Most people associate virtual reality with the world of gaming or entertainment.What is all the fuss,you may wonder,about a futuristic contraption you wear on your head that makes you look like a creature from Star Wars?But this emerging technology has been spreading rapidly into many other areas and could fundamentally change your life in the future.
Virtual reality,or VR,is a computer-generated technology that creates a three-dimensional digital world that you can not only see and observe,but explore and interact with it as if you are there.Once you put on the special equipment–a helmet or goggles with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors–you become immersed in the virtual world.
VR now has serious applications in fields as wide-ranging as business and medicine.VR has already proved effective as a training tool as it simulates real experiences.One simulation programme educates young drivers about the dangers of bad driving.Participants experience a dangerous car journey and a virtual accident.It is now being used to train surgeons.Connor Pierce of Samsung’s IT for UK and Ireland thinks it will impinge on all walks of life:"We’ll socialise via VR,we will do business via VR,we’ll have VR team-meetings,we’ll have VR education,museums will have virtual reality experiences…".Its benefits have been felt in the field of psychology and the treatment of mental health patients.Professor Daniel Freeman at the Warnford Hospital in Oxford uses it to treat vertigo and other anxiety disorders.He explains that by exposing patients to what they fear most in a virtual environment and showing them that nothing bad happens,they can eventually overcome their panic.
In the world of work too,VR may change our lives dramatically.Working individually at home,we can connect to our colleagues in a virtual space.We can be at home and at the office at the same time.For the first time,we can really be in two places at once.
Some VR developers predict that the impact of VR could be as significant as the internet or mobile phones.Google alone has sold 2 million cardboard VR headsets in the last two years.Is a new age of reality about to dawn?