Most of the time when people hear virtual reality, the initial thought is to be excited that video games will feel more real. The thought of being able to feel physically involved in a game is extremely appealing to children and adults alike, making them excited to get their hands on the new technology.

While yes, that’s completely awesome in itself, there are even more incredible ways VR will be used for much more than entertainment in the near future.

VR is not a new concept, it has actually been in the works since the mid 1950’s. Fast forward more than half a century and here we are in present time, with the technology and the demand to apply this once abstract idea to everyday life.  With billions of dollars in funding and startups, 2016 is said to be the year VR really takes off.

We should all be excited about VR because along with making video games way cooler, it can be used for a long list of other things that will probably make you forget all about games.

Looking at Virtual Reality as a Tool

For a long time now VR has been looked at as a toy rather than a tool, which is one of the reasons why it took so long to gain commercial momentum. Luckily, there is now a long list of potential applications of VR which includes uses in:

  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • The Military
  • The Media
  • Fashion
  • Business
  • And even sports- to name a few.

As time goes on there is no doubt that the list of possibilities for VR will continue to grow, but for now most of the emphasis is being placed on healthcare and education.

Virtual Reality and Healthcare

In the professional world, VR is being used as a teaching tool- to gain real world experience in a virtual setting. This is primarily useful in healthcare, as it allows doctors and nurses to undergo interactive surgery simulations on 3D patients. Rather than simply reading about a procedure in books or online, VR is a great way to give medical professions hands-on experience before they actually engage with a live patient. One concern people may have with this is the transferral of skills learned virtually to a real world situation. However, studies show that after VR training, 16 surgical trainees made fewer errors and worked more efficiently than those who had not been virtually trained.

VR goes beyond medical doctors and nurses and it is even trickling into the field of psychology, being used as a form of exposure therapy, PTSD treatment and even as a way to help people experiencing phantom limb pain. Very exciting stuff for a psych major like myself.

Virtual Reality in the Classroom

Because VR has been successful in training doctors and nurses, it’s now making it’s way into classrooms around the country; which leaves us all wondering “what does life look like when virtual reality meets education“? Again VR becomes a tool, used in the classroom as a way to allow students to experience different cultures without ever leaving the room. Imagine going on a class trip to the Great Wall of China?  With Google Expeditions teachers can take their students on virtual field trips- bringing their lessons to life. VR is a fantastic way to engage children in learning, creating a much more exciting atmosphere while promoting growth in the classroom.

When all’s said and done, virtual reality brings out a whole new world of possibilities for a very promising list of professions, hobbies, and businesses alike. So next time someone mentions VR, try not to jump the gun straight to video games- instead try to think of a new way it can be used to make the real world a better place.