What was once considered science fiction is becoming more real every year with advances in virtual reality. Updated technology is bringing the VR experience to just about every area of life. Current trends show how VR is expanding and how it may ultimately shape the future.
VR Becomes Affordable
With the Samsung GearVR headset and other low-cost devices now available, it’s possible for nearly anyone to enjoy virtual reality. Many headsets can be purchased for under $100, and others are beginning to drop in price. The simple Google Cardboard device comes in at just under $30 for the most decorative models and can even be built by enterprising VR enthusiasts using do-it-yourself instructions. As technology continues to expand and demand increases, it’s likely that prices will come down even more. This could usher in an era where VR headsets are as common as smartphones.
Virtual College Tours
One practical use of virtual reality that is gaining popularity is the use of VR headsets to provide tours of college campuses. This allows students who can’t afford to travel to multiple faraway schools to get an up close and personal view of the campus grounds, classrooms, dorms and facilities. While it’s not a complete substitute for actually being there, it makes the decision process easier for students who need help narrowing down a large pool of potential choices. Time will tell if these virtual visits will someday evolve into virtual attendance.
Businesses are beginning to take advantage of what VR can offer to provide a brand new form of customer experience. Mobile devices, social media and interactive feedback have already shifted the focus of marketing from a one-way street to a two-way conversation, and virtual reality moves this one step further. Consumers can now take virtual test drives at some car dealerships and “tour” the flagship stores of favorite brands from local outlets. The potential exists for customers to be able to try products before buying, a possibility that could become an extension of the fashion and home improvement apps already available for mobile devices.
The “360” Social Media Experience
After acquiring the virtual reality company Oculus in 2014, Facebook has begun rolling out “360” videos designed to offer a more immersive social media experience. These videos include multiple viewing angles to bring users deeper into the scenes being portrayed. Brands, musicians, performers and movie producers may all be able to benefit from this type of video, although there’s no way to know when it will become widely used. Currently, you can download an app from Oculus that allows you to “share” the experience of watching videos and playing games with other users with their own VR headsets.
The medical field may be one of the most important areas that can benefit from the growth of virtual reality technology. Operations that once required invasive surgery and long recovery times may be simplified by allowing doctors to come up with new procedures in virtual environments. For those who struggle with mental challenges such as PTSD or autism, VR can provide a safe environment in which to connect with the world. This may help individuals develop skills that they have difficulty grasping in real life, leading to greater independence and providing a sense of personal empowerment.
For fans of VR pursuing degrees in technology, the only thing more exciting than watching trends is creating them. As the lines between “virtual” and “reality” continue to blur, more jobs will become available in the industry for graduates who have the skills and creativity required to move the technology along.