Putting on the space goggles makes you feel like you’re standing in a video game, but virtual reality has the potential to be far more than just a cool futuristic expedition. A new video from The Economist claims that 2016 will be the year of the “virtual reality takeover,” when technology blossoms even further to reach areas including tech, journalism, shopping, and even medicine.
“It actually allows people to be transported to these other worlds and feel like they’re actually there,” J.B. McRee, a leader at HTC, a virtual reality company developing an interactive headset, said in the video. “We’re finally at a point now where the technology is capable of providing what is a very, very real and immersive experience with minimal latency.”
In the aughts, iPods became incredibly popular, transforming the way we heard music; social media and smartphones likewise began changing the world in the past decade. But in the next coming years, an integration of virtual reality into nearly every aspect of our lives might actually happen. The video predicts that nearly 25 percent of the world’s population will be on a smartphone, so it appears it’s only a matter of time before virtual reality also takes over. In addition, the video states, virtual reality products may bring in $3.8 billion in revenue over the course of 2016 — a bold claim, but something to think about.
Perhaps most interestingly, virtual reality isn’t all just fun and games; it’s expanded into the medical world, offering new therapies for people suffering from autism, anxiety, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The video describes the use of virtual reality exposure therapy for a former soldier suffering from PTSD, noting that it can help ease the mental illness.
“We’re helping patients to confront and process difficult emotional memories by putting them back in simulations of what they were traumatized in,” Skip Rizzo, a psychologist who works with virtual reality exposure therapy, said in the video.
Recently, virtual reality has been used to help women “swap” bodies virtually, and fight eating disorders; act as a therapist for people suffering from anxiety and depression; and surgery simulation for medical students. There are myriads of other ways that virtual reality has already begun to be incorporated into the medical world; it can help as exposure therapy to reduce drug and alcohol addiction; assist glaucoma patients in remaining balanced; and even fight racial biases. It really does seem as though the possibilities are endless.