The new frontiers of virtual reality
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Virtual reality (VR) has entered its golden age and now has the potential to help people experience episodes and incidences, across time periods, from a uniquely first-person perspective. While VR continues to make its mark on entertainment, it has immense potential to allow people to experience something ground-breaking. It equips people to experience being in two realities at once, making ‘duality of presence’—being present in two ‘worlds’ at once—a possibility. This extrapolation of VR into reality has an extraordinary potential to create greater empathy, understanding, compassion, and connection to the ‘real world’.
Virtual reality has the capability to make one feel, and the power to make one ‘know’. By immersing in a ‘real’ experience, VR provides a perspective from prime sources and acts as a representation of the real world. It has the potential to positively impact sectors such as healthcare, media and bring immersive experiences to life.
High-resolution imaging and detection technologies help enable precise, swift, and timely diagnosis, can limit the number of invasive procedures, and support preventive care. As an example, VR is currently being used to help patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Utilizing Bravemind, a clinical, interactive, virtual reality-based exposure therapy tool, an immersive and realistic virtual environment as well as unique interactive scenarios can be recreated. These enable a full-body experience to help normalize the patients’ experiences, thus fast-forwarding the therapy in some cases by as much as two to three years.
VR opens the avenues to experience places and time periods otherwise inaccessible to an individual. This feeds into man’s desire for continuous discovery of the earth, ocean and even the stars. One such example of this is the creation of Cry Out: The Lonely Whale Experience, an underwater VR expedition. It takes the viewer into the depths of the sea where they can witness the underwater life and how pollution has disrupted and injured the delicate ecosystems that create our oceans. This experience educates individuals about the implication of a mere ordinary act on climate change.
VR has also made an impact on journalism, bringing stories closer to life for viewers. With video content fast becoming one of the most popular modes of consumption, many media houses are significantly investing in platforms which enable a video-first content approach. With a firm foundation of traditional journalism, experiences are designed which offer viewers a fully embodied walk-around technology. This offers a virtual but “first-hand” sensation of being an actual witness as a story unfolds.
Many media houses internationally have already ventured into virtual journalism and have produced numerous VR documentaries. With the rapid technological advancements in India, VR stands at the cusp of altering storytelling forever. Indian documentaries such as Cost of Coal (India’s first documentary in VR) and Displaced, planned for release in 2016, are indicative of the potential in the technology.
VR can fundamentally change the way individuals, groups and organizations interact, and for those interested in experiencing and sharing its powerful benefits, it offers an exceptional opportunity, perhaps unlike any other medium. To realise the full potential of VR, pioneering VR headsets and VR-capable hardware and software are required. This is only possible through the partnerships and vision of companies and organizations that bring the most cutting-edge technology to this virtual table. And that’s the reality.
Roy Taylor is corporate vice president of alliances, Advanced Micro Devices Inc.