Could VR’s future be outside gaming?
It seems like a long-time ago that Oculus first launched it’s Kickstarter for the Rift, but after months of waiting we’re finally about to see virtual reality hit store shelves.
But what if virtual reality is actually a commodity that is far more important outside of video games? What if its impressive technology is utilised in a way that makes experiences available for people where it wasn’t before?
We’ve already discussed the need for manufacturers to focus on the enthusiasts who will pick up a VR headset on launch. Lamenting the fact that it’s crucial to their long-term success that early adopters aren’t left with broken software and faulty hardware.
But is the true future of virtual reality actually within gaming? Should VR’s future exist outside platformers and first-person shooters? We’ve seen other video game peripherals, such as Kinect, used in hospitals and schools to some degree, but wouldn’t this kind of application better suit VR in the long-run?
Sony themselves appear to be aware of the need to not restrict VR to games. Their partnership with NASA is evidence that Sony is thinking outside the box, using VR headsets for training, or being able to control robots on other planets from Earth are some of the ideas that are already being explored by space exploration companies.
Medical care is another area where VR technology could play an important role in training the doctors and nurses of tomorrow. Performing operations in VR, using it as part of distraction therapy for burns, or helping victims cope with phantom limb pain, are some of the ideas already being tested. There’s even an app for Oculus Rift called DEEP that can encourage meditation – a treatment for general anxiety. It achieves this by teaching users how to control their breathing within a digital garden.
Education can also benefit from the year of virtual reality, with school children able to experience subjects of study without leaving school itself. A significant financial benefit for schools who have a lack of funding.
Toyota are already using the Oculus Rift in schools to promote safer driving, explaining the dangers of being distracted while at the wheel using VR. It’s a program that is likely to be just the start of similar ideas used within schools to encourage safety and learning.
In an ironic twist of fate, the U.S. military are using non-commercial video games to get soldiers combat ready before leaving for tours oversea. The focus isn’t on combat efficiency though but teamwork. Setting soldiers up in groups to co-ordinate tactics and deployment techniques is the aim of these exercises, and while it’s not a procedure that’s widely used, it’s likely to expand as VR hardware becomes cheaper to make.
Gaming will be the medium that brings virtual reality to the masses, not at first, but over time Oculus, HTC, Valve and Sony will lead the charge to a headset future. But maybe, just maybe, it’s outside of video games where virtual reality will truly make its mark. Helping to treat, educate, and keep people alive.