Virtual Reality: Immersion for Everyone
Today, one can purchase an Oculus Rift headset, including two touch controllers, on sale for just shy of $400- already down to less than half of its original price of $800 (including controllers). While this move was, in part, to compete with competitor HTC’s Vive headset, it goes to show that high end virtual reality, in general, is becoming more accessible to the consumer. Even on the low end, one can pick up a Google Cardboard viewer for $15, drop their phone in, and still gain a basic VR experience. What was once dismissed as simply a “fad” or “trendy” is now finding its way, inch by inch, into our daily lives and consumer electronics is only one component of it. Virtual reality is showing us that it has plenty to offer in the realms of entertainment and health care.
Virtual reality has perhaps its strongest foothold in the entertainment industry- many companies such as Google, Intel, and Valve see an immersive, fun user experience as their goal for VR programs and are now planning innovations like Google Daydream View (a mainstream mobile VR and augmented reality product), and a rapidly expanding VR video game library on the Steam platform. With the power of some of these offerings, an average person can immerse themselves in a horror movie or explore the stars- all without leaving their seat. The level of immersion will only continue to rise as this technology becomes more advanced.
The health care industry is also seeing a rise in virtual reality applications. Johns Hopkins University has outfitted their Medical Simulation Center with VR technology that can simulate an entire surgical procedure, allowing students to train with zero risk. Mental health practitioners are also using VR to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It has long been understood that immersion therapy (exposing a patient to the same triggers or stimuli that contributed to their developing of PTSD in the first place) is an effective treatment for PTSD, and through virtual reality traumatic conditions can be simulated with absolute clarity. In the future, as more and more medical processes are virtualized, training costs will drop dramatically and quality of treatment will increase.
There is no doubt that with so many applications, VR will only continue to advance in the future.