We may not have the world of flying cars, nanotechnology generating infinite food, lunar colonies and all the other weird and wonderful things that those in the 1960s dreamt of for the twenty-first century, but we do have one pretty awesome piece of technology. Virtual Reality is here, and it is massive: but will it last?
Virtual Reality: a short history
Virtual Reality has been a twinkle in the eye of many an inventor and innovator for decades, but only recently has the technology caught up with our dreams.
That said, the first prototype machine was created in 1962 by a scientist and cinematographer named Morton Hellig. His Sensorama was massively ahead of its time, but still bulky, cumbersome and restricted by the technology of his era.
As computer technology grew (approximately doubling every year!) so too did Virtual Reality. Now, the likes of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, the two major Virtual Reality headsets, are affordable for most western households and give everyone the chance to experience what until recently was thought of as space-age technology.
Present-day Virtual Reality: a passing fad?
Virtual Reality has taken the world by storm, though the $500 to $1,000 price tag for a Virtual Reality headset and kit does mean that it’s not exactly an impulse buy for most gamers – especially considering the powerful computer required to support the gaming experience.
However, we are currently at the peak of Virtual Reality technology with totally immersive gaming experiences available to many. Of course, just because we are at the peak doesn’t mean the technology has peaked; in fact, we are pretty much in the infancy of Virtual Reality and have nowhere to go but up!
The future of Virtual Reality: what’s in store?
Anyone who has used the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive has to be impressed by the technology. It’s a truly remarkable experience, but it’s made all the more remarkable when you realise we are only at the very beginning of all the possibilities Virtual Reality lays out before us.
The technology will improve and the graphics will become more and more realistic; tactile and haptic interfaces will become scarily good at mimicking real-life sensations; in short, the possibility of a virtual world indistinguishable from our own is a very real one.
It sounds a bit sci-fi scary, but the practical real-world applications of Virtual Reality in the future mean that it is most certainly here to stay. Let’s take a look at just a few uses of the technology as it grows.
Risk-free training for dangerous occupations
If you were going in for heart surgery, would you feel one hundred per cent comfortable knowing that this was the first surgery that your doctor had performed? Most people wouldn’t; we want our experts to be, well, experts!
However, what if it was your doctor’s first surgery on a real human – but she had already performed thousands of perfect practice surgeries in a Virtual Reality program that was identical to the real world? It would certainly lend most people some comfort!
Will schools be a thing of the past?
It’s pretty clear how education could adopt this technology to give students a totally immersive learning experience – why simply read about the Nuremberg Trials or the fall of the Roman Empire when you can witness it first-hand?
However, Virtual Reality could even totally eradicate the modern-day school. Students could connect via the internet to a virtual classroom with their fellow pupils and their teacher without ever having to leave their house.
Social and recreational online activities
Oculus Rift have already said that their aims for their technology lie beyond Virtual Reality computer games. As a part of Facebook, they naturally have their sights set on the social media sphere and believe that the social uses of Virtual Reality will be the most popular ones.
This emerging technology has implications beyond social media, too. Take for example the $40 billion industry of online gambling, which currently tries to match the social and “live” feel of real casinos with live dealer tables via webcam and the like. The use of Virtual Reality in online casinos may well make brick-and-mortar casinos totally obsolete.
A new world for adult entertainment
You know what we’re talking about…
The end of the world as we know it?
Going back to scary sci-fi thoughts, if Virtual Reality becomes totally indistinguishable from the real world then it may be abused by people in the same way heroin is today. Intoxication is escapism, and there is no better way to escape than to live in a virtual world – especially if that virtual life is far better than your real one.
Maybe that’s what you’re doing right now.