The Use of VR and AR Gaming to Change the World
There’s no doubt that both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have taken the modern imagination by storm. As increasingly sophisticated platforms for these cutting-edge technologies have been created, the real-world potential to alter our visual and audible realities has caused a stir in many different areas.
Obviously, the entertainment industry has felt the change through the release of popular games like “Beat Saber” and “Moss.” But the uses extend far beyond entertainment. Take, for instance, the impact that both virtual and augmented reality has had on advertising and sales. Home Depot is using augmented reality to show how appliances might look in your home. Wild Within is a tool that helps promote tourism in British Columbia. And these are just a couple examples. There are countless others out there.
While the business and gaming applications of VR and AR are intriguing, one question that is worth asking is whether VR and AR are impacting the world beyond the private sector. How are these tools, that were little more than sci-fi imaginings a few decades ago, making a difference now that they have become a reality?
VR and AR in the Modern World
Before breaking down individual examples, it’s worth taking a moment to talk about the state of virtual and augmented reality as it currently stands. For instance, the natural belief that these technologies would be dominant in the gaming industry is starting to lose steam. Some have pointed out that things like the struggle to create a satisfactory graphical experience, the poor quality of controllers, and even the very cumbersome aspect of both the sets themselves and the space needed to use them makes it difficult to see either one ever becoming the primary mode of gaming in the foreseeable future.
That’s not to say that VR and AR have no place within the gaming industry. They certainly have their value, and when used properly, can provide a quality gaming experience. However, the technology’s lack of dominance in the entertainment sector has opened up the conversation to how this technology can find applications in the larger world as a whole.
Bringing People Together
One way that virtual reality is managing to make an impact in the world is by providing a genuine push to bring people together in social experiences that they can share. Rather than isolating people from each other — a stigma that has haunted VR since it was little more than a sci-fi concept — many businesses have made a strong effort to utilize the tech to bring users together in a more immersive experience.
Multiplayer games like “Echo Arena, Onward, and Farpoint” all bring remote players into one shared, virtual space. In addition, the fact that the social media goliath Facebook purchased Oculus in March 2014 with the express purpose of using it as “tomorrow’s newest social and communication platform” shows the real social potential that VR has for the future.
While facilitating socialization is a worthy cause, some have taken the power of VR to even worthier humanitarian-focused heights. For instance, the nonprofit Radical Empathy Education Foundation recently rolled out a powerful (if uncomfortable) all-new VR experience called “TRAPPED: A VR Detective Story.” The game was specifically designed to immerse participants in an experience that educated them on the horrors of human trafficking.
In addition to human trafficking, the UN has created a series of VR experiences that highlight other humanitarian crises in order to help spread awareness and promote fundraising efforts. The project consists of three short stories, all told through VR, that follow a trio of different, very personal, experiences.
One follows a mother who lost children in the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, another traces the story of a Liberian woman’s attempt to help fight the scars of the Ebola virus, and a third highlights the horrors of a young girl as she goes through the struggles that have plagued Syria in recent years. Reports claim that viewing these virtual experiences of others going through tragedy typically doubles the number of donors and increases the average donations by as much as 10%.
Not All Positives
While the uses of virtual and augmented reality to make a difference are often positive, there are some ways that the technology has caused change through misuse, as well. For instance, in the 10 days after the wildly popular augmented reality game “Pokémon Go” was released, 321 vehicular crashes were directly related to using the game on the road.
But the effects of VR and AR can be even more subtle than that. For instance, Google Glass, the tech giant’s augmented reality headgear, has been widely touted as an exciting next step in the augmented reality field. However, as early as 2014, there were already reports of the first case of Google Glass addiction, begging the question of whether the device was going to cause more harm than good.
A Bright Future
While there are certainly some negatives, both the evidence and the potential for VR and AR to be put to good use is overwhelming. Whether it’s through raising awareness, fundraising, or new social experiences, there’s little doubt that virtual and augmented reality are already impacting the world for the better, with tremendous promise to continue to do so for a long time to come.