Current Uses Of Virtual Reality

Many people are familiar with the term ‘virtual reality’ but are unsure about the uses of this technology.

Gaming is an obvious virtual reality application as are virtual worlds but there are a whole host of uses for virtual reality – some of which are more challenging or unusual than others.

1. Military

Virtual reality parachuting simulation

Virtual reality has been adopted by the military – this includes all three services (army, navy and air force) – where it is used for training purposes.

This is particularly useful for training soldiers for combat situations or other dangerous settings where they have to learn how to react in an appropriate manner.

A virtual reality simulation enables them to do so but without the risk of death or a serious injury.

Military uses of VR include:

  • Flight simulation
  • Battlefield simulation
  • Vehicle simulation
  • Medic training (battlefield)
  • Virtual boot camp

Virtual reality is also used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Soldiers suffering from battlefield trauma and other psychological conditions can learn how to deal with their symptoms in a ‘safe’ environment.

VR equipment and the military

Virtual reality training is conducted using head mounted displays (HMD) with an inbuilt tracking system and data gloves to enable interaction within the virtual environment.

Another use is combat visualisation in which soldiers and other related personnel are given virtual reality glasses to wear which create a 3D depth of illusion. The results of this can be shared amongst large numbers of personnel.

2. Healthcare

Healthcare is one of the biggest adopters of virtual reality which encompasses surgery simulation, phobia treatment, robotic surgery and skills training.

One of the advantages of this technology is that it allows healthcare professionals to learn new skills as well as refreshing existing ones in a safe environment. Plus it allows this without causing any danger to the patients.

The various uses of VR in healthcare are:

  • Surgery simulation
  • Virtual reality in phobia treatment
  • Virtual reality treatment for autism
  • Nursing
  • Dentistry
  • Therapies
  • Treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD

Human simulation software

One example of this is the HumanSim system which enables doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to interact with others in an interactive environment.

They engage in training scenarios in which they have to interact with a patient but within a 3D environment only.

This is an immersive experience which measures the participant’s emotions via a series of sensors.

Virtual robotic surgery

A popular use of this technology is in robotic surgery. This is where surgery is performed by means of a robotic device – controlled by a human surgeon, which reduces time and risk of complications.

Virtual reality has been also been used for training purposes and, in the field of remote telesurgery in which surgery is performed by the surgeon at a separate location to the patient.

The main feature of this system is force feedback as the surgeon needs to be able to gauge the amount of pressure to use when performing a delicate procedure.

But there is an issue of time delay or latency which is a serious concern as any delay – even a fraction of a second – can feel abnormal to the surgeon and interrupt the procedure.

3. Education

Education is another area which has adopted virtual reality for teaching and learning situations. The advantage of this is that it enables large groups of students to interact with each other as well as within a three dimensional environment.

It is able to present complex data in an accessible way to students which is both fun and easy to learn. Plus these students can interact with the objects in that environment in order to discover more about them.

Virtual Reality astronomy

For example, astronomy students can learn about the solar system and how it works by physical engagement with the objects within.

They can move planets, see around stars and track the progress of a comet. This also enables them to see how abstract concepts work in a three dimensional environment which makes them easier to understand and retain.

4. Construction

Using a virtual environment, an organisation can not only render the resulting structure in 3D but also experience them as they would in the real world.

Building a construction project in a virtual environment offers many key benefits. One of the most obvious of these is having the ability to test a number of factors without the time and cost of building the structure, reducing the number of errors present in the completed building.

Here are three examples of how the new age of VR technology is solving old problems.

  • Scale Up quickly – 3D modeling software makes it possible to create detailed models and share those models across teams
  • Streamline collaboration – Within a shared environment, where they can literally point out details and issues, ask questions, and immediately make decisions about changes.
  • Improve customer experience – Clients can now walk into a VR model and see for themselves what their project will look like when it’s complete

5. Engineering

Virtual reality engineering includes the use of 3D modelling tools and visualisation techniques as part of the design process.

This technology enables engineers to view their project in 3D and gain a greater understanding of how it works. Plus they can spot any flaws or potential risks before implementation.

