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For the last few years, the prospects of virtual reality have dominated the tech headlines. From the unveiling of the Oculus Rift to the instant popularity of the book, Ready Player One, VR technology has been growing exponentially, innovating industries in ways we never dreamed possible.
Quickly jumping from its video game roots, virtual reality is changing our world, and the demand for qualified individuals with VR experience is increasing drastically as the builders, tinkerers and problem solvers of our generation continue to find new, unique applications for virtual reality. So, how is VR kicking the Age of Technology into high gear? In more incredible ways than you might think.
One of the most beneficial VR application comes from how the technology is accelerating physical and mental recovery.
Duke University conducted a year-long study on the effects of virtual reality on paraplegics, leading to incredible results. In the study, paraplegic patients wore VR headsets tuned into a soccer scenario. Their task was to navigate the stadium as a soccer player, playing and interacting as an individual with full limb control. By simulating the movement of their legs, each of the eight patients tested were able to regain some brain function associated with leg movement, and four of the patients were even able to have their status upgraded from paraplegic to partial paraplegic.
As Knvul Sheikh writes:
The healthcare industry has been a big adopter of virtual-reality tech, with some institutions using the computer-generated images for diagnosis and treatment. Virtual-reality simulations, such as those created by software companies Surgical Theater and Conquer Mobile, use actual diagnostic images from CAT scans or ultrasounds to construct 3D models of a patient’s anatomy. The virtual models help both new and experienced surgeons determine the safest and most efficient way to locate tumors, place surgical incisions or practice difficult procedures ahead of time.
Beyond surgery, virtual reality could also serve as a cost-effective and engaging tool for rehabilitation. Stroke and brain injury victims across Europe can now use an immersive virtual-reality therapy created by MindMazeto regain motor and cognitive function faster than with traditional physical therapy, according to the company. The virtual exercises and real-time feedback in MindMaze are made to feel like games, helping to motivate patients to practice everyday activities.
Outside of physical rehabilitation, virtual reality is also being used to ease anxiety and pain in patients across the globe. In a recent study, 79 dental patients were tested on how effective virtual reality was at distracting them from their dental anxiety and perceived pain. In the study, a third of patients were given calming coastal VR scenes, a third were given cityscapes and the remaining third served as the control with no VR at all. The patients interacting with the coastal scene reported “significantly less pain” than the other participants, with the cityscape and control doing little to ease pain and anxiety.
According to Rose Leadem of Entrepreneur.com, “professors at the University of Texas in Dallas have created a program that uses virtual reality to help children with autism develop social skills. Putting kids, teens and young adults in social scenarios such as job interviews or blind dates with avatars, they learn how to pick up on social cues and respond appropriately. By monitoring brain waves throughout the program, professors noticed increased activity in areas connected to social understanding.”
Virtual reality is also invigorating business practices. Like with the surgeons who can practice difficult surgeries and operations in a virtual world, VR technology is also innovating how the world does business. VR can reduce costs, lessen travel costs, be used for interviews, give virtual tours, analyze trends and even hold meetings. At Walmart, the company is utilizing VR as a training tool. Partnering with STRIVR, a virtual reality startup, they are using the new technology at their training academies to give employees real-world experience in tough scenarios. From Black Friday to a clean-up in Aisle 4, these new training practices allow employees to build experience and confidence before stepping their first day on the job.
According to Rose Leadem,
Virtual reality will benefit key players in the construction space such as architects and designers. The tool allows a user to virtually inhabit spaces in three dimensions. Computer-generated images will replace hand-drawn renderings -- ultimately reducing time spent reworking layouts and drawings, effectively reducing costs and increasing safety.
Simulating the real world will not only allow designers to more easily create buildings and spaces — from lighting to flooring to foundations — but it will also let designers test out environments before actually building them. For example, they can realistically understand how quickly someone is able to exit the building in the case of an emergency.
Virtual reality is also starting to be considered for its usefulness in court cases. In a typical case, jury members are tasked with piecing together a crime scene from 2D pictures, a difficult task which leads to confusion among jurors. But with virtual reality, members of the jury will be able to interact with and observe a complete 3D recreation of the crime scene. No longer will they need to rely on the statements and photos in front of them, but they will be able to see the crime scene first-hand. While courtrooms have yet to accept VR into trials, it’s easy to see exactly how useful this technology will be in the future, especially as it grows as a reputable, reliable resource.
Virtual reality is also changing how we interact with media. With the technology available to us now, wearing a VR headset allows you to interact with movies and TV shows in ways never possible. Maybe you want to replicate that “movie theater feel” in your living room by watching a film from a virtual theater, or maybe you’re interested in being a part of the movie, experiencing it from the inside, as it occurs around you. It’s like IMAX 3D on steroids — there’s no stopping how VR will innovate the film and entertainment industry.
But the technology doesn’t stop at popcorn and jump scares — VR is also innovating NASA practices. As Knvul Sheikh says:
Scientists at NASA have a tough mission: to search for life on other planets. That’s why they look to cutting-edge virtual-reality technology to control robots on Mars and to provide astronauts with a way to de-stress. At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, researchers connected the Oculus Rift with motion-sensing equipment from the Kinect 2 sensor and Xbox One game console to control a robotic arm with the operator’s gestures. The setup could one day be used to control rovers or other instruments millions of miles away, according to NASA. By adding a Virtuix Omni treadmill to the setup, researchers were also able to simulate a walk on Mars to prepare astronauts for a potential human landing.
At CES this year, NASA used this technology with the public to share the experience of what it’s like onboard various spacecraft. People got a chance to see through virtual reality what astronauts would view when climbing into the Orion capsule at the top of the agency's Space Launch System, which is slated for completion in 2018.
There are no limits to what’s possible with virtual reality. Like the invention of electricity, we are only in the infantile stages of one of the world’s greatest accomplishments — and our students need to be ready for the limitlessness of virtual reality. Just like the call for elementary internet skills in the early 2000’s and today’s push for coding literacy, virtual reality needs to make the same impact on our student’s educations as it is making on today’s industries. By preparing them today, we’re ensuring their success in the future.
Which is exactly why we designed our newest enrichment camp, Blocksmith. Tapping into virtual- and augmented reality, Blocksmith offers students unique opportunities to learn and explore. With the Blocksmith system, students learn how to create games and experiences for virtual/augmented reality. A fun and exciting journey for students and teachers alike, Blocksmith allows learning environments to create, share and experience the wide world of virtual reality.
The Blocksmith learning system introduces students to the world of virtual reality, preparing them for the not-too-distant virtual future. But don’t just take our word for it!
If you want to learn more about giving your students the tools they need to succeed in the virtual future, check out the Blocksmith Educational Camp here or view the Blocksmith webinar where PCS Edventures and the CEO of Blocksmith, Markus Nigrin, dive into exactly how an early adoption of virtual reality can prepare your students for tomorrow’s virtual future.
Leadem, R. (2017, June 02). 12 Amazing Uses of Virtual Reality. Retrieved March 05, 2018, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/slideshow/281073#0
Sheikh, K. (2016, January 19). Beyond Gaming: 10 Other Fascinating Uses for Virtual-Reality Tech. Retrieved March 05, 2018, from https://www.livescience.com/53392-virtual-reality-tech-uses-beyond-gaming.html
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