VR & AR IRL: Real World Uses of Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual reality (VR) has been the subject of science fiction plots for decades. Even before the term was coined, there were stories about futuristic devices that transported users to a fictional digital world. Today, these science fiction plots are quickly becoming a reality — with devices ranging from the simple Google Cardboard to the immersive HTC Vive.

Along with virtual reality, augmented reality (AR) is also gaining momentum. With AR, elements of the real world are altered or improved with things like additional graphics or data.

When we hear about virtual and augmented reality in the media, we tend to hear about the latest video games or apps. But they have uses far beyond fun and games, which will only become more applicable to our daily lives as we move towards the next generation of technology.

Health and wellness

Healthcare professionals are already seeing the benefits of using VR in the field. In fact, the first Virtual Reality and Healthcare Symposium was held in Washington, D.C. earlier this month, with topics ranging from the use of virtual reality in autism therapy to the opportunities within a VR-compatible operating room. Virtual reality can create simulated surgeries and medical emergencies, which mean safer and more cost-effective learning environments for medical students.

Virtual reality is being used in treatment as well. VR as a form of therapy is currently being used to treat phobias, anxiety disorders, and other mental health issues by exploring the problem in a safe, computer-generated environment with professional guidance. Virtual war environments have also been developed to help treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans.

Augmented reality also provides infinite opportunities in the medical field. With minor alterations to the world around them, surgeons using AR can see detailed information about what they are operating on and can easily compare other medical results like MRIs and x-rays to the body part they are examining. Neurosurgeons, for example, are able to see exact coordinates of the part of the brain that needs operation, further removing room for error.

At the rate that medical technology is evolving, it’s safe to assume VR and AR will one day be considered an essential tool to doctors around the world — and may even result in life-saving medical breakthroughs.

Education and training

Virtual reality can create a safe way to practice any risky job. That’s why militaries in many countries, including Canada and the United States, were early adopters of it. VR can train soldiers how to respond in a variety of situations, such as flight and battlefield simulations, in a low-stress, danger-free environment. Some police departments are also using the technology to train and evaluate their officers’ reactions to stressful situations.

But training with virtual reality is not reserved for dangerous jobs. Welders are able to practice their trade through VR, which allows them to practice their trade without wasting expensive materials. And Walmart recently announced plans to use VR at all 200 of its training centres to simulate situations ranging from unexpected messes to the chaos of Black Friday.

Even schoolchildren can benefit from virtual education — with VR, classes can go on “field trips” anywhere in the world, getting a lifelike interactive feel of the material they’re currently learning.

Marketing and advertising

Virtual reality is starting to find its place in the marketing world too. For some brands, this is an obvious step. Virtual reality movie trailers, for instance, allow audiences to experience an in-depth feel of the movie, and create excitement and brand recognition. Tourism companies have also been creating virtual experiences to promote their travel destinations.

It’s still rare, but some companies are even moving into fully-interactive VR. IKEA became a frontrunner in branded virtual experience when they released the IKEA VR Experience, a VR app that allows you to create, explore, and interact with a custom kitchen, with adjustable elements like height to see how your entire family might adapt to the room. IKEA has also developed a branded pancake-making game, and an augmented reality app that allows you to place life-size furniture in your home to see how it fits.

Other brands operating outside of the entertainment and lifestyle industries have been working with the technology as well. Our client Export Development Canada created a 360º video showing the dangerous and remote location their customers’ business has taken them. You can see the full campaign here.

The world of VR and AR is only just beginning, and some brands are still reluctant to experiment with it. If you’re interested, get in touch with our team and we can help you identify the right opportunity to bring to life your stories, products and services as a virtual experience.

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