We all know what we want from VR: better space simulator games. Maybe movies we can look around in, too. But the industry isn’t shaped merely by our expectations. It’s full of engineers and creators, who are taking VR to places we wouldn’t have imagined. Here are some examples of VR uses that we couldn’t have expected.
VirZoom: Making Exercise Fun
Exercising is not fun; it makes you leave the comfort of the bed to do boring, repetitive tasks in the cold, grey reality until you stink. VirZoom targets the boring part. This barebones, collapsible exercise bike is compatible with the big brand VR goggles and turns exercise into a game. You’re not just pedaling – you’re making a unicorn fly, collecting rings or whatever. Here’s some of that instant gratification, and here’s some VR that’s more physical than anything else in the market.
Can’t wait for VR to make crunches fun. Maybe they’ll turn me into a catapult!
MindMaze: Tricking Stroke Patients Into Healing
MindMaze is making VR rigs that help people who have experienced stroke regain control of their limbs. Medical scientists have already done the research, and increasing the speed of the weaker limb in VR makes stroke patients use it more in real life. MindMaze also wraps the process in a game, so it looks less like boring therapy and more like a fun videogame. That’s how grandma beats her own high score to heal.
True 3D: Explore The Insides Of Your Patient
But tricking patients into health isn’t the only medical use of VR. EchoPixel is using their VR 3D imaging technology to help doctors visualize the insides of their patients. The software lets doctors see scans of patients in 3D as well as manipulate them in certain ways to better prepare for surgery.
Waves of Grace: Empathy Through Movies
Waves of Grace is a six-minute movie shot in Liberia that lets people experience the shock and trauma of people living in an ebola epidemic-struck country. This potential attracted such diverse organizations as the UN and Vice, and it helps to grow empathy for people who live in conditions we (previously) couldn’t even imagine. It also ties into immersive journalism, which makes features that let you at least catch a glimpse of what it mean to be homeless in the US.
Samsung and Six Flags: Real Virtual Roller Coaster
Before VR, we had immersive theatre experiences, which used hydraulics to manipulate a specially designed cabin while you watched a CGI rollercoaster movie. It’s a thing of the past now, because you can now catch a VR ride while riding an actual roller coaster. Entertainment park giant Six Flags cooperated with Samsung to bring VR headsets to their roller coasters. Some of the VR experiences replaced roller coaster with spaceship battles in alien skies, while others brought more of a Super-Man experience.
Actually, this seems like a way to make roller coasters less scary!
Virtual Reality? In my court? It’s more believable than you think! Crime scenes are already recreated in 3D models, which are then squished to 2D once they’re printed on paper. VR crime scene recreation would let the people at court experience rather than just merely see the crime scene. University of Zurich has already recreated a scene of a shooting that has passed police scrutiny, so judges and jurors can expect to take treks into VR.
Making Astronauts feel home
Space travel is going to be prohibitively expensive for everyday tourists for quite some time. Luckily, there are plans for VR tours of space. However, there will still be people going out there, and facing dangers that are somewhat subtler than physical degradation. NASA has tapped DALI of Dartmouth to develop VR software that would let astronauts take a small slice of home wherever they go. Be it a VR recreation of picnic on the beach or their entire home, it would be something that would help those travelling to Mars immeasurably.
See? The VR future is both fun and strange. And the best part is the current the barrier of entrance is pretty low. You can program stuff on user-friendly engines like Unity and Unreal Engine 4. Most of the new VR applications are not that visually complex, so you can use stock model sites like CGtrader to get your models fast. With the tools at hand, you only need an idea. How about a VR supplement for crunches that turns me into a catapult?