Top 10 Weird Uses for VR 2017 – Yes, #10 is VR Porn
Lately, the chatter in Silicon Valley and beyond has revolved around virtual reality (VR). It seems everyone, from Google over Apple to Facebook, is rushing to get aboard the VR niche as it gets mainstream. So far however, most talk on VR has been focused on its applications in gaming. There are already tons of games available for VR users. Even Sony has released a VR system specifically for PlayStation 4.
But the applications for virtual reality are quickly spreading far and wide. It is not just playing games or watching immersive movies that this novel technology is good for; there are many other unusual uses coming up. Below, we list the 10 most interesting (some admittedly weird) uses of VR. If we have missed any, give us a heads up in the comments below.
1. Mental health therapy
One of the areas where virtual reality has made unexpected ripples is in mental health. Mental health therapy traditionally involves numerous sessions with a professional and success is not always guaranteed. Even more unfortunately, not everybody has access to professional mental therapy due to rising medical costs. Could VR change all that?
In Grand Rapids, Michigan a counseling center is applying VR exclusively to help patients deal with various mental issues. VR Therapy and Counseling Center deals in issues such as teen self-esteem, fear of heights, stress relief and trauma. By inserting their patients into virtual worlds using customized VR programs, counselors at the center are able to help patients overcome their fears, stresses and challenges in a safe and controlled environment. So far, successful therapy outcomes have not been hard to come by.
The clinic won $30,000 in prize money for their innovation.
There is an even more impactful implication of applying VR in this manner. Can you imagine what would happen if in a few years time, anyone with a VR kit could perform basic self-directed or remotely guided therapy? Effective mental therapy solutions will suddenly be available to most people.
Ongoing studies have shown some promise in treating depression and PTSD using virtual reality under professional guidance. As the technology grows, there will be plenty of apps anyone can use for applications such as these.
2. Disaster preparedness
When Japan was hit by a deadly Tsunami in March 2011, it fell upon an unprepared populace. The government and public are not taking chances with the next potential disaster and preparedness efforts have spread as far as virtual reality.
At Aichi University of Technology in Japan, experts have created an VR simulation program to help people get ready for the next big disaster. The program is powered by Facebook’s Oculus Rift virtua reality system.
Essentially, individuals using the program are placed in a realistic world with disaster unfolding. Interviews with Tsunami survivors and footage from the disaster allow experts to create a highly realistic simulation of waves forming and buildings crumbling.
In a car, one has to learn how to navigate and survive through the simulated catastrophe, hopefully preparing them for a real life situation.
The implications of this application could be huge. A combination of global warming and natural earth phenomena means that future disasters are all but guaranteed. Giving people a taste of what it will be like and preparing them to cope might just make the difference between survival and getting wiped out. VR could be used in preparing for volcanic explosions, floods and hurricanes.
3. Doctor-patient connection
It is hard to overstate the importance of empathy when doctors are dealing with patients. Understanding, or at least trying to understand, what patients are feeling, both emotionally and physically makes a big difference in the efficacy of treatment. But when it comes to the treatment of elderly patients, there is a big problem.
While the proportion of elderly people is expected to keep rising in the coming years, the average age of doctors seems to be getting lower. Currently, the average age of students getting into medical schools is 24. Less than four percent of entrants are aged 31 and over. There is a big disproportion between the age of doctors and patients, and that gap is expected to continue growing.
Believe it or not, VR is being used to find a solution to this problem. Most young doctors experience a disconnect with the older patients, never having experienced aging. Not only can this lead to miscommunication, it can also result in a wrong diagnosis and treatment. This is where VR comes in.
Embodied Labs, a company specializing in this area of VR application, has a program that allows younger doctors to really understand what it is like being old. The program uses the fictional character of a 74-year old man called Alfred. In a span of 7 minutes, the user lives in Alfred’s virtual body, understanding the difficulty he experiences in interacting with medical professionals. In one scene, a doctor mistakes Alfred’s audiovisual impairments for cognitive problems.
The company is expanding into similar applications for other medical professionals such as physical therapists and nurses.
4. Gaining animal eyesight
You may assume that animals see exactly as you do, but you could not be more wrong. Animals have see the world differently from humans; some perspectives are closer to our own while others are vastly different. Bulls for example are color blind, despite the myth that they are excited by the color red. Dogs, mice, cats and rabbits perceive mostly grays and a few yellows and blues. Some birds and bees perceive colors that humans cannot.
You can therefore see why it would be an exciting thing to get a chance to see as animals do. Well, now you can thanks to virtual reality.
An innovative VR helmet allows you to see the forest as wild animals would, with all the color weirdness included. The headset uses VR simulation to present a realistic perspective of various animals including frogs, owls and dragonflies.
The VR helmets and the programs powering them are the product of Marshmallow Laser Feast design studio based in London, UK.
