In recent times, virtual reality [VR] technology has become increasingly accessible – leading to some innovative applications.
VR allows us to engage with a computer-generated landscape, creating almost endless potential in terms of the worlds we can enter.
While its application in fields like gaming has always been assured, VR is being used in increasingly creative ways. For example, candidates training in potentially dangerous pursuits like fighter piloting or surgery can use the tech to gain real-world experience, without the risk.
Here are three more innovative uses of VR technology.
It’s no exaggeration to say that VR is revolutionizing the world of adult entertainment. Because of the immersion VR offers, the pornography voyeur can now become an active participant in endless sexual play, using tools like ‘zooming in’ to engage in the scene.
In an area which is highly reliant on novelty, the ability to enhance sexual activity using VR, as well as related tech like robotics, means industry leaders will be looking to push the boundaries as far as they will go.
The change is already happening: top names in pornography (including PornHub) already offer some VR content.
On the positive side of this development, some sex experts believe the technology could be very useful when it comes to sex education, as well as being used to help with issues such as sexual dysfunctions.
2. Animal rights
Activists have always relied on undercover footage to try and spread information about the shockingly violent – and secretive – underbelly of factory farming.
Leading global animal rights organization Animal Equality was the first to utilize VR tech to bring the factory farms and slaughterhouses to the viewer through its iAnimal series.
The group launched the third film in its series in July – showing the life and death of dairy cows, with footage obtained in Mexico, Germany, and Britain.
Viewers are transported to farms and the slaughterhouse using headsets with 360 degree imagery.
Animal Equality Founder Jose Valle said: “I had always wished I could bring people into the facilities with me, so they could see them with their own eyes.
“The experience is just not the same with traditional video.”
Executive Director at Animal Equality UK, Toni Shephard, added: “The only thing that’s missing is the overwhelming smell of these places – otherwise, this is the best tool we have for getting people inside.”
Other groups are likely to continue using VR technology. Wayne Hsiung, is Co-founder of Direct Action Everywhere, a global vegan campaign group.
He calls VR technology a ‘game changer’, saying that the meat industry often accuses activists of using clever editing and filming to make animal agriculture look bad.
“With VR, you’re seeing exactly what we saw and hearing exactly what we heard,” he says.
3. To reduce pain at the dentist
That’s right. This may seem like less of a game changer than some of VR’s other applications – but for dentist-phobes, it could be life-changing.
A paper published in the Environment and Behavior journal said that a simple VR experience can distract from pain – and even looked at some of the content that could be useful in this context.
According to the paper, called The Soothing Sea: A Virtual Coastal Walk Can Reduce Experienced and Recollected Pain, the anxiety, and pain medical procedures can provoke in patients can make some people less likely to undergo the treatment.
Researchers added: “Some people avoid or delay dental care because they experience fear and anxiety, and the expectation of pain has been identified as a major barrier to seeking dental care.
“Despite advances in dental care, patients still rate dental treatment as painful…It has been suggested that reducing the experience of pain and anxiety would lead to less unpleasant memories of the experience, and as a consequence increase the likelihood of future oral health care attendance.”
Distractions like television and music are said to help, and now that VR has become increasingly available, its use in pain management is becoming more popular.
So what kind of content can help distract from the dentist’s drill?
According to this paper: “Two studies tested how interacting with nature VR influenced experienced and recollected pain after 1 week.
“In Study 1, nature (coastal) VR reduced both experienced and recollected pain compared with no VR. In Study 2, nature (coastal) VR reduced experienced and recalled pain in dental patients, compared with urban VR and standard care.
“Together, these data show that…the content of the VR matters: Coastal nature is better than urban.”