Potential Impacts of VR
Commonly abbreviated as VR, Virtual Reality is an interactive computer-generated experience that takes place within a simulated environment or three-dimensional image (Burdea & Coiffet, 2003). The experience is generated by a blend of interactive software and hardware and then presented in a realistic fashion such that the user interacts and accepts the simulated environment as if it were real. The immersive environment can either be real or artificial and is usually produced in 3D modeling software before being fed into the VR system. Current VR technologies utilize multi-projected environments, VR headsets, or a combination of props to generate realistic sounds, images, and sensations that physical presence in a simulated environment (Burdea & Coiffet, 2003). A VR user can not only look around in the simulated world but also move and interact with objects within it. Presently, VR systems are used in gaming, medical, military, aviation, education, entertainment, architecture, and tourism, among other industries.
VR technology exists in three main categories namely fully-immersive, semi-immersive, and non-immersive simulations (Castronovo, Nikolic, Liu, & Messner, 2013, October). Each of these categories represents a distinct level of immersion. As the name implies, fully-immersive simulations provide the highest level of immersion (Meiling & Zhengyong, 2015). A fully-immersive VR system utilizes head-mounted displays and motion detection devices to simulate all senses of the user. As a result, the user is able to get very real experiences that are delivered through increased update rates, a wide field of view, high resolutions, and high levels of contrast. Semi-immersive simulations provide a less immersive experience than fully-immersive systems. These systems resemble and use technologies such as those used in flight simulation where users receive experiences through a high-performance graphical computing system coupled with multiple television systems or large screen projector systems. Non-immersive simulations provide the least immersive experiences. In a typical non-immersive VR simulation, only several of the user’s senses are implemented. This allows for the awareness of peripherals outside the VR simulation. Users of a non-immersive simulation can access the system via a portal or window by utilizing high-resolution monitors powered by a conventional desktop application.
Potential Impacts of VR
The ability of VR to simulate environments while allowing interactive, immersive and multistory capabilities makes it a potentially useful technology in many industries. Notably, VR bypasses barriers between computers and humans by allowing users to experience a computer-generated stereoscopic environment (Lipschultz, 2004). For this reason, VR will become a part of daily life and will be utilized in multiple ways like influencing human behavior, cognition, and even interpersonal communication. It may cause migration into the “virtual space,” which would further lead to a myriad of other transitions such as a change in worldview, culture, economics, and socio-political beliefs. Areas that have already experienced changes due to VR include but are not limited to heritage and archeology, fiction books, mass media, motion pictures, television, games, music videos, fine arts, healthcare, marketing, real estates, education, tourism, and aviation, among others.
The potential impact of VR by the year 2015 will be immense. Given that smartphones, computers, “internet of things” devices have already led to a shift in social life, and that every new technology version is openly endorsed by the society, VR technologies may create a new virtual world where people do not need to meet physically in order to interact. Brands such as PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift have already demonstrated the practicality of such a world by giving demos and experiences ranging between office simulators, jump-scare horror, and space exploration. This shows that a giant immersive VR experience is possible and inevitable in the near future (Blascovich & Bailenson, 2011). Some technology experts have also developed other minor versions of VR like augmented reality and the mixed reality that allow users to experience simulations and the physical world at the same time (Burdea & Coiffet, 2003). Looking ahead, there seems to be no limit as to where VR will be applied. It may be applied in the military and medicine for training personnel, real estate and business for simulating meetings and 3D tours or even attending celebrity personally.
Evidently, virtual reality has many potential implications for future societies. One of the greatest advantages of VR as a form of emerging technology is the ability to bridge the gap between computing devices and humans. With VR technologies, humans can visualize, manipulate, and interact with information in virtual environments. This capability can be utilized in almost any industry and can be particularly interesting when applied in educational settings where students are curious about exploring practical information and situations or where the real environments pose risks to students and instructors such as anti-terrorism training, firefighting, nuclear decommissioning, aircraft inspection, and crane driving, and so on. Potential risks for the use of VR include high costs, eye strain, dizziness, distortion, and addictiveness. The social impact of addictive virtual environments may be especially dire as some people may prefer the virtual world to the real world.