Virtual reality, at one time, seemed like an absolute breakthrough for the games industry when the first demos came to light. It grabbed the attention of not only the sweatiest-palmed gamers, but also the party-game fanatics looking for quick and accessible experiences without buttons and joysticks. But the first consumer opinions were not quite as promising as the initial buzz, and soon the declaration that virtual reality is a dead technology spread like wildfire through the vast online media jungle.
Is VR is truly dead? Well, I would personally want to say no. Give it time. Bear in mind that our sleek and smart 4K Playstation 4 evolved from a grey chunker of a Playstation 1 with 2MB of RAM.. The cost of headsets are going down on the second-hand market (ish), and AAA games are now being released on PSVR (Blood and Truth). That said, for me to argue about VR’s capability in gaming would see me fall prey to what many other online articles are at fault for. We always fall prey to connecting this technology to gaming, just because it seems the most obvious benefactor, and we all lose focus on what else virtual reality is influencing around us (kind of like a VR headset does).
Here is a list of reasons to keep your eye on virtual reality, not just for the good of gamers but for the good of everyone!
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is much more than stress. Imagine something happening in your life that is too awful and frightening to even consider. Now imagine that thought every time you go to bed. Imagine it every time you daydream, or every time you see yourself nodding off because the fear of reliving the happening keeps you awake every single night.
It is said that 3 in every 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their life. 3% sounds small but that amounts to over 1.8 million people in the UK and it’s rising. Flashbacks and night terrors are often treated with counseling and cognitive behavioural therapy, but has no impact on the treatment-resistant PTSD that many suffer from.
Virtual reality presents a rare opportunity to overcome traumatic events that many may suffer. 3MDR, developed by the University of Cardiff, sees participants walk on a treadmill towards images that relate to their trauma. It is, of course, not an easy thing to do, but the two-years of trials has shown a 37% average improvement in symptoms of PTSD-suffering military personnel. The bleakly-named strain of treatment-resistant post traumatic stress disorder may finally fail to live up to its name.
Osso VR claims that 30% of surgery graduates are unable to operate independently. This leaves the world of medicine with a fast expanding skills gap in surgery, with the number of senior surgery figures predicted to fall over the next decade in line with the aging population. If we don’t have surgeons that can perform surgeries, we don’t have surgeries!
Thankfully Osso VR comes to our rescue, with perhaps one of the best uses of virtual reality the world has and will see for a long while (I wonder if its founder Justin Barad came up with the idea while playing the not-so-serious Surgeon Simulator game).
Currently over 1000 surgeons use Osso VR to train, and that figure will continue to rise as the software spreads to medical school across the globe.
“What we’re seeing piloted here is exceptional and exceeds any prior simulators. There are a million reasons why this will be good. It’s cost efficient, it’s scalable and it will certainly help improve the delivery of healthcare.”
I know that this one may prompt a groan from some of you. Why do we need VR arcades??? It’s just a novelty, there’s not actually anything worth playing! Just buy your own headset! Maybe I’m just being a bit too nostalgic, but I remember many visits to a Wacky Warehouse and running straight to the XBOX machines (no, I didn’t forget to write 360 after XBOX..) and play till I was practically dragged out of the building. I never owned an XBOX, and if I’m honest I never expected to. Did every person who ever played pinball or Pacman say, yep.. I’ll buy one of them after a couple of games? There was always a certain magic that came from stopping off for an hour to play some games after the football on a Saturday, one that came from the lack of accessibility of games consoles in our homes.
Fast forward and what has changed? One of the key criticisms of VR is that it’s just too expensive. This then impacts the development of VR games, as devs won’t contribute to virtual reality titles when their audiences can’t afford to support them. VR arcades bring not only the technology, but also the titles to us all. It gives the priced out enthusiasts the chance to play the games they could previously only watch their favourite YouTube gamers play, and maybe more importantly it allows casual and curious gamers the opportunity to explore the new world of virtual reality without the heavy investment. VR is a surefire hit to-be for party games, but there was never a time where 4 of your mates have a headset… now just head to your local VR arcade and dive in!
While it may look like your innocent primary school teacher has just raised an army of little AI stormtroopers, virtual reality for education seems like a brilliant way of taking children beyond the learning possibilities of a Smart Board (if they still use those).
ClassVR has produced a standalone headset with “student-friendly” controls, purpose-built for the classroom. They have developed VR solutions for every level of the education system, from primary school to further education, and claim that every student can benefit from an immersive 360-degree learning environment.
I am already envious of every young un’ who gets to use this technology. School is the only time you get to learn a massive range of subjects, each of which has a seriously exciting way-in for virtual reality. Geography can see you fly around the world to countries you may otherwise never experience, science may let you dive into microscopy (literally) and swim with red blood cells around the human body, or history could let you sit in the company of royalty.
Better than all of that, imagine if the Horrible Histories/Science/Geography book series got involved? It’d be wonderful carnage.
Virtual reality is one of the best forms of escapism we currently have available to us. We can see unbelievable things, reimagine ourselves as action heroes and perform superhuman stunts. But living a different life may be as simple as being able to walk again.
Of course VR experiences are fairly inclusive of paraplegic people, as they most often use only hand actions to operate and sometimes not even that depending on the type of experience. But could virtual reality actually make paraplegics walk?
“They thought we were crazy”, said Dr. Migual Nicolelis, “But I was certain.”
“Using virtual reality, a haptic display allows the patients to visualize when their legs touch the ground or are extended. Not only could the patients walk with their robotic legs, some even learned to move their legs by themselves… If you are confined to a bed or a wheelchair for a long time, your brain starts forgetting what it’s like to have legs and how to control them.”
Virtual reality reminds the brain what it’s like to have working limbs, and proved to be the key to patients becoming proficient in operating robotic limbs in just 6 months.
While research like this is usually confined to a laboratory, Nicolelis believed that his breakthrough needed to be seen on the largest stage. How about in the opening of the most popular sporting competition in the world, the World Cup, in the most football-fanatic nation? Juliano Pinto, a man who is paralyses from the chest down, performed a symbolic kick off in the 2014 World Cup and it truly shows that there is promise in Nicolelis’ work.
There are many other uses of virtual reality that could be mentioned here, along with exciting new developments in augmented reality, but this blog above all else is intended to once again spark some curiosity in the world of mixed reality. This is just the start for VR, and it’s not as gimmicky as you might think! All I ask is to maybe look beyond what you currently see, and definitely don’t spend too much time on Buzzfeed. Believe it or not, the future does not lie in what it’s like to use virtual reality while you’re stoned (ugh, those Buzzfeed peasants! Ruining the internet! Here’s the link though, just if you want it…I know you do).