Currently, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) seem like an extravagant, if not unnecessary tool in most sectors. But will we be saying the same thing ten years from now? While the Internet gave people all over the world access to information about virtually any subject, VR and AR stand to give people open access to experiences. This is not limited to entering dream worlds through a video game console—VR could teleport us to a vacation in the rainforest, or immerse a journalist in a rally in a country tipping towards revolution.
TechPolis recently delved into current developments in virtual and augmented reality in order figure out what this future could look like. We identified three key areas of everyday life that could be turned upside down by these technologies: how we care for our health, how we acquire knowledge, and how we go shopping.
Imagine if, instead of needing cadavers to practice life-saving surgeries, medical students could work with real 3D images of organs that allow them to practice curing any disease imaginable—all they would need would be a VR headset. Healthcare is poised to be the second biggest market for virtual reality, with a projected value of $5.1 billion by 2025, according to a report released last year by Goldman Sachs. And it is the field where the technology would have the most serious consequences for mankind. Consider the example of a little girl born with only one lung and half a heart. After doctors told her parents there was nothing they could do, an innovative physician in Miami had the idea to use Google Cardboard to explore a 3-D image of the girl’s heart from all angles, pinpointing exactly what he needed to fix and how. This new technology gave him the information he needed to perform a successful surgery that saved the girl’s life.
By slipping on a VR headset, children could spend the day at the Louvre, or at the International Space Station, without ever leaving the classroom. With AR, an engineering student could work on real-life models with digital instructions projected at eye-level, which update as the student completes each step. Interactive, hands-on learning improves concentration and knowledge retention among children, and as these new technologies become more accessible, passive lecture-style teaching could become a thing of the past. While this market won’t be as lucrative—it’s projected to be worth $700 million by 2025—it could impact the lives of an estimated 15 million people by 2025.
What if you could virtually ‘try on’ clothes in the privacy of your own bedroom before you buy them online? VR could improve upon e-commerce’s biggest flaw—the inability to hold and test an item before you buy it. But brick and mortar stores wouldn’t be left in the dust: AR could also improve in-person shopping experiences by displaying reviews and information about products, further integrating the two sides of the retail industry. VR/AR for retail is projected to bring in $1.6 billion in 2025, with an estimated 32 million people using the technologies to shop.
VR and AR could make our daily lives easier, open doors to new experiences, and connect us more with the people we care about. But there will also be costs and difficulties to the changing landscape of this new technology. To learn more and see where we’re headed, read TechPolis’ report on this rapidly developing technology.