Virtual reality: when the real world is no longer enough

Almost everyone knows that virtual reality is ‘the next big thing’. However, we are still missing specific applications. You can play games and watch movies with it, but does it stop there?

Since the beginning of time, people have been looking for ways to escape the daily grind. The times when we transmitted stories through cave drawings (remember?) are everywhere. Then there were books, video images, podcasts, games, … but now everything begins to be too passive for us. We want to experience other things, things that are not possible in our daily lives.

virtual reality vs. Augmented Reality vs. mixed reality

Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality all have one thing in common, namely that they want to bring something digitally as realistic as possible into the real world. In VR, the boundary between the real world and the digital world is wider. You put on a headset, completely isolate yourself from the real world, and enter a virtual world. With AR and Mixed Reality, the nuances are smaller.

With AR, you use a screen to see digital things in the real world. For example, think of Pokémon Go. For example, you can search for Pokemon in the real world through your smartphone screen, but that Pikachu in your living room is sadly only visible when you hold your smartphone out in front of you. With AR, you use a device as a ‘window’ to see digital things in the real world.

Mixed Reality brings the best of both worlds, literally. With Mixed Reality, the user is still in the real world, but that world is now also enriched with virtual additions. The best known of its kind is undoubtedly the Microsoft Hololens. When the user puts on this headset, he conjures up a board game on an empty table, for example. Mixed Reality thus enriches the real world in the most realistic way possible.

With Hololens, digital images are displayed as real in the real world.

in games

One of the most used (and demanded) virtual reality applications are games. Gamers no longer want to sit behind their TV to compete, they actually want to be in the car. We no longer want to fly a plane behind our screens, we want to sit in the cockpit and be able to look around us.

With the arrival of the Oculus and PlayStation VR, it seemed for a while that virtual reality would finally break into gaming, but in the meantime, the technology still hasn’t lived up to its potential. The hardware required is demanding, bulky, and on top of that, there are still not enough decent games to experience in VR. At the moment, virtual reality within games is mostly limited to tasters. When you play for fifteen minutes in virtual reality, you are surprised by the technology, but after that you start to realize that the technology is still in its infancy.

One positive development is that VR headset prices have come down. Oculus will arrive soon with its Quest autonomous headphones that will be sold for 399 euros. It’s one of the first headsets to reduce the discomfort of VR and eliminate the need for cables and powerful external hardware (like a gaming PC). The PlayStation VR costs just under $300 at the time of writing.

Oculus Quest eliminates the need for cables and external hardware.

in entertainment

When we fantasize about the possibilities of virtual reality, we often get stuck in the entertainment. Think, for example, of experiencing a football game as if you were sitting in the stadium, but actually nice and warm on the sofa. Or attend a theater show without having to travel. Or how about watching a movie on a giant movie screen, without disturbing the people next to you who are always busy on their phones or talking. The entertainment industry is obviously a very lucrative market for virtual reality. Virtual museums, theaters, cinemas, sports stadiums, amusement parks… make an alternative experience accessible to all those who cannot live the real experience due to, for example, the cost or a long trip. We don’t have to tell you that the world of porn also has a huge share of the VR market.

In education

For an article on digitization in education at Clickx 361 I spoke to Bert Dekeyzer from School van de Toekomst VZW. Bert pointed out to me that there is indeed potential in virtual reality for education. For example, when children learn about the human body, they are now limited to images and videos. What if the whole class put on VR goggles and everyone walked down a vein together? They all look around and get to know the human body by experiencing it with their own eyes. Or, for example, in history lessons. Why listen to someone talk about what happened in the past when you can relive it yourself with VR glasses? gram

Virtual reality in education allows students to experience more for themselves.

in the business world

It looks like a fun sight, men and women in formal settings doing crazy moves with a VR headset. However, virtual reality is also making its way into the corporate world, at least to some extent. One of the things it can be used for is, for example, training. After all, in some cases, employees must be prepared for scenarios that are difficult to reproduce. You can think of a bank robbery or a shooting, but Black Friday shouldn’t be any less intense. Walmart has partnered with virtual reality company Strivr to prepare its employees for the busy day of shopping. The employee puts on a headset, is immersed in the hustle and bustle, and then has to make the right decisions. Equally important is that the employee focuses on the right things. A supervisor always monitors exactly what the employee is looking at. The uses don’t stop there, after all, Walmart is investing even more in the technology. For example, the American supermarket chain recently obtained two patents on a concept for a virtual reality showroom. With this, Walmart wants to bridge the gap between an online store and a physical store. So you can put on a VR headset from the comfort of your own seat, walk around the store, and add products to your shopping cart. That way, you won’t become part of the Black Friday craze yourself.

in daily life

The film Ready Player One paints a thought-provoking picture of a virtual reality. Will our lives change to a digital reality that becomes more important than the real world? Where you live doesn’t matter anymore, because you spend most of your time in a virtual world anyway.

With games like World of Warcraft, we regularly see gamers getting addicted to the world of digital gaming. They want to spend more time in the world of World of Warcraft than in the real world. Friendships are forged, plans are made, successes are achieved… The great attraction of a virtual world seems to be the ubiquity of gamification. You will be presented with a challenge and you will be rewarded if you complete it successfully. Sometimes we complain that life is not easy, but on the other hand, it has never been so easy. Medicines ensure that we live longer, we simply get food from the supermarket instead of hunting, tasks are automated… How great would be the attraction of fleeing to a digital world where you always get satisfaction from all the challenges that they show up. I served you

How much time are we going to spend in virtual worlds? (Copyright: Fille Roelant)

clumsy hardware

At the moment, the process to achieve a decent VR experience is still a bit cumbersome. First of all, it already requires demanding hardware, and on top of that, VR headsets are big and bulky to carry around. When VR headsets are literally the size of an average pair of sunglasses, it becomes really interesting to see everything speed up. Will we flee to a virtual reality every time we have a free moment? What will we do there?

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