This year, Virtual Reality finally gets real in terms of applications and usage. What used to be regarded as nothing but an addon to video gaming evolved and revolutionized different industries.
Futuresource Consulting, in fact, estimates that the VR market volume will reach close to 100 million in sales by the year 2023. This growth covers all countries across all regions, including Australia.
And if you’re only knowledge of VR is confined within Oculus Rift and games with titles like Beat Saber and Tetris Effect, or you are generally wondering how VR technology is being used today, allow this article to educate you.
The number of games that are exclusive to virtual reality has increased exponentially over the years. But gaming is not the only use of virtual reality technology. Many industries have benefited from using VR, and their application will only grow in the foreseeable future.
What uses of VR outside gaming do you know? Could it be there is more adoption to VR that you’re led to believe? What VR integrations currently exist and what’s in store for the future of virtual reality technology?
Below is our exhaustive list of how virtual-reality technology is currently being used:
1. Films / Movies
Aside from gaming, virtual reality technology is being used for other entertainment purposes. For example, moviegoers can up their cinematic experiences with applications like Oculus Cinema. True, we already have 3D in theaters; but VR technology can still make the audience feel more involved in whatever they are watching as if they’re part of the narrative itself.
Some of films and movies that used virtual reality technology include the following:
a. Notes on Blindness
When Australian author John Hull lost his sight in the 1980s, he has learned to cope up with it while taking down notes of his experiences. Notes on Blindness uses virtual reality and allows the audience to immerse themselves in the life of a blind person, understanding what it is like to live every day without their sense of sight.
b. Lincoln in the Bardo
The New York Times released this film alongside George Saunders‘ most recent novel of the same title. It is about the fictitious night when President Lincoln visited his son, Willie, at Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown. Using VR, one will find self in a cemetery, talking to ghosts who refuse to go to the afterlife and stay with their physical bodies instead.
c. Bashir’s Dream
In this film, the virtual reality technology is used to portray the life of a 14 years old Syrian refugee named Qusai Bashir Masaama after being shot in the back by a sniper. The film transitions wonderfully from past experiences to present living conditions to future dreams of Bashir.
The movie is an interactive biography of a female grizzly bear, tagged as “71”, in Banff National Park. The goal of the 360 degrees VR film is for its audience to empathize with the wildlife situation, making them realize how human actions create adverse consequences on the life of animals that surround them.
Bear 71’s website is still accessible for free here.
e. My Brother’s Keeper
PBS has released a VR film that narrates how two estranged brothers unexpectedly meet and find themselves fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War. The audience is placed in the middle of the Battle of Antietam to experience how it all folds out.
VR technology has something awesome for sports enthusiasts. Specifically, the company, LiveLikeVR, has created a virtual stadium for them. This platform can make them experience the thrill and excitement of a sports game, alone or with their friends, without having to leave their house.
Not only sports fans, but athletes themselves benefit from the VR technology as well. American Football teams can practice their game through a simulation, improving their teamwork and individual skills without stepping on an actual field.
Besides American Football, here are other organizations and sports categories that use virtual reality technology:
These days, virtual reality technology has blurred the line between real and virtual racing. iRacing, an online racing simulation or simracing, is so great that professionals like William Byron have applied the racing skills he learned from it into the real tracks. The VR platform has served as a training ground for him to become a young champion, minus the dangers of driving a real racing car.
Soccer teams have found a new way to boost their training methods—all thanks to VR technology. Coaching a soccer player can now be done via Be Your Best (BYB), a virtual reality tool that helps sharpen a player’s mental performance. One task that a player can find in this VR tool, for example, is designed to improve his visual perception and decision-making skills under pressure. BYB further claims to measure a player’s intangible attributes, such as anticipation and resilience, and improve on those while he plays in virtual reality, which subsequently makes him a better player.
Virtual reality technology allows injured soccer players to continue their training. The technique enables athletes to make up for the time that is otherwise lost, without risking further injuries.
Aside from those mentioned above, fans of the sport can bolster their viewing experience through VR technology. A news company in Slovenia had already covered a soccer match between the teams FC Maribor and HSK Zrinjski Mostar using the technology. The fans were able to view behind the scenes footage as if they’re right on the team’s locker room.
The NBA is a pioneer in using VR technology. You can in fact see regular scheduled games in Virtual Reality.
As early as 2014, the NBA tried it out during a Miami Heat vs Cleveland Cavaliers preseason game. And, on the opening night of the 2015-2016 regular season, the Denver Nuggets vs Golden State Warriors game was publicly available in VR streaming for the first time.
In 2017, NBA teamed up with Time Warner’s Turner Sports and Intel to make live NBA games available in VR streams.
