7 Ways Virtual Reality Will Change Our World

(Image: Shutterstock)

Virtual reality is nothing new — Wayback In 1838 Charles Weatherstone conducted research that revealed that the brain processes two-dimensional images into a single object of three dimensions from each eye. This meant that by viewing two side by side images or photos through a stereoscope user’s a sense of depth and immersion. By 1939 technology was advancing further Edwin Mayer, Harold Graves & William Gruber unleashed their View-Master onto the world. Reels were made up of thin cardboard disks containing seven stereoscopic 3-D pairs of photographs on film — its design is actually very close to the current popular Google Cardboard devices.

Over the ensuing decades lots of tech companies have tried to refine the process and place users in a truly immersive virtual world. Many have seen these various iterations as fleeting flights of fancy — fun for a while but with no rule substance or real-world practical uses — that was until now!

Virtual reality is slowly creeping into the mainstream and is now more accessible and affordable than ever before especially with the likes of Google’s entry level cardboard devices you can experience VR using just your smartphone at a basic level. Sony have just released Playstation VR as they attempt to integrate virtual reality into the home game console market and Facebook bought start-up Oculus VR for $2 Billion Dollars in 2014 — if you haven’t noticed yet brands are investing big in VR. Reports suggest that this year could see virtual reality have its first billion dollar year.

None are investing more heavily in hardware and software than Microsoft with the launch of their HaloLens headset. I have been fortunate to get my hands on a developer version of the technology and I have to say that after hours and hours of immersing myself in a world of virtual and augmented reality (Microsoft have deemed it ‘Mixed Reality’ ) my mind was truly blown — not only in relation to what VR/AR can do now but the potential possibilities for the future.

Below are 7 ways I believe Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality will change our world as we know it.

  1. Surgery

Imagine a world where you can visit a Doctor and they can scan your body and create a fully realised virtual version of you internally. They can literally walk inside and explore your body from within to analysis your symptoms and provide a diagnosis. This could dramatically reduce the time it would usually take to go through the process of a series of tests and being transferred from consultant to consultant. Being able to provide a quick and accurate diagnosis could save many lives.

2. Education

Do you remember learning history at school? Your teacher would be talking vividly about how the Romans and Greeks lived and your mind would wander off imagining how amazing it would be to live in those times. Well with VR instead of just reading about it — you could live it! A classroom could be transformed into a Roman coliseum, Tudor alleyway or a First World War Battlefield. VR would enable teachers to create a fully immersive experience from the safety of the classroom.

3. Gaming

The most obvious thing that springs to mind when you think of VR is of course gaming. Graphics have been getting better and better with each new generation of game consoles. So its seems logical that the next leap in the evolution of gaming is to actually be in the game rather than just play the game. You could be part of a virtual world where every action or gesture you make impacts the in game narrative in a totally natural way — no two experiences would ever be the same. You could be slowly walking up the stairs in a haunted house and hear the faint footsteps of someone creeping up behind you as your heart pounds away. You will be the main protagonist in your own story and every action you take will have a reaction.

4. Watching Sport

Picture this — you could be watching the drama of a premier league football match unfold as if you were sitting in the stadium all from the comfort of your living room. Football clubs may even start to charge for season tickets if you want the experience — the main difference being that you wouldn’t have to sit in the same seat every week, you could sit wherever you wanted to (including the managers chair!) . You could be watching a world championship boxing match from a ringside seat or a Formula 1 Race from the driver’s seat — this sort of viewing experience could give viewers a visceral experience like never before bringing us closer to the action.

5. Art

Because of its very nature Art is always evolving and changing and Artists are always looking for a new medium of expression. It only seems logical that VR is the next evolutionary step. Google have recently released tilt brush that lets you paint in a 3D space with virtual reality. There will be no limits for Artists other than their imaginations as their creative juices run wild on their virtual palettes. This in time could then lead to user’s viewing the art in virtual art galleries.

6. Product Experience

Businesses can harness virtual reality to improve the user experience and bring customers closer to their products by adding a new level of interaction to the customer journey map. While the technology is still in its infancy businesses have the opportunity to be early adopters and stand out from the competition by creating new virtual engagement strategies. Customers could use their desktops, tablets or smartphones to see the product before their eyes and get a feel for its look & dimensions before making a purchase.

VR could also have a huge benefit for how companies design and create products. Having the ability to create product concept simulations and explore them and generate feedback in a virtual space will have profound implications for how companies create new products. You could now have teams in the UK, China & America all collaborating in real time and this could have profound cost saving benefits due to the speed in which products could be delivered.

7. The Porn Industry

Well someone had to mention the elephant in the room didn’t they? The porn industry is one of the major driving forces in pushing new technologies and has been for the past 20 years. Many people credit the porn industry with settling the format wars in the 1980’s — Remember Betamax Vs. VHS? Not many people remember Sony’s Betamax now but it actually had superior image quality but its downfall was due to the fact you could only record 60 minutes of video in comparison to 3 Hours on VHS — That’s a lot more porn for your money. So with more people opting for the VHS format Betamax was consigned to the annals of history.

We can also thank the porn industry for video streaming and Netflix. Back in 1994 the Dutch porn company, Red Light District created the first internet video streaming system — this paved the way for how the majority of us view video content today.

So you can see that when the porn industry gets behind something it’s usually a sure fire sign of success. The cerebral experience that both VR and AR enables users to have is something that the porn industry has been striving towards for years so it make’s sense they will be investing heavily in the technology hardware to ensure the experience is realistic as possible and these advances ill then quickly be adopted by developers in other industries.

The key takeaway is the brands need to sit up and embrace virtual reality — it is going to open up a new world of possibilities and how we can reach our customers but we also need to be aware that VR should not be the only weapon in our armory and is not going to be a magic bullet to generate more sales — ultimately the focus has to be on products first because as great as an experience VR is it can’t make a poor product great. However, when integrated as part of an omni-channel sales experience VR could help your brand stand out from the competition.

Whichever way you look at it VR is no longer a passing fad or a techies wet dream. VR is mainstream and is here to stay. Over the next few years virtual is set to become the reality and as the technology matures and developers are able to create even more immersive experiences VR will shape and improve our world in ways we never thought imaginable a few years ago.

Please feel free to comment on how you feel virtual and augmented realities will shape the future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Scott Brenchley is CEO and Founder of Tactus Ltd, 8K Xtreme and also CEO of Flexwarm Europe — Global leader in integrated wireless technology. With over 20 years’ experience in the technology sector, Scott has extensive insight into these fast moving markets and the latest products, trends, and developments.

Tactus also offer Supply Chain, Sourcing and Asset Management Services to their business to business clients and are proud to have worked with Argos, Selfridges, Tech Data and John Lewis as well as many other clients.