Virtual Reality in practice

Virtual Reality in practice

DIGITAL LIFESTYLE

Virtual Reality in practice

Laure Dupuy & Pierre Herubel

3 March 2019

A new column in Latitudes, Digital Lifestyle takes a look at technological innovations and their impact on our lives. Virtual reality, for example, has really taken off with a few applications showing decisive potential in the fields of education, real estate, travel, and health.

NASA has long been interested in technologies that can simulate travel beyond our atmosphere, especially for financial reasons since going to space costs quite a lot. For the past several years, equipped with virtual reality headsets, astronauts and scientists have been training in repairing satellites, simulating extraterrestrial conditions, and even piloting exploration machinery.

Although NASA’s concerns might seem far removed from our lives on the ground, there are other concrete applications of VR for our everyday lives.

The dictionary defines this technology as the simulation of a real environment using artificial three-dimensional images. Its most well-known use is in the video game and entertainment industry, with fun and impressive experiences, but most of the time, these experiences don’t last more than 30 minutes because our brains can’t handle it for any longer. This limitation makes us ask questions about virtual reality’s real place in our daily lives.

Nowadays, virtual reality represents a real evolution in certain fields like training and education and shows a wide range of possibilities. Some jobs, such as surgeons, pilots, and even soldiers, require intensive training because, in these areas, the slightest error can be fatal. This innovation helps to create a safe artificial environment to test out a multitude of situations with no real-life consequences.

Big companies are increasingly investing in virtual training. For example, Walmart uses it to simulate intense sales periods like Black Friday to prepare its staff for customer service, and the Manpower group trains its employees in on-site risks by simulating serious accidents.

Virtual reality is also being used more and more in real estate. It’s now possible to visit existing properties or even those under construction without leaving home, thanks to virtual tours using intuitive navigation systems, where potential buyers or renters can explore every corner of the property with no time limit.

This technique cannot yet completely substitute an on-site visit, but it lets you visit more properties and compare them easily and quickly, and even lets you experience your dream by touring homes that are slightly out of your budget.

Above all, virtual reality saves time and money, not to mention its practical and aesthetic aspects. Sellers or real estate agencies can include personal decoration or a custom atmosphere to the tour in order to showcase the property. For renters or buyers, it’s even possible to view your own furniture during a visit, making it easier to imagine yourself into the space and make a decision.

This innovation is particularly beneficial for promoters: selling to foreign buyers has never been easier. The BNP Paribas Real Estate group was the first company to invest in this VR real estate revolution by offering a teleportation capsule (POD) in 2016, and then holoportation in 2018.

The World at Hand

After touring an apartment from your couch, you can then go to Egypt and visit the pyramids for an evening, or Cambodia to discover the beauty of the Angkor temples. Today, the world of tourism is also going through a real revolution thanks to virtual travel.

For now, this innovation is above all a real advantage for tourist agencies to attract and convince potential travelers. With the Virtual Gorilla experience, the Dutch-Ugandan tourism agency Matoke Tours immerses clients in the jungle to meet gorillas all in one afternoon. Airlines are also interested in all the experiences that can improve their flights for passengers. Alaska Airlines lets first-class travelers discover destinations and activities virtually for their upcoming trips.

And finally, in the health sector, the worldwide market for virtual reality healthcare will grow by 54.5% by 2023, but VR techniques are already being used for treating pain, phobias, addictions, and compulsions.

An experiment done by Hunter Ho man, a professor and the director of the Virtual Reality Center at the University of Chicago, demonstrated how effective VR can be in treating serious burn victims. With the objective of making patients forget about the sensation of their burns, the simulation projects a cold landscape with snow, frost, and mountains covered with snow. Doctors noticed a significant reduction of pain and reduced use of morphine.

In order to prevent fatal errors, doctors-to-be also train using virtual reality. The application SimForHealth has been introduced to certain universities to let interns try out being doctors.

Wearing an HTC Vive headset and using two controllers, interns receive patients in emergency situations and have to make the right diagnosis and perform the right gestures to save them.

Although this technology still faces a few technological and psychological barriers, it should surpass the television market within the next few years, generating nearly 110 billion dollars by 2025, according to business bank Goldman Sachs. Becoming more and more immersive, it will gradually be more a part of our daily lives and will eventually be omnipresent, which might raise some concerns as portrayed by the world of fiction with films such as The Matrix, ExistenZ, and more recently, Ready Player One.

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