When the HoloLens was announced, one of the first things that Microsoft showed it doing was playing Minecraft. Similarly, the Oculus Rift is going to be targeting gamers pretty intensely at launch, and the gaming world is by far the audience most excited by the potentials of virtual reality (VR).
But there’s more than just video games in the virtual world. Here are 3 incredible doors that we think VR is going to open.
1. Better simulations
This is an obvious one but we feel it’s one worth reiterating. There are a huge number of jobs that rely on experience. Surgeons, airline and maritime pilots, astronauts, even soldiers or police officers – these are all occupations where the minimal level of expertise requires years of experience. Surgeons, for example, usually don’t operate on their own until they’re in their 40s or later.
Better simulations with VR could enormously decrease the cost of training for these valuable positions as well letting them ramp up on work hours quickly and efficiently. Obviously, simulators for these occupations already exist.
For example, the US Air Force uses flight simulators to substantially cut training costs (an hour in a flight simulator is about 5% the cost of an hour in the real thing, about $1,171 vs $23,424 per hour).
However, the simulators as they currently stand are hulking behemoths who are in themselves very costly to build. VR like the Oculus would help drive that cost down as well as flood the market with cheap simulators. Basically, everyone could have their own and log as many hours as they wanted to, which is bound to increase their skill when they get to the real thing.
2. Creative problem visualization & solving
Sometimes you need to visualize a problem before you solve it. VR offers huge potential for problem visualization and subsequently problem solving. Imagine an architect, for example. Modelling and blueprints can only take you so far. Imagine if your entire work environment was actually building a 3D digital model before your eyes.
A more technical application in the same vein is engineers solving tricky problems of their own. VR will let them visualize the entire system and then zoom into the problem parts, getting close and trialling various solutions before they build the real thing (and the cost of fixing stuff goes through the roof).
Finally, think about designers like interior designers. They could ‘walk’ though a design before they actually do anything, seeing what colours, fabrics, materials, and lighting work well together.
The value, of course is the ease trying each new idea, and the high fidelity of each of those trials. VR will allow engineers, architects, and designers to quickly cycle through maybe 10 or 15 solutions before picking one direction to pursue further. All for a very low cost.
3. Immersive movie experiences
In addition to enormous gaming potential, VR devices like the Rift are set to transform cinematic experiences as well. Movies can become more immersive and Mark Zuckerberg has mentioned several times the potential of VR with sporting events (imagine: courtside seats to the biggest games).
Even Netflix is getting in on the action during a 2014 hack day with the company. All of this points to the fact that cinema and television are getting set to fully exploit the potential of VR, the same way they fully exploited first sound and later colour all those years ago.
Gaming is going to be the core function and revenue stream of virtual reality in the near future. But looking ahead, it’s clear to see that VR devices like the Rift have enormous potential in both other entertainment arenas, like sports and movies, as well as more serious business applications like 3D imaging, creative visualization and problem solving, and training and simulation.
That’s not to mention the enormous array of educational and healthcare uses that might be realized down the road, like helping soldiers cope with PTSD or helping amputees. Gaming is where the VR energy is right now – but in the larger scheme of things, it’s just a stepping stone for the incredible stuff to come.