VR is Changing the World – Here’s Why

The first time I recall experiencing VR was at a Dave and Buster’s-style entertainment center, and it took the form of a shiny, brightly-colored booth shaped like a rollercoaster carriage. 

Once you took your seat, a headset was slipped over your eyes, and you were transported to a fantastical amusement ride where rabid bunnies took shots at you as you rocketed through a colorful landscape. It was fun, interesting, but not incredibly interactive and, therefore, not hugely impactful.

Yet, I think, at that time, a seed was planted.

Fast forward a few years and Lucasfilm releases The Mandalorian, a story set against visually-breathtaking digital vistas. In my research about how they handled those visual effects, I came across information revealing that VR technology could be used to help our team here at Fireside fulfill our VFX needs. That led me to invest in the Vive Cosmos Elite VR system. Designed by HTC, in collaboration with Valve–one of the companies responsible for democratizing VR–the Cosmos was a highly-rated headset at the time of its debut.

Revelatory moments that involve technology happen rarely in one’s life–maybe every five to ten years for most people. Watching your first movie, driving a car for the first time- those are two of the big ones. Experiencing that headset for the first time was one of those moments.  When I slipped it on, I was transported to a stunningly-detailed apartment built, somehow, into a rocky mountain. Through large windows, I could see a beautiful landscape stretching out as far as my eye could see. My ears were filled with the sounds of wind, rustling leaves and birds singing.

As I reached out to touch the virtual objects in front of me, I was amazed by the way my virtual hands seemed to move naturally in the digital space. That feeling would be enhanced later when I switched to valve’s “knuckle” controllers which allowed more natural interactions with virtual objects. There were imperfections, sure. Gaps in the illusion. But even at this stage, it was like I was somewhere… else, my brain filling in the missing pieces.

Over the next two years I explored that virtual landscape, walked fields and forests, explored dystopian cities and abandoned spacecraft. I rode shotgun on an interview with Eminem, got a personal tour of the White House with President Obama, and experienced dozens of short films in a breathtaking, immersive medium. More than once, I woke up in the morning to play golf with someone in Australia, and I’ve had conversations with people from around the world. Every step has been a real adventure, and more than one, a revelation. That’s the thing about VR…the experience sticks with you.

Virtual reality (VR) falls under a larger umbrella currently referred to as Extended Reality (XR), a rapidly-emerging technology that is changing the way we interact with the world and with each other. XR includes:

  1. VR, computer-generated simulations of three-dimensional environments that can be explored and interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using specialized equipment, such as a headset with a screen, gloves fitted with sensors, or even mobile devices,
  2. AR, which brings virtual elements into the real world through the use of headsets, glasses, cameras, etc.(think Pokemon Go) and
  3. Mixed reality, which finds unique ways to combine the two.

One of the main ways that XR is changing the world is through its integration with the entertainment industry. XR is being used to create video games, movies, and other forms of media that allow users and viewers to experience virtual worlds. For example, VR headset users can experience the thrills of a roller coaster ride or the harrowing dangers of a battlefront from the comfort of their own home.

Virtual reality (VR) technology has become an increasingly-popular tool for safety training in recent years, and for good reason. VR allows organizations to provide immersive and interactive training experiences that can help workers better understand and respond to a wide range of safety hazards and situations.

One of the key benefits of VR safety training is that it allows workers to practice and test their knowledge and skills in a safe, controlled environment that feels like the real thing. This can be especially useful for training employees in industries that involve potentially dangerous equipment or procedures, such as construction or manufacturing.

For example, imagine you work in the petrochemical industry and need to be trained on how to respond to a chemical spill. With traditional, non-VR training, you might watch a video or listen to a lecture on spill response procedures and then practice implementing those procedures in a designated training area.

On the other hand, with VR safety training, you would put on a VR headset and be transported into a virtual petrochemical plant where you responding in real-time to a simulated chemical spill. This allows you to get a more immersive and hands-on training experience without the risk of exposing yourself or others to hazardous chemicals.

For example, in the VR training scenario, you might be faced with a situation where the spill has spread to multiple areas of the plant, and you need to coordinate with other team members to contain and clean up the spill. In a traditional training setting, it might be difficult or impossible to recreate this type of scenario without actually spilling hazardous chemicals.

Overall, VR safety training allows you to practice and learn in a safe and controlled environment, while also providing a more realistic and immersive learning experience. That “immersion factor” shouldn’t be underestimated, because it means that VR can also be more effective at engaging and retaining employees’ attention. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard our partners in the industrial and construction industries asking how they can make their training videos more engaging. Because, as we all know, traditional safety training methods, such as lectures or video presentations, can be boring and may not fully capture workers’ attention. VR, on the other hand, offers a more interactive and immersive experience that can hold workers’ attention and encourage them to actively participate in the training.

Another benefit of VR safety training is that it can be easily customized and updated to reflect new hazards or procedures. This allows organizations to keep their safety training current and relevant, ensuring that workers are prepared to handle the latest safety challenges they may face on the job.

Whether it’s for professional or personal use, XR is likely to continue growing in popularity. It has a wide range of applications, from gaming and entertainment to education and training to therapy and rehabilitation. This means that there is a diverse and growing market for XR technology and experiences as more and more people discover the benefits of using it.

XR technology lets filmmakers fashion digital sets in real time, which directors can use to tell stories that take place in far away worlds .  It can also facilitate the creation of immersive and interactive experiences that are not possible with other forms of media, letting users explore virtual worlds and participate in activities in a way that feels real and engaging. And by using VR to train their employees, organizations can help ensure that their workers are better prepared to handle the challenges they may face on the job–ultimately creating a safer work environment for all.