Virtual reality is useful in architecture, construction, health and medicine - and much more than just gaming

Virtual reality is useful in architecture, construction, health and medicine - and much more than just gaming

We might think VR is just for games, but there are a lot of real-world applications for the technology

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Apart from its entertainment value, virtual reality helps patients recover from injury and illness, and encourages people to exercise.
Photo: CityU

For fans of gaming, virtual reality (VR) is nothing new. When you see a gamer strapping on something that looks like a pair of opaque diving goggles, that’s actually a VR headset. Players wearing it can turn their heads to see objects above, below and behind them. VR lets them feel like they’re in a 3D world, shooting at the enemy like in real life.

Gaming is a significant industry that takes advantage of VR, but it’s not the only way it’s being used. VR also boosts efficiency in construction. In the conventional building industry, we are shown 2D drawings. These take a lot of time to study, and they can sometimes give us the wrong idea about a structure.

But VR technology lets us visualise a proposed building from 360-degrees. Clients can experience the layout and gain a better understanding of the building space before construction is completed. Users can “walk through” a room as they would in the real world to examine the space, complete with the placement of furniture. Changes that would be time-consuming and expensive to make once the building was under construction can be made virtually, without extra cost. Therefore, VR can help us quickly gain vital feedback at the beginning of a project.

VR also helps patients recover from injury and illness, and encourages people to exercise. If cyclists connect a bike to VR, they will have a sense of forward movement, even if they are working out in the gym. VR immersion reduces distraction and encourages users to bike more.

It can even help with rehabilitation after a stroke, because patients can stay inside the clinical environment while exercising as if they were in the real world. This speeds up their therapy, because they can do their prescribed routines in a safe environment instead of a crowded place.

To me and you, VR may seem remote, or just a quick, entertaining experience. However, every technology needs time to develop to be a familiar product that benefits everyone. It is just a matter of time.

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