Despite the changes that have taken place in society during the ongoing pandemic, it cannot be denied that in many technological matters, changes that would take several years have taken several months. Remote work and learning, meetings with friends via video, virtual tours around museums, webinars, or remote handling of affairs in offices and banks – this is part of our routine these days. In many places, it still does not work as smoothly as we would expect. Operating remotely has exposed many difficulties and problems, especially those related to security. These changes, however, laid the foundations for a future from which there is no turning back. Today, we can feel how we will function in a dozen or so years. Of course, we are talking about virtual reality and the worlds created in it.
Our concept of the virtual world has been shaped to a large extent by games and movies. This theme is intensively explored in pop culture and gives creators a lot of creative possibilities. It seems to us that virtual realities were born with computers, but already in ancient Rome, the historian Pliny the Elder expressed an interest in perceptual illusion. In the 20th century, the operator Morton Heilig worked with Sensorama, a machine that stimulates the senses of the viewers (sight, touch, sound, or smell) and involves them more in the film they were watching. Apart from him, the precursor of VR was also Edwin Link who built the first flight simulator that helped train pilots during World War II. From the very beginning, virtual reality was supposed to serve as entertainment by increasing the intensity of recipients’ experiences and by developing science, training, and improving manual skills. What is virtual reality and how it affects our lives already?
Virtual reality is a computer-generated 3D image that can represent various people, objects, or events. This technology can show the person a virtual imitation of reality and make the experience as realistic as possible. Virtual worlds are computer-simulated places where, using an avatar, a person can explore the virtual world. We can interact with others and take part in various activities. Fantastic and abstract worlds are the most attractive in games or entertainment, while in simulators, the real world works best. We can create this environment with the help of special goggles, headsets, gloves, or super-sensitive suits. These gadgets open the door to virtual experiences and allow us to feel various situations better. Virtual worlds are so attractive to us because of the possibility of interaction, expression, and higher self-esteem. They also validate our social needs, which is why they have a similar power to social media.
According to a Perkins Coie report, more than half of the VR market is gaming-based, 38% is used in the medical industry, 28% in education, and 24% in various workplaces. Besides, 91% of organizations and companies plan to use VR for employee training. The multitude of possibilities that virtual reality creates in front of us is impressive and is getting deeper and deeper into the mainstream – it is no longer just an entertaining technological curiosity. What potential does virtual reality have, and where virtual implementation has worked out so far?
Impressive achievements of VR technology are seen in the medical industry. It is used to train young doctors, especially surgeons. By creating a safe and controlled environment, they can learn how to perform medical operations. Despite the extremely realistic conditions stress is reduced, and surgeons do not work on a living human but a visually reproduced perfect model. Also, VR is useful for patients during rehabilitation or can relieve pain during treatments. They have already been tested on women during childbirth or patients with burns while changing their dressings. It is also said that virtual reality devices can be an alternative to painkillers in long-term treatment. Creating virtual worlds can be helpful for people on the autism spectrum, for whom creating a safe and familiar environment can help manage stressful situations. VR can also help people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease to regain long-term memories and recall familiar places and faces.
VR technology is used in various training and courses. It is successfully used by soldiers and firefighters. By creating controlled conditions, you can test even the most demanding and difficult actions that would be hard to recreate in real life. There are also environmental benefits for such training, as all fires, explosions, and materials are created in virtual space. VR can be also used to train new employees. Restaurants and stores can introduce new workers this way and prepare them for various scenarios. Walmart trains its employees before crowded Black Friday this way. Astronauts or pilots can also train with VR. Boeing reduced the training time of pilots by 75% by training them in virtual space.
It is also worth considering security issues and how identity verification could look like in virtual reality. VR would also redefine the issues of control and regulation – digitization and remote verification processes would become a common thing. Nowadays, most institutions or companies still use more traditional methods of checking the identity of their clients. It is often associated with a multitude of documentation and procedures that can take up to several weeks. At Fully-Verified, companies can see the glimpse of changes that one day will be present in our everyday life. An easy and intuitive process, the use of artificial intelligence, limiting the duration of the verification to a minimum, and most importantly, the ability to do it from home. We can add to this VR headsets scanning ID documents and we can imagine what we will experience in decades.
An issue that seems crazy to us at this point, but is already a topic of discussion, is the existence of personal avatars. Avatars that we will send to work, school, or a bank are a natural consequence of VR development. Such avatars have to be properly verified and assigned to us so that we do not fall victim to fraud. The identity verification of our avatars is a necessary process in which we can reduce the risk of fraud or virtual identity theft. A sense of security, maintaining privacy, or managing data in a way that will not expose them to danger is very important. Specialists are also considering how the transformation into avatars will be received by humans, and the first research is being conducted to determine the social enthusiasm for this issue. We can assume that introverts will be better able to handle virtualized life, but we need to remember that technology should be adapted to different personality types.
In the era of a prevailing pandemic, the use of VR technology at work seems particularly promising. In the coming years, we can expect the virtualization of our workspace as well as the dematerialization of offices. By putting on the headset, we will be able to move from anywhere in the world to a virtual workplace and carry out our duties and meetings with colleagues there. After all, we will not be tied geographically to the places where we work. We will be able to move to our dream regions and at the same time work and maintain contact with loved ones. The following years will make the virtual environment part of our reality. We will be able to go to concerts there, meet friends, work, exercise, and attend film screenings and theater performances. In the virtual world, we will be able to design our apartment, meet new people, and go to the doctor or the office. The borderless world will become a reality, and these changes can be compared to the impact the internet has had on the world.
Even though we can already observe some implementations using VR technology, scenarios taking into account the complete transition to the virtual space are a matter of many years. The pandemic reality has opened our eyes to certain solutions and broadened our perspective on some technological issues. It is worth following new technological solutions closely and not be afraid of functioning in a remote world – this is our future world.