The to thrive, with many companies developing VR


The concept of VR, or virtual reality, has been with us for
decades now, but recently, major advances have been made. These advances have
allowed the virtual reality industry to thrive, with many companies developing
VR technology to try and put them at the forefront of what they are hoping to
be in the future. But where is this all going, will VR end up as just another
way to watch movies and play games, or will it become the next educational
system, or even affect the way the world is run?


VR in Education

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For many years, the education system has been ever-changing
to keep up with modern technology, for example, Power Points and projectors.
Both of these were not created for education, but were created for other
purposes, nonetheless, they have become the modern way of presenting
information, I believe that this could be a reasonable path for VR to go down,
as the education system is in dire need of a rework, as many of the current
tools used for education are very ineffective and all the system needs is
access to VR.


There are many benefits of using virtual reality in the
classroom instead of things like whiteboards or projectors because if each
child was to have a VR headset that they could interact with while they were
learning something, they would learn it much quicker due to it being an active,
rather than passive learning experience. It also provides an immediate sense of
engagement for the child which even now is a problem due to shortening
attention spans even now, but more so in the future. Moreover, learning complex
topics, such as hard to understand theories becomes much easier when the
learning experience becomes personalised, to let the child focus on the parts
they don’t understand, instead of having to learn all the parts to a similar
degree, due to the rest of the class not understanding said topics. As well as
this, if the children are immersed in their own headsets, the massive current
problem of in-class distraction due to chatting amongst student will decrease
and maybe even die out completely, furthering the great benefits that school
can give a child.


One other problem with the current education system is that
people have different learning styles, visual, oral and kinaesthetic etc. In a
classroom environment, this can only be facilitated to a certain extent as
there is one teacher to many students, however with a personalised VR learning
experience this will not be a problem, as there will be the option for a child
to select a certain type of lesson for whichever style lets them learn the


Another factor that tells us why VR is such a great idea in
the classroom is that due to the younger generations becoming more and more
reliant on technology to let them live their lives. So, if VR headsets were to
be used in a classroom it would also allow for the students to understand how
to use modern technology more, and if they already do know all that they needed
to about VR, it would allow them to make significant use of this learning
facility to the point where it enhances their learning speed and therefore
allows them to further research the topics that interest them. This allows for
better creativity and personal identity, as it will give the children more
topics of interest.


One thing teachers are already able to do with virtual
reality is to create virtual worlds that convey information better than a
PowerPoint can. These virtual worlds are typically multi-user environments for
people to interact with one another behind digital avatars. These environments
are useful to take students to impossible locations, these are most effective
in Science, Medicine and Maths. For example, these environments can represent
abstract concepts that would be close to impossible to show otherwise.
Furthermore, a concept already taken into practise due to the amazing
repercussions is the simulation of medical procedures, these are good for
medical students to learn how to perform certain procedures by physically doing
them and not endangering people.


Several ways VR is
used now and may be in future


Mark Bolas, who is a professor at USC school of Cinematic
Arts and does research at the Institute for Creative Technologies has been
working in VR since 1988. He says that “VR hits on so many levels.” And that
“It’s a real out of body experience, yet completely grounded in your body.” He believes
that “VR allows us to go beyond the limits of physicality to do anything you
can think of.”  He made a series of 14
environments to try and mimic the feeling of vertigo within a virtual
environment, and to be able to look up towards the sky to see fireworks exploding,
he described the experience as magical. This creation alone can be used for so
many things, it can allow for us to feel like we are moving and to simulate a
feeling that we are looking at something, even though we may be hundreds of
miles away from it. This could lead to massive events, such as the Olympics or major
concerts being played in small venues across the globe, and being compiled into
a viewing experience available for whoever owns a headset.


Maria Korolov, a journalist who specialises in technology
and furthermore has dedicated her career to looking at virtual reality thinks
that the biggest way VR is currently changing the workplace is through training
and simulations, for example, the US military who were very early to adopt VR
for their air force. More recently, a doctor has practised heart surgery on a
tiny baby, he did this by taking scans of the heart and then uploading them to
the computer and using a VR headset to plan the surgery and give him a higher
chance of success, and he did, in fact, save the baby’s life.


On the education front, the main advancement found is Google
Expeditions. Google has been seeding schools with over 100,000 VR headsets and
lesson plans. Google Expeditions currently doesn’t actually do very much, but
it does allow kids to go on ‘Virtual Reality field trips’, to the surface of
the moon, for example. Going on to gaming, you would want something
instinctive. For example, how you feel your stomach drop as you are riding a
rollercoaster and going down a hill. There was a study where people were in a
VR shark simulation, as the open-mouthed shark was coming towards them, they
all screamed because no matter whether the experience is real or virtual, if it
is realistic enough due to it being a physical reaction you will have the same
feeling of being scared.


Maria also says that the way the internet has changed
communication of information is like the way that VR could change the way we
‘communicate experience’. For example, if you were to go to an art class, you
could be invited to a virtual art studio, and if you wanted to go on a walk
with somebody, you would be able to invite them to a virtual forest. She says
that “it will make the world even smaller than it is now and increase the
ability of people to telecommute and work together across national boundaries
dramatically.” This can bring the world closer together on many levels.


A psychologist called Skip Rizzo who works at the University
of Southern California is a director for Medical Virtual Reality has been using
VR from the 1990s. He got into VR as he became frustrated with the tools
available that allow rehabilitation for people with brain injuries. His
research started when he found out that most of his brain injured clients were
playing video games as people who find it hard to maintain attention and focus
on various everyday tasks were able to focus on these games and their condition
would get better.


The first big question he asked was “Could we build virtual
environments that represent everyday challenges to help cognitive rehab?” The
first thing he was involved in doing was building environments from videos of
Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as talking to veterans so that they could have a
deeper understanding of the environment. The first experience they created
involved riding a Humvee in diverse types of areas. The first trials involved
putting somebody who was traumatised in a situation back in a simulation of
that experience, however they did it at a gradual level, to allow the person to
handle it. The person running the experiment was able to change the time of
day, lighting and sounds to greater allow the patient to handle it. This worked
as if you confront your fears enough and then confronting the problem with
therapists, the PTSD symptoms start to become less and less and sometimes even
go away completely.


VR has also been used to allow people with high-functioning
autism to be good at job interviews, as VR is able to mimic a job interview
environment, it even goes far enough to allow there to be several types of
people being the interviewers so that the person trying to get the job will not
get scared or nervous during the real interview as they are hopefully not
caught off guard, no matter the age, gender, ethnicity or even to do with the
assorted styles of interviewing, however provocative. Skip says, “this is why
VR is so compelling, because whatever is learnt in virtual worlds, can
translate into the real world and benefit a certain person’s behaviour.”


In conclusion, I and many other people related to VR believe
that there are many directions VR can take to be one of the most used tools in
the future, for example, it could be used in primary and secondary schools to
enhance learning, it could be used in universities and further education to give
the ability to practise that line of work safely. It could also go down the
gaming route and revolutionise not only the domestic gaming experience but also
the professional gaming industry. On the other hand, VR could become everything,
our world could become completely virtual, with VR capabilities being implanted
into our bodies when we are born.


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