In 1935, American writer Stanley G Weinbaum wrote a short story called ‘Pymalion’s Spectacles,’ and in it he speculated that ‘Suppose I make it so that you are in the story, you speak to the shadows, and the shadows reply, and instead of being on a screen, the story is all about you, and you are in it’. Little did he know, but he had just predicted virtual reality (VR). Since then, there have been years of experimentation which have culminated in VR as we currently know it, and it is used across a broad spectrum of industries.
Entertainment and Leisure
Gaming has long used technology to heighten the user experience; you are able to simulate baseball games and recruit players such as the all-time greatest Texas Ranger Ivan Rodriguez into your winning team, and now other forms of entertainment are using technology to provide a greater experience. Theater audiences have moved on from 3D and can now be fully immersed into the movie and its surrounding imagery and special effects. No matter what experience floats your boat, there is a virtual app to transport you. If you are unable to get to a concert or a performance, you can download the experience and watch it from the comfort of your own home – just without the hustle and bustle of the other fans.
The healthcare industry uses virtual reality for diagnosis and treatment, and software can be used to construct 3D images of a patient’s body to help surgeons seek a solution to the presenting problem. The benefit of using VR for surgery is that surgeons are able to consider all the options available to them in a way that does not inflict harm on the patient; they can practice difficult procedures so that risk to the patient is reduced. Virtual reality is also used as a tool for rehabilitation to regain cognitive function for those patients who have suffered a brain injury or stroke, and it enables healthcare practitioners to accurately assess the results of exercises in a way that traditional therapies cannot be.
What better way is there to educate young people about the perils of dangerous driving than by making them experience it for themselves. Toyota has developed an app called Teendrive365 that educates teens about keeping safe on the road. Virtual reality can be used to bring culture to life, and museums are starting to use it so that people can experience their collections ‘first’ hand. New York’s American Museum of Natural History and London’s British Museum have made some of their collections accessible online which is a wonderful resource for us all.
With life being so fast-paced and frenetic, virtual reality is a solution that can be an ideal therapeutic tool to immerse the user into a realm of relaxation and meditation to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. For sufferers of PTSD and phobic disorders, VR can provide an environment that is safe and controlled to expose and acclimatize sufferers to the things that they fear in a measured and rehabilitative way.