VIRTUAL REALITY: PROSPECTS FOR FUTURE

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More and more companies are using virtual reality to produce impactful applications that break down the boundary between reality and imagination. But which areas are most affected by this revolution?

In the era of Industry 4.0, virtual reality is playing a leading role in major changes that affect not only the world of video and entertainment, but also medicine, education and industrial automation.

WHAT IS VIRTUAL REALITY AND WHAT IS ITS PURPOSE

Virtual reality is a set of computer technologies that allows the creation of immersive interactive environments. Users find themselves in activities that simulate those of the real world with the aim of making the experience as immersive and complex as possible.

Although it is thought that VR is a recent technology, in reality it is not. Back in 1995, Nintendo tried to launch the first 3D visor connected to a console, the Virtual Boy, but it was quickly shelved because it caused nausea and discomfort to users.

Only a few years ago, companies like Sony, HTC and Oculus took up the technology again, investing billions of euros in hardware and software development, refining the hardware to limit motion-sickness as much as possible, and producing more and more high-resolution content.

A FAST-GROWING MARKET

Although virtual reality is thought to be indissolubly and exclusively linked to a purely video-ludic environment, this technology is gaining a foothold in corporate, public and private entities. It has been proven that these immersive applications create conditions of multisensory stimulation, so some innovative companies have introduced virtual reality technologies into their ecosystems. What are the most successful applications and what are the future prospects?

RETAIL: VIRTUAL REALITY IN BUSINESS

Whether it’s a piece of clothing or the house of our dreams, VR is already revolutionising retail sales. In fact, the world of e-commerce has already opened up to virtual reality: before making a large purchase, such as a car or a house, a virtual tour of the flat (before the real visit) or a test drive in the new car, perhaps to check its interior or comfort, will become a must. All from the comfort of home.

“The lockdown has given a strong acceleration to e-commerce, but the next frontier is the new ‘3D Commerce’ standard that the American Khronos Group is working on, with the support of about 90 companies in the sector, from Amazon to Shopify, from CgTrader to Sketchfab, developing an evolution of the GLTF format used for the transmission of photorealistic 3D assets”: the prediction is by Matteo Esposito, CEO of Invrsion in Milan, which creates virtual supermarkets for the marketing studios of brands such as Nestlé, Ferrero, Pepsi, Mondelez and Esselunga.

More and more immersive reality technologies will be used for everyday activities, such as shopping. Walmart, the large US multinational, for example, has applied for two patents detailing a ‘virtual show room’ and a system whereby shoppers, equipped with VR visors and sensor-packed gloves, can ‘enter’ a three-dimensional representation of a Walmart shop and ‘touch’ the products they would like to buy. (https://www.mytotalretail.com/article/walmart-eyes-virtual-reality-shopping-system/).

The benefits of implementing VR into your marketing strategy are:

TRAVEL AND IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCES IN CULTURE, EDUCATION AND TOURISM

Surely, in the not so near future, lessons in physics or chemistry, history or geography, will increasingly have an almost indissoluble link with virtual reality. Students will be able to explore ancient Rome or witness the eruption of Vesuvius, which destroyed much of the city of Pompeii, without leaving their desks. The possibilities are endless.

Tourism will also benefit from this technology: virtual tours of the Colosseum or museum visits are already within everyone’s reach and, with the decrease in prices on visors that is expected in the coming years, other applications supporting immersiveness will be implemented.

As far as distance learning is concerned, already many companies are implementing immersive software for FAD, as VR technologies have been found to increase the acquisition of certain notions while reducing risks at work.

Finally, in the field of e-commerce, virtual tours will be increasingly used to enable users to choose hotel rooms or holiday homes before actually experiencing them.

VR IN THE MEDICAL ENVIRONMENT: TOWARDS THE BOUNDARIES OF A NOW MIXED REALITY

Virtual reality will increasingly be the undisputed protagonist of medical and hospital applications.

In both the medical and surgical fields, simulated environments are increasingly being created, ranging from medical education (in the training of both doctors and students), the treatment of patients and their psycho-physical rehabilitation, through simulations of surgery, pain management, monitoring of the autistic spectrum and drug addiction, to medical sales and awareness/prevention of certain diseases.

The features of the virtual environment can be barriers or facilitators: the subject interacts within the virtual environment, performs functional or game activities with different levels and difficulties.  Such a structured virtual reality environment is more flexible and adaptable for different objectives. For example, for therapeutic purposes: during intensive training it supports motivation, reduces drop out through easier and less boring tasks, increases learning and leads to an improvement of the effectiveness of the approach and the outcome.

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