Unbelievable! Mind-blowing! You have to see it to believe it! My life will never be the same!
These are but a few of the colorful expressions people have used the world over to describe their first experience with a virtual reality (VR) headset. By now we have all tried a rollercoaster ride with a phone strapped to our heads and have been left bedazzled by the sheer potential VR presents.
VR has really come full circle. From its origin as pure sci-fi like the yet-to-be-made hoverboard, to the $10,000 headsets a decade or two ago, to the Oculus Rift and Vive, the VR revolution is finally upon us.
While the technology is making a lot of noise in gaming circles, its ability to completely immerse a person in a virtual environment is useful in other applications as well. So, if you are looking to hop on the VR bandwagon, then here are four options to consider…
Real estate is no more about just putting a roof over your head. Realtors today focus on selling a lifestyle and experience which is hard to convey if your only available medium is a 2D monitor or billboard.
But imagine walking through a virtual version of your preferred property while comfortably sitting in your bedroom or an agent’s office. For the first time ever, realtors can put their prospects inside a building without actually taking them there, or before the project is even complete. As all VR devices have stereoscopic 3D, it imparts depth and helps the viewer understand a space better.
Opportunities for developers: Develop apps which realtors can use to easily and affordably create virtual versions of their properties. Currently, the cheapest VR apps allow people to check out photos and videos on a website with a VR viewer like the cardboard.
However, complete walkthroughs can be costly and require a VR professional with specialized equipment. There are a range of applications here depending on how much interactivity and immersion is required.
Opportunities for realtors: Matterport can help you create virtual versions of your properties and submit them to their library. You can also try augmented reality apps such as Re-flekt to visualize your property straight from its blueprint on a table. Both these tools are awesome ways to help you explain your ideas to prospects.
From helping surgeons train for operations to seeing real-time images of a patient’s anatomy in stereoscopic 3D, VR has tons of potential that can help healthcare professionals provide a better service. Globally, the market for VR in healthcare is expected to touch $3.8 billion by 2020.
Opportunities for developers: There’s a lot of research being done on how VR can be used in healthcare, however few companies are turning the body of knowledge into practical applications, which means there is a large untapped market waiting for tech entrepreneurs. Education software and next-gen telepresence devices that can impart a more realistic look and feel of health related scenarios to doctors are the logical next step.
VR apps and tools to help patients recover from psychological issues such as learning disabilities and PTSD can also be developed.
Opportunities for healthcare professionals: Simulators such as ImmersiveTouch and Medical Realities can help doctors get better training and perform operations remotely via head mounted devices like the Oculus Rift. Another app called Virtually Better helps people with anxiety by introducing them to the stimulus that triggers unease in a friendly environment.
While training is ubiquitous in every industry, it deserves a special mention here. Virtual reality has been used very effectively by the military and aerospace companies to train pilots and soldiers to become better acquainted with the stressful environments they will be working in. With tools becoming even cheaper, the tech is poised to disrupt training techniques in many other industries now.
VR has a lot to offer in professional training since immersion is very important here — dangerous professions such as law enforcement, construction, flying can benefit from the ultra realistic experience of VR without putting beginners in risky situations.
Opportunities for developers: Training is required in virtually every industry on the planet, and it can always benefit from greater immersion, so there’s "virtually" limitless potential here! Developers can leverage the falling cost of hardware to create apps which help professionals acquire skills faster and retain them.
Opportunities for professionals: If you are involved in LE/defense, aerospace, academia or entertainment, then chances are you have already heard of VR. The technology is still new, so it will take some time before it sees widespread acceptance; although things are changing fast. Companies like Fundamental VR and Eon Reality are creating custom VR training solutions for multiple industries.
While computer aided education is on the rise, education for the most part has remained surprisingly aloof to the opportunities made available. Most training methods employed by education institutes are easily a hundred years old. All this is poised to change as VR becomes popular, though.
The ability to put students right in the middle of a subject (literally) will give educators many creative options to explore. Imagine being able to ride along a famous general in a historic battle, or examine a 3D model of the human anatomy, or explore other planets while sitting in a classroom. With VR, students will be able to learn like they were meant to — directly, with hands-on experience.
Opportunities for developers: Bridge the gap between educators and students with interactive VR content. For example, Google Expedition is designed to give students a virtual tour of any location on earth, while Unimersiv is publishing a new educational experience every month.
Opportunities for educators: Give your students an experience they simply cannot forget. Apart from the apps mentioned above, you can also look into AlchemyVR which is publishing VR content on a massive scale. AlchemyVR has partnered with Samsung, Google, Sony, London’s Natural History Museum and the Australian Museum in Sydney to create highly detailed content for students.
Zspace on the other hand offers a dedicated VR computer and 3D glasses instead of HMDs to pop images out of the screen. The image can be manipulated with a stylus.
It’s hard to cover all the applications VR offers in just one article. Truth be told, you are only limited by your imagination here.
If you are interested in finding out more on getting started in VR, then try VR at Google. Google’s SDK allows you to develop apps for their Daydream and Cardboard platforms.
This article on how to make a VR app with no experience also has tons of great info for developers who want to create something for Google Cardboard. This Quora thread is another great place to get your VR bearings straight.
At the moment, VR is where the smartphone market was a decade back. According to DigiCapital, the AR and VR industry is expected to hit the $150 billion mark by 2020 so suffice to say the technology is here to stay. There is a huge demand for VR-ready content — it’s ideal for developers to get into the market while the competition and barrier to entry is still low.