Is Virtual Reality Making A Comeback?

If there’s one principle we’ve consistently been following to the letter in our innovations since, like, forever, it’s the fact that we have a tendency to create new technologies that draw the user into an environment that interacts with them in unique ways. Our fantasy since the mid-20th century has been to create an environment that virtually places the user inside of a different world. This was partly achieved in the 90s with the advent of virtual reality products such as Virtual Boy. However, the fad quickly died out with the abysmal sales figures. Now, we’re in the 21st century, and we’re waking up in a world that sees new potential in virtual reality, exposing us to environments as we’ve never experienced them before. Is this technology going to fly, or is it just going to be a rich boy’s plaything and nothing more?

vreality-health

When talking about virtual reality (let’s call it “VR” from now on), we inevitably must enter into a discussion about mental and physical health. Obviously, plopping someone into a virtual world has to have some effect on the mind, right?

An article that appears in IEEE Spectrum speaks about precisely this concern, basically saying (in many words) that our minds aren’t exactly designed to handle the effects of being put into a completely different reality. Potentially, this can become not only addictive, but detrimental to real-world motor functions. You see, virtual worlds don’t necessarily emulate physics very efficiently. A ball might touch the ground a few meters before it’s supposed to, or the wind might selectively have an effect on one object while having no effect on another. Little subtleties like this throw us off, and might really dumb us down.

Are these things significant? Do they even warrant any concern? We won’t really know until VR is studied more profoundly, particularly with the latest devices on the market.

vreality-oculusrift

Right now, one of the main concerns for VR is regarding its price. Regular folks can’t dump $2000 on a pair of funky goggles, no matter what wonders they’ll do. But what if these goggles only cost $300?

Oculus Rift, a device developed by the geeks over at Oculus VR, has such a price tag on its development kit, which also gives game developers access to an SDK. I’m thinking that if competition on this technology gets as hardcore as what we’ve seen with smartphones, we might see very affordably-priced VR systems in the near future.

vreality-surgeon

Who said that VR is just for games? What about panoramic photo viewing? What about Google Street View? There are tons of ways that we can use VR to improve our lives or experience a whole new dimension of entertainment.

Speaking of improving our lives, many medical facilities currently use VR for treating conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. Surgeons also use the equipment for training purposes. If you use a wee bit of creativity, you’ll notice that there are actually tons of uses for it, and very little of it has to do with gaming. The future of VR, if not in entertainment, could lie here.

It’s time to speak up! Do you think that VR has a chance now that devices like Oculus Rift are promising to go into the market? Or is it just a botched attempt to give VR some new-found relevance? Throw your thoughts in a comment below!