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The age of virtual reality has finally arrived, part IV

Within the next 5-10 years we’ll be able to use VR to enjoy first-row seats at sports events


Multi-Sensory engagement

To date, VR sensory enhancement has been defined by continually improving sight and sound engagement. While companies are already researching ways to create VR touch, scent, and taste, it will take many years, perhaps decades, before those additional sensory technologies are ready for practical application.

In my last post, I described a list of genuine concerns about the downside of VR. In this installment, I want to contrast that with the amazing improvements that VR promises for many areas of life.

The exciting potentialWith new and emerging VR tech as a platform, forecasters believe that within the next five to ten years we’ll be able to use VR headsets to enjoy first-row seats at professional sports events, take classes from world-renowned educators, and consult with doctors.

  • Immersive educational environments for young students

VR experiences that take children on virtual field trips to exotic world locations and historical settings have already been released or soon will be–, e.g., a British Museum visit to the Bronze Age; an astronaut’s view of the Apollo 11 moon landing; and Google’s Expeditions series, the first  of which will take students on a scuba dive off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Professional Training–Similar breakthroughs will help neurosurgeons-in-training explore realistic virtual brains before operating on patients. They will also give architects an immersive, room-by-room experience of different building designs. The applications are limitless…

  • Emotional therapy and interpersonal awareness

Virtual reality has already proved useful in treating phobias and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) without the potential risks posted in real world environments. For example, when people with a phobia of spiders are progressively exposed to them over time, they become desensitized to the imagined threat. The same dynamic, if applied correctly, applies to VR supported tech in overcoming traumatic events.

Overlapping ‘infotainment’ and therapy are VR documentaries that put a human face on relief efforts for people living struggling through events like civil wars and environmental disasters. VR-enhanced experiences of the benefits of contributing to on-ground support efforts are likely to deepen a sense of empathy among viewers.

  • Virtual presence with family and work colleagues

VR-enhanced family visits will take us a quantum leap beyond Skype. In the future, you’ll be able to wear VR glasses not only to feel as if you’re with loved ones but also to project your presence into the group. Plus, recordings of the same events would allow you to experience them again for years into the future.

On the business side, this technology will also make virtual offices possible, i.e., office environments in which you can interact with your colleagues at work from home. …Perhaps this raises red flags for you as it does for me. 

  • Entertainment

Immersive Gaming and Sports

VR gaming is already a sensation and will continue to be the primary driver of VR growth. Gamers are thrilled by their newfound ability to immerse themselves in a wide range of exciting, exotic environments.

If you’re not a gamer, anyone who enjoys sports is a likely future VR convert. Last October, an NBA Golden State Warriors champion game was streamed by NextVR. The same advances are already occurring in boxing. Other sports will surely follow.

Films

VR will provide film viewers options for seeing a scene unfold from different angles, witness the varied experiences of different characters and choose different plot developments. All this promises to coalesce to further deepen a person’s sense of empathy.

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In my next and final installment in this series, I’ll discuss what futurologists have to say about the long-term potential of VR to construct an entirely new level of reality.

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