Virtual reality (or VR) is a technological way of replacing your natural perceptions of the world with artificial ones. It’s a way of creating virtual worlds that people can experience to simulate all sorts of different situations.
It uses images, sounds and sensations to trick the mind into believing the situation or experience being offered is real. By tricking the mind like this VR is able to offer an immersive experience unlike anything else.
When did it start?
The roots of virtual experiences date back 200 years to the early experiments with photography, mirrors and moving images. Magic lanterns and stereoscope images made people amazed when they first saw them.
Now these exciting pioneers seem crude in retrospect. Indeed, the technology of VR moved very slowly at first.
It took decades for developments to add other sensory impressions to visual displays, like adding smells or vibrating seats in movie theatres.
So it wasn’t until 40 years ago that tech pioneers used goggle and gloves to start creating virtual worlds as we know them now.
What are the applications of VR?
At first the world of VR was heavily associated with the gaming industry. It was an enhancement to playing all sorts of games on a screen in a digital format.
This is developed rapidly into the online casino world, where VR is expected to become a major enticement to players in coming years.
It’s no longer all about knowing all the different versions of baccarat or the Omaha poker rules, VR will transport players into what seems to be a real-life gaming experience. Consumers are now able to join live poker rooms and bingo social events – thanks to VR.
The uses and evolution of available virtual devices mean that it is now a tool being adapted to many uses, including health and business.
It’s a sophisticated technology but can actually save money and risk in many situations. Commercial users have found that VR can be used to increase productivity and profit too.
Health industry users have found many safe and low cost ways that a VR experience can help their patients and the development of new medicines and treatments.
How can VR help business?
Businesses have taken to using virtual reality in online shopping. An online kitchen company allows customers to ‘use’ kitchen features as if they were installed in their own home space.
Architects can allow clients to ‘walk through’ a design and in any profession, work-from-home communications can become more effective using VR.
Another direction that virtual reality has evolved is in creating risk-free military training environments. Flight simulators have been in use for many years and these virtual systems are now used in many complex scenarios.
They can be used to allow soldiers to experience dangerous situations without the risk of real danger. The VR systems can also be used to test and select personnel for aptitude in dealing with challenging situations.
Even in ordinary education, VR could have a real impact. Students could learn more effectively via a simulated experience of whatever is being studied.
In the world of sports coaches are also looking into ways VR can help push athletes and performers to higher levels. American basketball and football training is already using VR to simulate game experiences to enhance performance without risking injury.
What is the future for VR?
Industry experts predict that the use of VR will grow rapidly over the coming years. The technology will become more adaptable yes but one of the main driving forces will be the fall in prices for VR equipment.
Overall, the VR kit is expected to follow the path taken by mobile phones. It will become a must-have leisure and business accessory.
More people using it will generate more demand. As the market grows, the price of sophisticated features will fall.
Currently popular VR headsets, like those from suppliers like Meta Quest, HP or Oculus cost several hundred pounds. Higher end devices cost several thousand.
Users have to make buying decisions based on the likely uses, platforms and features required. The headsets vary considerably in comfort, weight, efficiency, speed and flexibility.
These choices are likely to become simplified as the VR devices become mainstream purchases.
VR is still a specialist zone but is about to become a populist one. Expect headsets to become more user-friendly and, most importantly, much cheaper.
With the fall in price and the increase in usability will come mass acceptance of VR as a standard leisure tool. Don’t be surprised if we are all wearing VR goggles in a few years time.
Don’t forget that 50 years ago nobody would have expected the telephone to become a must-have leisure accessory. Now it’s the item you are most likely to have in your pocket at any time.