Virtual Reality is Booming Across All Industries
SAN MARCOS, TX- Imagine sliding on a headset and transporting to another reality, a virtual reality. While the user is physically in an empty room, they can interact with their environment and engross themselves in another world. Many associate the software with Hollywood movies such as Ready Player One or one of Scott Card’s science fiction novels. However, the billion-dollar industry is capable of much more than a James Bond simulator or fighting through a zombie infested Wild West.
Medical students can now practice procedures without fear of injuring someone. Children who have never seen beyond their city limits can travel to the Seven Wonders of the World all before lunchtime. First responders can simulate an emergency in order to be prepared for the next natural disaster. Virtual reality presents a person’s senses with a computer-generated virtual environment with the capability to explore virtual realms, whether they be completely fictional or portray a real-life setting. The software has potential for immense positive impact. Nevertheless, with great strengths come great responsibilities.
Director of the Virtual Reality and Technology Lab at Texas State University, Dr. Kenneth Scott Smith, has been working with high-risk youth, substance abuse and addiction, families, trauma, domestic violence, and the homeless population for over 10 years. During his career, he realized that he could combine his love of helping others and technology with the help of The Lab at the university. The Lab is in the process of developing virtual reality software that treats returning Veterans who experience social anxiety. Smith stated that the treatment “allows you to immerse someone into an environment they may be struggling with whereas other therapies have an individual imagine a difficult situation.” Dr. Smith believes that virtual reality can be more beneficial than other therapies as it allows for immersive contextual learning to occur.
“We asked 100s of Veterans what areas of life cause most stress and campus navigation and going to the grocery store where difficult,” said Smith. “We then developed an entire HEB to test whether the environment impacted the participant.”
While the software has potential for immeasurable positive impact, with great strengths come great responsibilities.
Unfortunately, virtual reality holds such a strong grip on users that the immersive nature can be addicting, specifically in gaming. As the software is being embraced by more sectors, this makes it more accessible and recognized by the public. Virtual reality gamer, Omar Abyad, spoke about his struggles with dependence on escapism.
“It started out as something fun to try with my friends, and I couldn’t get over how immersive it was. I felt like I was actually fighting on battlefields. The next thing I knew, eight hours had passed by, and I had done nothing but stare into my Oculus headset all day for a week straight.” Abyad, 22, is the primary target for gaming companies to cater to. According to gamequitters.com, the average age of a gaming addict is 24 years old. Abyad is now taking steps to prevent overuse by setting up an allotted amount of time to play and completing work before grabbing his headset.
Real estate markets fluctuate, and agents are constantly looking to advance their marketing tactics. According to real estate broker and Texas State University alumni, Reagan Franco, some realtors are turning to virtual reality for home showings.
“If you have the resources, several top brokerages have started staging homes with virtual reality to make rooms more appealing, especially for long distance buyers. It should be interesting to see if it takes off with smaller brokers. Who knows – maybe one day I’ll be handing out headsets instead of brochures,” said Franco.
The technology industry has proven to accelerate at rapid speed, and Covid-19 has only called for an increase in virtual use. Remote working is on the rise and companies such as Immersed and Spatial are developing virtual reality software specifically for offices. Features including remote whiteboarding, customizable workspaces, and telepresence are said to increase productivity and optimize focus. According to CNBC, nearly 32.5 million jobs around the world will be using virtual reality by 2030.
Virtual reality has integrated its way into many unthinkable industries where being physically present was thought to be nonnegotiable. The software is no longer just for playing video games and is instead changing the game for a variety of fields. It is just a matter of time until the public welcomes the latest technology. Perhaps one day virtual reality could be just as popular Facebook.
Thoughts on Virtual Reality and Education
Virtual reality is being developed in many fields such as healthcare, EMS training, and trauma therapy. Unsurprisingly, it’s now being integrated into education. I spoke with an educator, Cindy Nieman, and 2nd grade bookworm, Harper Stone, about how they see VR defining the future of education.
Immersion Studio at Texas State University
Many Texas State University students are not aware of what takes places below the bookshelves in Alkek Library. Virtual reality isn’t just for tech tycoons and Hollywood fantasies anymore. It’s now hiding right under your nose, or perhaps your study hall in this case.
The global market for virtual reality has seen record projection in growth. Technology is accelerating at an increasingly rapid pace, and the statistics below prove to anticipate how the world will look in the coming years.