Why VR & AR is Important Beyond Gaming
Over the past 2-3 years, virtual reality technology has made massive leaps in terms of public attention, investment, and access. Devices such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Samsung Gear VR have opened the potential for developers and customers to build and engage in VR experiences more than ever before. Sadly, too much of the public discussion around virtual reality has revolved around video games. It is not a surprising result, as the immersion offered by VR goes hand in hand with the aims of video game developers to bring players into the worlds they create. However, I would like to assert that virtual reality development is important beyond gaming and that not having wider public discourse on VR is detrimental.
First, I want to communicate a sense of what virtual reality is and to also make a distinction between Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) (and I believe both technologies are important and deserve our attention). Virtual reality technology builds simulated 3D environments that connects human senses to the artificial world being created. This means that physical actions can influence the virtual world and while engaged with VR tech, one is largely disconnected from the real world. To give an example, while watching a VR movie, turning your head doesn’t allow you to look away from the screen but instead changes your perspective on the environment you are interacting with. Augmented reality provides a virtual overlay on the real world. The most popular example right now is PokemonGo. Instead of a creating a separate virtual experience, AR enhances existing spaces.
The potential uses of VR and AR are quite astounding and I could not possible cover even a portion in this post. Some examples however…
I hope these examples communicate that VR and AR technology will be making its way into nearly every aspect of our lives. It is, therefore, important to understand it, its risks and limitations, and to participate in the conversation surrounding its development.
I want to raise some questions to end this piece, that will hopefully get you thinking about these rising technologies.
What are the implications for physical safety, especially in relation to AR, when digital overlays are potential distractions from the physical world (people getting hit by cars when playing PokemonGo or map overlays on windshields distracting drivers)?
Just as there is potential to use VR to treat PTSD and other forms of mental illness, it could also be used to cause pain and fear; in what situations might VR be weaponized either intentionally or unintentionally due to the power dynamics at play (I am thinking of instances in which someone with greater power could force an individual to undergo traumatizing VR experiences without oversight – school systems, prison, therapy)?
What implications does VR have for online dating and virtual relationships? Social media revolutionized the way we connect with people and has had positive and negative impacts. How will VR affect this space?