In the first part of Virtual Reality Will Change the World, we looked at how the travel industry can be opened up to those who cannot travel because they can’t afford the flights and hotels, as well as allowing us to explore inhospitable or impossibly distant places. This time, let’s look at how virtual reality can literally help people, including those who cannot help themselves.
Virtual reality is already helping the medical profession share ideas and treatments by enabling doctors in far-flung countries to observe procedures and operations that can help them to save lives in their own countries. Difficult diagnoses can be made more easily by sharing virtual reality scans and footage of patients, and doctors can practise operations until they are completely confident before they are ever allowed near a patient.
Psychiatrists are using virtual reality to help trauma victims unlock repressed memories of their ordeals which can help them to deal with what has happened to them and move forward with their lives. Soldiers and others suffering from PTSD can relive their horrors and, thanks to virtual reality, they can slow down the action, take corrective measures or simply allow themselves to process what actually happened, all from the security of a doctor’s office, in a controlled environment. This procedure has already helped many sufferers to access their memories and learn coping procedures that help them to accept their trauma and begin to heal from it.
Disabled people can use virtual reality to escape from the daily reality of their limitations or disease. Amputated limbs can be restored, the wheelchair bound can walk, run, even fly, the bed-bound or frail can escape into hair-raising, adrenaline-bursting adventures. Those with severely compromised immune systems, who need to be contained in one sterile room, can escape the confines of their safe ‘bubble’ and explore other places, while not risking their health in any way.
Simulation training has long used a form of virtual reality to ensure that trainees have a good understanding of and familiarity with their equipment, before being allowed to use what could be very expensive machines, such as flight jets, huge construction equipment, and tunnel boring machines. With virtual reality, these simulations become even more realistic and, therefore, even more valuable to learners. Space shuttles, deep sea exploration vehicles, container ships – there is almost no limit to what can be learned using virtual reality.
Last, but certainly not least, educators can use virtual reality in the classroom. This may sound dull, and not deserving of being included on this list, but consider the enormous ramifications of using virtual reality while still a child, in the best learning years of your life, and being permitted to learn to drive, fly or swim – all in complete safety. Learners in Africa could learn to ski to expert levels, inner-city children could wander in the great deserts or jungles of the world, and you could even become a mermaid swimming up the Amazon, during a novice swimming lesson.
No matter what, there is little that virtual reality cannot emulate. While real world experience is always going to be the most desirable, virtual reality is going to – has already begun to – make the world a friendlier, more competent place to live.