Multiplayer poker games are now available in virtual reality through poker sites such as Poker VR and Casino VR.
One poker app, called PokerStars, immerses its users into the poker world so good that players can read their opponent’s body language just like in the real world. How amazing is that?
3. Live Concerts or Performances
Can’t go to a live concert or performance because of various reasons? Virtual-reality technology can help you with that. Next VR, a VR filming company, captures such performances and brings them to you.
Why may this be good for you? You don’t have to deal with ticket scarcity and scalpers. You can watch the concert at your place and your own time.
Some of the performers that used virtual reality in their concerts are the following:
- Imagine Dragons
- Panic! At The Disco
- Imogen Heap
- Liam Payne
- Billie Eilish
If you enjoy live music, then you might want to check MelodyVR. MelodyVR features a variety of artists across different musical genre. Just check some of the creative talents below:
- Kelly Clarkson
- Wiz Khalifa
- Post Malone
- Lewis Capaldi
- and many others.
Taking traveling to the next level, Marriott’s Travel brilliantly makes use of virtual reality technology to help people plan their next trip. They introduced the first in-room virtual reality travel experience in 2015. They also created VR booths called Teleporters which give users:
- a three-minute 4D experience of different tourist destinations like London and Hawaii, and
- a virtual tour of their hotel rooms.
Marriott hopes that the excellent VR experiences would make people want to see more of the places and, of course, book in one of their hotel rooms nearby.
Another virtual reality that is excellent for travel purposes is Google Earth VR. It can help you plan your travel itinerary by letting you explore on your target destination, whether through flying or walking around it, and decide which tourist spots are worth your time and energy once you get there. It can also satisfy your wanderlust without buying a plane ticket, which is perfect for people who can’t just leave and travel whenever they want to.
If you fancy specific tourist destinations and experiences, explore the following:
a. The Grand Canyon Experience
Developed by Immersive Entertainment, the VR tour allows you to marvel at the beauty of The Grand Canyon while on motorized kayak ride. You also have the option to see it in the daytime or nighttime.
In Realities, you can visit exciting places like the Alcatraz Prison. Once you click it on the virtual globe, you will be transported into it and have an educational tour of the area.
c. Everest VR
Do you want to climb Mount Everest? Or do you want to know how it looks and feels like from a climber’s perspective? If yes, then Everest VR is perfect for you. This interactive VR experience is the closest thing you can have, without worrying about the dangers of actual climbing like death and frostbite.
Place yourself in a giant aquarium exhibit through theBlu by Wevr. Using this VR collection of underwater experiences, you will be able to meet whales face-to-face and swim with bioluminescent jellyfish without investing in expensive scuba equipment or diving classes, not to mention that expensive plane ticket to and accommodation in the Bahamas.
Thanks to VR technology, people can learn more about a country’s culture and history by virtually visiting its museums and/or exhibits. If you fancy painting or an artifact and would want an unlimited and uninterrupted time admiring it, this part of the list called museums in virtual reality is for you.
a. Peterson Automotive Museum
In 2017, the Peterson Automotive Museum worked with Microsoft Hololens to create an exciting VR experience. The visitors were able to see the classic Ford GT40 up close and compare it to the modern Ford GT.
b. The National Museum of Finland
Go back in 1863 as you step inside the painting of R.W. Ekman named The Opening of the Diet 1863 by Alexander II. This VR experience was made possible by the National Museum of Finland in Helsinki when they opened a VR exhibit of Finnish life and politics under the Russian Empire during the 1860s in 2018.
c. The Smithsonian
Until January 2019, the Smithsonian Institution installed the VR exhibit, “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” in their Renwick Gallery. There, visitors can see the massive art installations built throughout the Burning Man festival and then burned to the ground. Fortunately, although the physical art installations no longer exist, people can still view them in the VR.
d. The Tate Modern
London’s Tate Modern created an impressive VR exhibit of Modigliani’s Paris art studio. Through it, visitors were able to connect more with the artist, as if he was still alive.
e. The National Museum of Natural History
In 2018, the Paris museum opened its first permanent VR exhibit and it featured the subject of evolution. Called the Cabinet of Virtual Reality, the dedicated room includes five VR stations that uses HTC Vive virtual reality system.
MNHN in Paris remains to date one of the best examples of VR use in museum.
6. Shopping and eCommerce
Virtual Reality is fast changing the look of shopping and ecommerce. In general, the benefits of VR in ecommerce include the following:
- improvement of customer experience by making the purchasing process as immersive as possible
- creating of shareworthy content that pushes the brand in social media
- 360 product views that allows the buyer to have a more informed decision
- breaking of language barriers since virtual experience can communicate ideas better than any sales copy or product description
Trillenium, a VR application, takes a consumer on a virtual tour of a physical store and lets him/her look at the items in real-time, redefining the online shopping experience.
