It wasn’t so long ago that virtual reality was a vague futuristic idea, something you might see used as a plot device in basically every Keanu Reeves movie that doesn’t involve a speeding bus. As we all know, things tend to change rapidly when it comes to technology, so while virtual reality is still used as a plot device, it’s now poised to go completely mainstream, not just allowing average, everyday people to use or consume it, but allowing those same people to create it with a 360 VR camera designed for the consumer market. Here’s a look at how virtual reality went big and is about to become commonplace.
Fun and games
Virtual reality has existed as a technology, at least in a rudimentary form, since the late 1960s, but it didn’t have its breakout until it was paired up with video games. After failed attempts at bringing the technology to video games in the ‘80s and ‘90s, virtual reality gaming took off in 2012 with the Oculus Rift. Since then, a number of other gaming headsets have joined the party, namely the Sony PlayStation VR and HTC Vive. Each of these headsets provide players with high-quality VR and have been well received and well-reviewed. With over five years of VR gaming in the books, this is a trend that is not only here to stay, but that has spawned much wider virtual reality applications.
Already impressive offerings
For everyday VR use, the technology has moved beyond gaming and beyond requiring a headset. Some video-sharing platforms now offer online VR videos that allow viewers to click around all 360-degrees of the video to take in whatever aspect of the virtual reality video they’d like to at any given moment. The VR viewing capabilities on platforms like YouTube are making virtual reality especially accessible as no equipment is required beyond an internet-connected device.
Speaking of accessibility, one of the greatest things the current crop of VR offerings can do is turn the most exotic locations, such as Indonesia’s Bird’s Head Seascape, or unbelievable experiences, such as taking a run down an Olympic bobsled track, into experiences that can be enjoyed by anyone. Thanks to VR, people are able to see the world and live out their wildest dreams regardless of monetary, physical or any other type of limitation.
For the cause
Through its unparalleled visuals and capacity for storytelling, virtual reality is also tremendously effective at bringing awareness to important issues. Organizations focused on conservation such as Greenpeace and Conservation International have notably used VR to show the world the work they do and the irreplaceable locations and ecosystems that need to be protected. The United Nations has also famously used VR to bring attention to the plight of Syrian refugees with their film Clouds over Sidra, one of many organizations using VR to tap into empathy to effect positive change.
Virtual reality is also used as a more direct means of education, helping to train professionals like pilots, surgeons, being incorporated into on-the-job training for everyone from managers to entry-level positions, and being used in K-12 school as well as post-secondary to improve engagement and retention and provide a level of immersive learning that was previously impossible.
There are plenty of VR applications that benefit businesses ranging all the way from wedding videographers looking to provide premier products to home hardware stores looking to demonstrate DIY projects to shoppers, but it’s hard to talk about those applications when VR could also allow a grandfather suffering from dementia to relive an important memory, or enable a young hospitalized cancer patient to feel as though she’s sitting in her living room watching a football game with her family.
It’s incredible to think we’re still in the early days of virtual reality.
Your reality made virtual
For all the amazing applications of virtual reality or VR, what may go down as the most exciting development in VR is be the release of the 360 VR camera designed for the consumer market.
These are lightweight and handheld cameras that employ 4K resolution and high-resolution audio with 360-degree filming capability. With just the touch of a button users can begin capturing their own reality and turning it into 3D 360-degree virtual reality, the most stunningly immersive experiences that share every sight and sound, from the tiniest details to the most sweeping vistas.
With these cameras, technology that once seemed the stuff of science fiction and then seemed the stuff of rich enterprises and major filmmakers can now be in the hands of pretty much anyone. This essentially makes the potential of virtual reality virtually limitless. Now that 3D 360-degree virtual reality is so easy to create and then share with anyone who has an internet connection, we’re about to be collectively astounded by the creativity and genius of our fellow human beings.
A virtual future
It’s impossible to speculate on what the talented everyday people we all know will be capable of creating now that virtual reality is a technology anyone can use. However, it’s probably safe to say that we’re going to experience an increase in connectedness, beauty, brilliance, empathy, love and laughter. That sounds like a pretty good reality. Better than even the happiest ending of a Keanu Reeves movie.