Written by IEEE | November 4, 2015 | Updated: March 30, 2017
In his panel titled, “The Future is a User-Created Reality,” Ebbe Altberg of Linden Lab walked the Content Stage audience through the very real applications of virtual reality.
Few industries are exempt from the benefits of virtual reality – Altberg kicked off by making the overarching point that VR will impact almost everything. His examples ranged between communication, business and education to health/wellness and commerce.
While the medium may be virtual, the benefits of VR are quite literal and real; VR creates a space for natural interaction in a non-physical space, and interaction is the basis for everything humans do.
Altberg shared a case study of an 88-year-old woman named Fran, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Fran used virtual reality as a means of digital therapy – it afforded her mobility she no longer had to exercise and interact with people, and stimulated her brain in such a way that minimized her symptoms.
VR is so immersive that the brain cannot distinguish between virtual or physical experiences; over time, VR can conjure false memories with the ability to improve physical and mental wellbeing. VR has also been used to treat PTSD and phobias, as well as a medium for building support groups. Altberg suggested that the audience peek at research from Jeremy Bailenson of Stanford University.
In addition to healthcare, VR is revolutionizing education technology. Universities like Texas A&M are tapping into VR for chemistry instruction, and the technology also has application for broader science instruction like anatomy, biology, etc. Beyond classroom instruction, VR can also be leveraged as a tool for offsite learning, transporting students virtually to far away places like the Coliseum, or even the moon.
General consumers should be on the lookout for more virtual reality in commerce and enterprise. It’s not so far-fetched to assume that your workplace could eventually embrace VR technology for testing, training or customer service. VR is already becoming essential to careers that rely heavily on visualization, like architecture.
While not physical, the reality – no pun intended – behind VR is that it creates a sense of experience that will challenge and change how we communicate and how we live.
Brendan Iribe of Oculus VR said it best when he said that “this is the dawn of VR.” We can only go up from here, and Altberg expects that VR will take off in the same way that photo and video sharing.