Antara kegunaan VR dalam bidang kejuruteraan ialah:

  • The design cycle – virtual reality can be used from the start of the design lifecycle. This is reviewed at stages to check for faults, structural weaknesses and other design issues.
  • Car design – Car manufacturers use virtual reality for prototyping purposes during the design process. This enables them to produce several versions which are then tested and changed as per the results.

6. Telecomunications

Telecommunications is another field which has utilised virtual reality technology, in particular mobile communications which enables easy access to a variety of VR based projects.

Telecommunications can be used to help virtual reality systems such as surgery simulation or telemedicine. An example of this is remote surgery in which images from that surgery can be transmitted to various locations around the world.

It also enables surgery to be performed in remote locations using robotic technology and virtual reality.

7. Heritage And History

This refers to the use of virtual reality in museum and historical settings, e.g. visitor centres. These settings employ interaction as a means of communicating information to the general public in new and exciting ways.

Interactive displays form a large part of many exhibitions and particularly appeal to children. Children are often difficult to attract to a museum or gallery as they tend to see this as a boring experience.

But the use of interactive technologies such as virtual reality has changed that perception and opened up these spaces to a new audience.

VR heritage sites:

  • Monumenys
  • Sculptures
  • Historical buildings
  • Old towns and villages
  • Stonehenge
  • Caves
  • Archaeological digs

8. Business

Virtual reality is being used in a number of ways by the business community which include:

  • Virtual tours of a business environment
  • Training of new employees
  • A 360 view of a product

With VR, a company can connect with their consumers more directly, whether they’re showcasing a product or service, or even training an existing employee.

So what else can VR do, and how have companies employed it?

  • Walmart – Customer service training

Walmart employees need to handle a diverse variety of situations on a daily basis. Preparing them for high-stress situations in the virtual world can facilitate their training in an engaging way without any risk.

They’re able to learn more about their position without directly interacting with a customer, an attractive model for any company that has a focus on customer service.

  • Natuzzi – Furniture showcase

Natuzzi is an Italian furniture brand that has blended virtual and augmented reality to display their products. 

A customer can visit their showroom in Madison Avenue to see what the furniture would look like in their own home without the need for movers or heavy lifting. They can mix, match and decorate to their satisfaction with very little input.

By providing this VR/AR experience, Natuzzi shows confidence and pride in their products while respecting a customer’s choices.

  • Volvo – Test drive

If a customer doesn’t have a car dealer nearby, but they’re still in the market for a vehicle, they can search online for attractive options from their brand of choice. That said, technology has afforded them new opportunities through the use of a virtual reality headset, enabling them to test drive a vehicle before they take it home.

Volvo created an app that allows the user to drive their XC90 SUV through the countryside. More than just a marketing tactic, the app is both a game and point of reference for consumers.

9. Sports

Virtual reality is used as a training aid in many sports such as golf, athletics, skiing, cycling etc.

It is used as an aid to measuring athletic performance as well as analysing technique and is designed to help with both of these. It also used in clothing/equipment design and as part of the drive to improve the audience’s experience.

Virtual Reality Performance

The athlete uses this technology to fine tune certain aspects of their performance.

For example, a golfer looking to improve their swing or a track cyclist wanting to go faster in the individual pursuit. 3D systems can pinpoint aspects of an athlete’s performance which require changing, for example, their biomechanics or technique.

Driving equipment design and innovation

Another popular use is sports manufacture: virtual reality is used in the design of sporting clothes and equipment, e.g. running shoe design.

Sportspeople are constantly looking at ways of gaining them that edge which can mean being faster, stronger, better endurance etc.

They are constantly pushing boundaries as regards what their bodies can do which drives the sports clothing and equipment industry. This industry has to keep pace with this constant drive for sporting perfection and uses the very latest technology to do so.

Bringing the sporting event closer to the audience

Virtual reality has also been used to improve the audience’s experience of a sporting event.

Some systems allow the audience to walkthrough a stadium or other sporting location, which helps them when purchasing a ticket to an event.

And then there are virtual reality games with a sports theme which allow the player to become part of the competition. One example is an interactive football game which projects this match onto a real world surface.

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