Even though the technology is not new, virtual reality is still an emerging tech. It has spent several decades on the periphery of mainstream spotlight, sitting just off to the side while other technologies took center stage. In recent years, after events that unwittingly facilitated the change, virtual reality development was pushed into the spotlight and is finally getting the recognition it needs to gain momentum in mainstream media. With this sudden push, there are those who question the field as a whole, claiming that it is a mere gimmick.
Virtual reality is a software that, when combined with head mounted displays and sensors, offer the user an immersive environment capable of tricking their brains into believing they don't occupy the physical space they're in. Because it has been so often used in entertainment some people are skeptical. It's understandable, given its main use has been in game development, an area that people often don't take seriously. What other uses could VR technology have in everyday use? Regardless, the development has earned its place among mainstream media and will adapt to many environments.
The question remains: is virtual reality worth it?
Pros and Cons of Virtual Reality
While there are major benefits to virtual reality, it's not without its drawbacks. Here's a short pros and cons list.
Pro: Virtual reality technology can be used in many fields of work.
Con: Training in a simulated environment has lower stakes and lower intensity. While its there to help a trainee learn what to do in any event, there's no real replacement for on-the-job training.
Pro: Communication can happen between coworkers, gamers, and family across vast distances in real time. It connects person to person.
Con: It eliminates the need for interpersonal interactions, which simultaneously eliminates the daily interactions that are important for mental health.
Pro: Users can have awesome experiences in simulated environments.
Cons: This can lead to a feeling of worthlessness in the physical world and subsequent addiction to the simulated environment.
Pro: The technology is still experimental. Virtual reality has come a long way in recent years, and there are areas of development that can and will be improved upon.
Con: The technology is still experimental. Being a newer technology used in every day life, few studies have been done on the long term positive and negative impacts of VR use.
Use Cases of Virtual Reality
While virtual reality has gained most of its recognition as a gaming tech, giving players an experience like they've never had before, VR has branched out across industries as more and more businesses recognize the benefits of implementing virtual reality into their company. From manufacturing and construction to employee training and education, virtual reality has many use cases not even thought of yet. Here are some ways users have implemented the development into their lives and areas of expertise.
Training: Because of the immersive environment, virtual reality has the ability to train employees more effectively and at a more rapid pace than traditional training methods. Employers are using VR as a low-risk training method to onboard employees faster and give them on the job experience before ever stepping foot into the work place.
Education: Teachers are slowly accepting virtual reality as a valuable addition to their toolbox. Not only does VR give them another way for their students to interact with each other and their course material, it offers teachers a way to connect with kids who have a harder time grasping content. They also plan virtual field trips and science experiments to give their students a wider array of experiences.
Entertainment: Of course, this has to be on the list. Virtual reality gives the entertainment industry another way to reach audiences. Watching television in VR creates a more immersive experience. Arcades are popping up all over the world specializing in virtual reality gaming. Even sports entertainment utilizes the technology.
Marketing: Marketing departments will always take advantage of every possible avenue of reaching audiences and raising brand awareness and profit. Like a game ad in the middle of Woodoku that allows you to play the advertised game to get you interested; interacting in a physical way, rather than reading about it in the ad garners more attention and subsequent revenue for the company.
Military: The military has been using virtual reality for years, training soldiers to be more efficient in the field and off. Using things like navigation, battle simulations, and terrain evaluations, virtual reality ensures that they're ready for any situation.
Healthcare: Many hospitals, especially teaching hospitals, have begun to use virtual reality for a myriad of reasons. Using VR devices, educators have been able to explain tricky surgeries and procedures in order to have more effectively taught students. Virtual reality has enabled healthcare professionals to give better patient care, reassuring nervous patients about their surgery or diagnosis. VR allows the patient to see 3D diagrams of the affected area and gives a more accurate representation of their own body. It has also reduced the amount of risk to professional and patient by doing virtual walk throughs of scenarios and giving them a place to practice in a low-risk environment.
Cost of Virtual Reality
Virtual reality is by no means cheap. There is a larger upfront cost to adding VR technology into your marketing strategy, training course, or whatever industry you're in. Not only does the computer processor have an initial cost, so does the actual hardware involved (sometimes costing up to 1,000 USD for a full set up), as well and the development of the software. For instance, virtual reality training programs have a higher startup cost than traditional book or video methods. However, the long-term investment and continual use of the devices goes down with every use.
In business, having a fully trained employee on the floor reduces costs associated with standard employee mistakes. It makes high risk situations lower risk simply because they already know how to handle themselves. Overall, the initial investment leads to a higher ROI, making virtual reality a worthwhile investment.
Not only are there monetary reductions over time, there are also emotional gratifications that have nothing to do with being in the simulated environment. For instance, when a student finally grasps a tricky concept that they just didn't get before makes the cost justifiable.
So, to answer the question, is virtual reality worth it- yes. But is it worth what? The financial investment? Yes. Virtual reality is adaptive and helps streamline processes for many fields of work. It eliminates costs associated with employee mistakes and long-term training. In terms of standard education or everyday use, like gaming, still yes. It creates an environment in which students can learn critical skills in an interactive way, leading to better conceptual understanding. It also creates a more interactive experience for those seeking a temporary escape from the stress of every day reality and allows them to be somewhere else.
There are risks to using virtual reality, like addiction, headaches, and nausea, but with moderation and a good understanding of the potential risks, users can moderate their usage and actively work to eliminate these risks. Virtual reality has been around for a long time, skating around the edge of mainstream media. Those developing the technology and creating metaverse experiences will continue to invest their time and experience in it, creating new ways to interact with each other, and will always find the development and progression of valuable technologies worth it.