5. Combat training
The military is often at the cutting edge of technological advances and has not been left behind in adopting VR for the field. One of the areas where VR is being applied in the military is combat training. Instead of having to imagine what a real combat situation would look like or waiting until war arises to get combat experience, virtual reality takes soldiers as close to reality as possible without putting them in danger.
Using VR, soldiers in training are immersed into a simulated combat experience customized to fit their specific training program. They learn how to proceed in dangerous situations, how to react to the unexpected and how to interact with other soldiers and their superiors. Most importantly, it allows inexperienced soldiers to learn how to handle high-stress situations such as those of war zones.
While VR will never replace military training, it will become a big part soldier training programs around the world. And it’s not just for on-the-ground situations; it can simulate other things like night-time flying (for Air Force trainees) and marine combat scenarios.
6. Crime scene investigation
Despite what TV shows tend to portray, crime scene investigation is incredibly difficult work. The description ‘finding a brown needle in a brown haystack’ is apt for the kind of tedious work real life crime scene analysts, as they are called, conduct.
Any technology that makes it easier to reconstruct the scene and get more clues is therefore more than welcome. Virtual reality is a hot contender for the next groundbreaking crime scene investigation technology.
At the University of Zurich, forensic medicine experts contend that VR could be used to explore 3D computer reconstructions of crime scenes. This could act an illustrative aid to help juries make decisions. The jurors do not have to imagine what happened as the scene of the crime is recounted by the prosecutor; instead, they can step inside the scene themselves and see the precise details involved.
In the future, this application could extend beyond the courtroom. Detectives could use VR to explore a crime scene reconstruction in a more precise and objective manner.
A place with dusty old relics seems like the last place for groundbreaking technology like virtual reality. But the services offered by museums make it the perfect place for such innovation. When you go to a museum, you are essentially seeking a peek into the past. You could be looking at a tool used centuries ago, a space shuttle used by NASA or remnants of a past culture. But what if you could virtually travel back in time and experience the world as it was?
This is what VR experts are attempting to achieve in museums. For instance, a museum could create a simulation of what it was like to live among the dinosaurs, or they could create a virtual reality of life in an ancient civilization.
This is not all. With VR, you could visit more than three museums in different parts of the world in a single day, and it is already happening. In London, the British Museum had a virtual reality weekend in 2015. In New York, the American Museum of Natural History has some collections viewable using Google Cardboard. In the near future, you could zoom from The Louvre in Paris to The Smithsonian in Washington to The Hermitage in St.Petersburg while seated comfortably at home.
This could have major implications for researchers and educators all over the world.
It is only logical that the next step from VR gaming was VR shopping. After all, it is one of the most commonly undertaken activities. While the process of shopping through VR is essentially similar to that of shopping via your Smartphone, the experience is wildly different.
Trillenium, a new VR app launched in the UK, allows online brands to create realistic shopping experiences for their customers. Instead of browsing through products on your Smartphone screen, you virtually wander through the physical store, checking out what they have to offer.
Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, is yet to adopt the technology, an action that could turn VR shopping mainstream. But at least they seem to be thinking in that direction. In March, there were reports that the online giant was looking to hire a VR specialist with the hopes of creating a more immersive shopping experience.
If VR shopping ever catches on, and chances are that it will, it will be to the great benefit of retailers. It could be helpful in eliminating trust issues customers have when shopping online. If you are buying a piece of machinery, you can view it in more detail with VR. This could even extend into other ecommerce areas such as real estate, where prospective homeowners and renters can walk through a property before committing to a deal.
Now, architects can walk through their creations even before the foundation is set, thanks to virtual reality. Using special apps, architects can explore virtual versions of their buildings. They can walk from room to room, determining whether everything looks right. They can even turn on lights.
The advantage of this is that any necessary changes can be made before the project begins. For example, when taking the virtual tour, the architect may notice that the windows are not large enough and decide to enlarge them. They can then see the changes in real time.
Soon, VR will not only be essential tools for architects but also for many other creators and designers as well.
10. VR Porn
How could we go without mentioning porn? It is one of the least expected uses of VR but one that has taken off rapidly. Big names such as Pornhub and XVideos have already jumped aboard together with a host of new names geared specifically for VR porn.
This different medium of viewing porn is bound to feel different. While a screen tends to dehumanize porn actors, VR thrusts (pun intended) the viewer right into the scene of action, creating a more real life sensation. With a recent VR porn festival in Japan cancelled due to the enormous number of people wanting to get in and a huge spike of “VR Porn” in Google search – VR porn is a very big deal.
If you have tried VR Porn, please tell us of your experience in the comments.
It may appear just like the latest buzz out of Silicon Valley but VR is one of the most powerful technologies of the century. It is not only bound to take big steps forward in the coming years, it will also impact numerous aspects of human life from education to healthcare to entertainment.
Do you, think VR technology is a big deal? Leave your comments below.
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