The company iStaging has a VR maker that allows you to make VR tours of any location by simply using your smart phone.
7. Surgery and Medicine
Software companies named Surgical Theatre and Conquer Experience (formerly Conquer Mobile) have built virtual simulations from diagnostic images – which came from CAT scans or ultrasounds, by constructing a 3D anatomical model of a patient. These virtual models are beneficial for both new and seasoned surgeons, for it allows them to locate tumors, see the exact areas for incisions, and practice challenging procedures beforehand.
8. Therapy and Rehabilitation
Virtual Reality Therapy or VRT is a whole category of huge application of the technology.
Bravemind is a project of University of Southern Carolina and is one of the pioneers of VRT. Bravemind is used to asses and treat PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder of the US military personnels.
Virtual reality technology can be utilized for therapy and rehabilitation as well. Such is the mission of MindMaze, a VR company from Switzerland. It is currently inventing new ways to hasten the recovery of stroke patients. According to the company’s website, their two devices—MindMotion Pro and MindMotion Go—have already helped more than 1,300 patients across Europe and Asia. Combining neuroscience and virtual reality, MindMaze devices aid in the repairing of broken brain connections and in the retraining of the body to move after suffering from a stroke by presenting motor and cognitive activities in the form of virtual games to the patients.
9. Mental Health
Oculus has a Guided Meditation VR program for its users, which brings them into several relaxing situations almost instantly. In this program, they can choose an environment that they like and meditate while in it. Furthermore, research from the American Journal of Psychiatry (AJP) has reported the effectiveness of meditation sessions done inside virtual environments in reducing the stress and anxiety of its users.
Virtual reality is used as a therapeutic tool for other mental issues as well, such as:
a. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
For PTSD, a patient can undergo Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) to help them cope with it. But for this therapy to be effective, the environment where the patient will be exposed should be close to one which causes them extreme fear.
The results of a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2014 show that this type of exposure therapy is suitable for war veterans who have PTSD.
b. Panic Disorder
Similarly, patients with panic disorder are treated with exposure therapy. Their treatment protocol exposes them to their feared situation and restructures their cognitive thinking. The goal is to decondition their reactions, to alter their perception related to their panic symptoms and to manage their anxiety symptoms.
Virtual reality provides a safe and controlled environment, wherein a person can face the thing or situation that they fear most. By slowly exposing the patient to his/her fear through virtual reality repeatedly, they will gradually learn how to manage their fear.
10. Space Exploration
Through the help of VR technology, NASA is building cutting-edge ways to explore space further. Specifically, they are trying to control a robotic arm using the combined technologies of the Oculus Rift headset, Kinetic 2 sensor, and Xbox One game console. According to NASA researchers, this setup might control space robots and other instruments that are far, far away from us someday.
The researchers also set up a Virtuix Omni treadmill and were able to simulate a walk on the planet Mars. This simulation is particularly helpful in preparing astronauts for a plausible human landing on it.
11. Military and Defense
The U.S. Military uses virtual-reality simulators for its soldiers, just like NASA. Before deploying soldiers into battlefields, the U.S. Military prepares them first by placing them into realistically replicated environments where they can practice teamwork and tactical and survival skills.
The U.S. Military is using the following for their “Games for Training” program:
a. Virtual Battlespace
Now on its third version, the aptly named game developed by Bohemia Interactive Simulations is being used by U.S. soldiers for their mission rehearsals.
b. Unity 3D
This game is created by Unity Technologies, which also allows soldiers to undergo training in virtual environments.
These game-like simulations help ready U.S. soldiers into the battlefield with far lesser danger and financial expenses.
12. Courtrooms and Justice System
Bobbie Ticknor and Sherry Tillinghast penned a research that looked further into the possible applications of VR in the justice system.
And it didn’t take long for the world to adapt.
In the United States, jury members can now evaluate crime scenes in 3D. In 2014, a group of researchers from the University of Zurich published a paper in Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology journal about the probable use of virtual-reality devices, specifically Oculus Rift, in the reconstruction of crime scenes that are being discussed in court trials. In their study, they found out that seeing the virtual reconstruction of crime scenes help people imagine and understand the case more quickly, making arriving at a court decision a lot effectively.
New Jersey also started training police officers in a VR simulator under their part-virtual, part-physical program aimed to improve their skills in de-escalation.
13. Automotive Manufacturing
Ford Motor Company has seen the various applications of virtual reality in their car manufacturing that it has become fundamental to its automotive development.
Employees at Ford’s immersion laboratory in Michigan use a VR headset in inspecting a car’s interior and exterior elements before it goes to the manufacturing process. The virtual prototype allows them to take a closer look at the details of the car, spotting any possible problems that may arise before any assembly line work starts.
