Virtual reality is becoming increasingly common, with the recent introduction of devices such as Google Cardboard and the Oculus Rift as well as the success of the Pokémon Go smartphone game.
But there is no doubt that the technology is still at a relatively early stage. At the moment, some of the world’s biggest companies are pumping billions of pounds into the development of virtual reality hardware and applications.
So what can we expect VR to offer in the years ahead?
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New film experiences
While some VR films and videos have already been made available, their scale has been fairly small – typically, you can look around as if you were “inside” the film, but there is little more interaction than that.
However, a number of VR companies and film studios are working together with well-known directors such as Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame) and Michael Bay, who was responsible for Transformers among many action movies.
It is hard to say exactly what form VR films will eventually take, but it is possible that viewers will be able to participate to some extent in the stories they are watching – perhaps by interacting with characters or even taking part in action sequences like car chases.
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Virtual reality video gaming advances
The potential for VR to change computer games is where a lot of current development is being focused, and there are already a considerable number of games for headsets like Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear.
Companies such as the US-based Magic Leap are exploring the possibilities of “mixed-reality” games, in which users wear special lenses and have computer-generated images or characters “projected” into the real world around them.
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The future of healthcare
The potential of VR to help the world of medicine is being explored by many researchers at the moment. It is hoped that VR technology will be able to provide training would-be surgeons, for example, who may be able to practice their skills on virtual patients.
VR might also be able to help disabled or homebound people to enjoy experiences such as riding a bike, hiking in the mountains or swimming in the ocean.
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Bringing families closer
For people whose relatives live some distance away or in other countries, video-calling services such as Skype have proven invaluable. But VR technology might be able to go a step further and make it seem as if you were actually in the same place as family or friends who are thousands of miles away.
The potential applications described above may sound very interesting. But there is a good chance the most significant advances that virtual reality technology has to offer have yet to be discovered.
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