VR has nearly endless potential. Though its use cases continue to develop, it’s already being used today for everything from pain management to learning new skills. Indeed, the technology has rapidly spanned beyond gaming and enabled some unusual possibilities. Here are seven we came up with.
Online dating has been a way to meet new people for several decades now. However, some technology companies have created additional ways for singles to get to know each other.
Flirtual is an app that matches people based on their interests. Compatible individuals can then meet each other in VR worlds. Something else that differentiates Flirtual from most other dating apps is that users create avatars to represent themselves rather than photographs.
Cam Mullen is the CEO of Nevermet, another VR dating app. Mullen believes meeting people this way encourages deeper connections that go beyond superficial relationships. This approach could also suit users with severe social anxiety who want to meet people in a comparatively low-pressure environment.
2. Dog Bite Minimization
Dog bites are a serious public health threat, often resulting in hospital admissions. Researchers at the University of Liverpool wondered whether they could use VR to make these injuries less common.
They created a virtual reality canine to determine if and how people can notice signs of dog aggression. The researchers also relied on head and hand tracking to see how close participants got to the virtual dog. Three people got near enough to get bitten.
If more people know the signs of dog aggression and can spot them before it’s too late, bites won’t happen as often. The researchers also hope to use their virtual reality dog for other reasons, such as to help people overcome canine-related fears.
3. Simulated Freedom
Incarcerated people commonly create vividly imagined realities of life on the outside. That’s often one of the few coping mechanisms available to people facing years of living in a tightly controlled environment.
However, Global Tel Link Corporation, a company that provides telephone services to those inside incarceration facilities, filed a patent application to take things further. The company hopes to use virtual reality to give people brief experiences of simulated freedom.
Many people are excited about the virtual worlds made possible by the metaverse. However, certain groups have the alarm about these applications, saying they could be extremely traumatic. They’d also likely be expensive, making them an exploitative tool for incarcerated persons.
4. Accountant Training
As people train to be accountants, they must develop thorough and specialized knowledge. This career involves all processes linked to recording a company or person’s financial activities. Many accountants file clients’ tax returns and perform audits, so they must stay up to date on all tax law changes.
Continuing professional development (CPD) plays a significant role in accounting. Accountants must earn a specific number of CPD hours depending on where they practice. Doing so through a VR platform may prove more accessible and appealing than the prospects of clicking through online modules or reading textbooks.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the Big Four accounting firms, used VR for training. One of the findings was that students were 40% more confident after learning through VR instead of in classrooms. The VR learners also finished their training four times faster than people getting the content in classrooms. That’s a major advantage for accountants who are pressed for time but must keep their knowledge current.
5. Product Testing
People often find it challenging to choose between products, especially when it’s hard to envision how specific features will make life easier. Dyson aimed to change that by launching a virtual reality experience. It allowed people to try the brand’s products in their homes before buying them.
Users could interact with the company’s vacuums, such as to see how certain models perform on hard floors versus carpets. It was also possible to watch interviews with the Dyson engineering team or interact with simulations like those used by Dyson designers as they considered how to make new products.
Dyson representatives indicated they had plans to add new features, including where people could shop for products in a virtual environment or speak to Dyson experts about potential purchases. Those options could make people feel more excited about buying products.
6. Juror Decision-Making
Jury members are everyday individuals put in positions that require them to weigh the evidence and make choices that could forever change the lives of others. However, mistakes occur, even when jurors do their best.
Research from the University of South Australia suggested using VR could help juries make the right decisions more often. People investigating the matter relied on VR headsets to recreate the scene of a hit-and-run incident, then compared how juries responded if they saw the VR footage or crime scene photos.
The jurors who saw the VR simulations showed better recall and reached more consistent verdicts. In contrast, it was difficult for those who only had photographs to visualize the scene accurately. While this costly approach may not be feasible for some locations or cases, it’s worth a look if available.
7. Domestic Violence Rehabilitation
Domestic violence is a serious societal problem that often manifests cyclically. A child may grow up watching her father abuse her mother, then choose an abusive partner, too. Some people enter and leave abusive relationships their whole lives.
Virtual reality may break the cycle. Researchers believe simulations could increase empathy in people who previously perpetrated domestic violence. This work also revealed how some people with a history of acting abusively towards their partners often misperceived the emotions of those they hurt. For example, they might see fear as excitement.
However, VR helped offenders interpret people’s feelings correctly. It also showed them how their actions affected their victims. Those involved in this work believe it could expand to other types of violent behavior, such as school bullying.
VR Has Expanded
These examples prove VR has gone in so many new and exciting directions. Explore these unconventional applications to unlock all of the possibilities
Devin Partida is Editor-in-Chief at ReHack Magazine and editorial contributor at AR Insider. See her work here and follow her @rehackmagazine.