The automotive industry benefits from virtual reality technology in several ways:
#1: Lesser Expenses
Through use of VR tools, automotive companies can save manufacturing costs.
#2: Efficient Designing Process
The design of a car can be checked and modified in real-time with VR technology, cutting the long processes of doing it. Physical mockups are not a priority anymore.
#3: Better Training
New engineers can learn about the car models on a large scale and fast, without the probability of damaging them via VR.
#4: Complete Showrooms
Virtual showrooms are great for customers, especially those who want customized cars because they can easily visualize the vehicle of their dreams through it.
Furthermore, car dealers won’t need to rent a vast area to display all the car models available. Every model and more are available in the virtual showroom.
Notable in this aspect is Audi which has deployed over 1000 VR showrooms in their dealerships around the world.
14. Raising Awareness
Virtual reality can be a means to build empathy in people. As empathy involves “putting oneself in someone else’s shoes,” then there’s no better medium that can make that possible other than thru VR.
Empathy makes people understand each other and their situations in a deeper, more personal level, which makes VR the perfect tool to promote causes.
Below are some of the awareness campaigns that are raised using VR technology:
a. Dangers of Distracted Driving
The automotive industry uses virtual-reality technology beyond design and manufacturing purposes. Toyota, for example, is using an Oculus Rift headset for its campaign called TeenDrive365. The goal is to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.
b. Marine Life
Our marine environments are rapidly deteriorating. Coral reefs have been degrading, with almost half of them perished in the Great Barrier Reef since 2016. A nonprofit company called Hydrous made a 360 degrees film that allows the viewer to be immersed in an underwater journey. The goal of making this film is for people to be aware and understand ocean life and then finally to start caring and protecting it.
Only a handful of people around the world get the chance to see coral reefs up close. Therefore, the VR technology does an outstanding job in immersing more people into the ocean life, showing its beauty and the threats it faces, and ultimately increasing empathy towards it.
c. Natural Disasters
Empathy can be developed in children through use of virtual reality. Due to the limited life experiences of most children, it is understandable that they find it challenging to show concern towards people who are victims of natural disasters.
ClassVR, a VR set that is specifically designed for schools, allows young students to explore the aftermath of a natural disaster, providing a better understanding of the effects of such disasters on people’s lives while developing their empathy towards these people.
Visual aids are essential in the education system, according to Journal of Education and Practice. And when we talk about visual aids, virtual reality should be on top of the list.
It is not surprising that VR technology is greatly used in this area. One study conducted by a group of researchers from the University of Maryland learned that people could recall pieces of information more accurately if they learn them via immersive virtual environments than via traditional platforms like desktop computer screens.
In schools, the VR technology can be used to explain concepts—from simple to complex—to students.
Children can better understand the topic of our solar system if they can play with the planets, stars, and comets around them and observe the laws that govern these objects in a three-dimensional environment. Teachers can demonstrate abstract concepts more competently using VR simulations.
For example, Titans of Space 2.0 has taken planetarium experience to the next level. Like an astronaut, you will be able to travel through space, within our solar system and beyond, at your own pace.
Math skills can be enhanced using the VR technology too! Number Hunt, a fast-paced VR math shooting game, makes learning and improving math skills super fun. Players hunt wild numbers by using guns that can add, subtract, multiply, and divide and then chase the answers. It doesn’t matter how old you are—everyone is welcomed to play it. All you need is an Oculus Rift, an HTC Vive, or a Windows Mixed Reality device.
Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to travel around the world and learn first-hand our rich history. Virtual reality allows you to experience history:
- It can move students back in time or to very distant places.
- It can improve student engagement on the topic.
- It is more cost-efficient and more effective than the traditional methods of teaching, especially in the long run.
One superb example of the VR application in teaching history is King Tut VR. Using only their smartphone, students can experience an educational tour within the tomb of the great King Tutankhamun. They can even get a closer look at the hieroglyphics and death mask of the king through it. Amazing!
d. Professional Education
In professional education, Redmako Learning pioneered the use of VR technology in diploma courses such as BSB50215 Diploma of Business, 10118NAT Diploma of Social Media Marketing, and CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support. By delivering these courses in virtual reality, students get a uniquely enhanced learning experience.
Vreddo, another pioneer in virtual reality space and VR education platform, developed the virtual classrooms where students of Redmako’s VR courses meet. In these virtual classrooms, students and teachers can interact with one another just like how they would in the real world.
Virtual-reality technology is here and is already being used by many industries, not just in gaming. VR has created several opportunities and advancement and has transformed the way we consume content, process information, and practice professions positively.