or another for over twenty years. It is only until rather recently that we’ve begun to see it blossom beyond the fringe. While most of the applications have been concentrated in the gaming industry, there are other areas and industries that have begun to explore its potential.
Educators are always looking for ways to engage younger students. One of the approaches has been to gamify certain aspects of education so that the child’s engagement amplifies the learning experience. Virtual tours of Egyptian tombs, interactive flashcards and geography lessons are among the available tools an educator can leverage. Companies like Eon Experience are already developing applications explicitly for teachers. For more mature students, VR has applications that can train surgeons, pilots and public speakers. Due to the wide array of experiences VR can provide, its immersion in the educational field is likely to expand far beyond it’s current uses.
Traditional reporting involves the observations of a reporter and may or may not include some photography or video images of the scene under discussion. While this approach does inform people, it is not immersive. Reporting done with 360 degree cameras completely involves the observer. Vice News showcased the first VR Newscast at Sundance in 2015 with footage of a New York police accountability protest. The user is able to take in the scene in a 360 degree environment and look at anything and everything involved – not just the scenes the reporter is attempting to showcase. CNN now showcases it’s own VR segments on its website. The New York Times, Al Jazeera, The Huffington Post and The Guardian have also created content for VR. Currently, VR is not as ubiquitious in homes like a television or cellphone. Should the day come when VR is everywhere, it is likely that news organizations will lean more heavily on VR content.
Due to its ability to create immersive experiences, therapy is a field that has enormous potential. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an approach in psychology that aims to help people to modulate their thoughts, emotions and behaviors in day to day experiences; VR is a tool that their approach has explored. CBT engineered VR environments have had successes in early trials with decreased anxiety in subjects. Other ailments like OCD and general phobias also have also have shown promise.
VR offers a new tool in a variety of fields and disciplines which is impossible to ignore. As it grows as an industry, it will be interesting and exciting to see how far it reaches into everyday life.
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