Traveling into an alternate universe is no longer science fiction. In fact, virtual reality is now a reality. The 2016 Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas showcased an array of new technological innovations that were once thought of only in the realm of science fiction. With the tech industry’s boom in recent years, many recent technological innovations seem to be reshaping society for generations to come. One advancement surely to challenge our parameters of imagination and innovation is virtual reality technology. The rise of the VR industry is signaling an important paradigm shift to come, as tech innovators and investors flock to compete for a share in the new industry.

The Oculus Rift Headset is pioneering the virtual reality movement and completely revolutionizing the gaming world. However, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg sees virtual reality technology as  more than an outlet for gaming. Just before Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus, Zuckerberg noted “Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones.”  Zuckerberg sees a world where one classroom of students can connect to other classrooms and teachers from all over the world. The opportunities are limitless.

As of now, the dominant application for VR technology is gaming. However, its interface it continually being improved upon. Stylish headsets are already becoming readily accessible for general society.  This introduction of VR will provide an array of unforeseen services for individuals and companies alike and subsequent changes in a variety of sectors. In this article, I hope to cover some possible applications for this exciting technology beyond the gaming industry.

 

Cinema

In the entertainment industry, 3-D movies already attract large sums of audiences. However, a 360-degree immersion into a movie may follow suit in the coming years. 360-degree cinema will place viewers quite literally in the middle of the movie by surrounding viewers with realistic imagery and an intense auditory experience.

 

Travel and Tourism

The travel and tourism industry are seeing virtual reality technology as a wonderful way to introduce people to new places. You can be in lavish destinations such as Hawaii or the Virgin Islands in minutes without ever having to leave your couch. Hopefully the VR experience would not replace the pleasures of travel, but it is certainly a great method to distribute promotional materials and elicit powerful empathic reactions from around the world.

 

Education

As Zuckerberg said, imagine studying in a classroom with students and classmates from all over the world. In an idea world, VR technology could make education more accessible to individuals all over the world. Educational initiatives have already begun; one example is Toyota’s campaign to educate teens on the dangers of distracted and/or drunk driving in its TeenDrive365 Campaign.

 

Healthcare

The health industry has been adopting the technology. Docots and medical professionals use VR simulators, CAT Scan and Ultrasound results in order to best diagnose and treat patients. They also are capable of constructing 3-D models of a patient’s anatomy; these virtual models help professionals find abnormalities and guide them toward the best treatment methods.

 

Space

Space exploration is expensive, difficult, and severely limited for the moment. NASA has already been dabbling in virtual reality technology according to Livescience.com. VR technology permits scientists to testing their limits and envision uses for space exploration and training. Astronauts could virtually control space exploration machinery on another planet’s surface. It can also help better train and prepare astronauts for extraterrestrial flight and planet exploration.
Although most of these applications are still in early speculation phases, they will surely become common practice as the technology continues to improve.