For This Week in Game Design, I decided to investigate virtual reality. I chose this because it is an emerging technology and can be applicable in both video games and in the real world. For example, my mother sometimes volunteers at a school for the blind. They have a state-of-the-art VR room for people who are seeing to give them a chance to see what it is like being blind or visually impaired. In addition to putting on headsets and wearing headphones to further enhance the experience, this room also has different textures on the floor and walls to offer a fully interactive space. For example, you can “be” a person with glaucoma crossing a busy road or at the grocery store. While virtual reality can help people understand other’s positions, it is also really cool and offers a unique gaming experience. When considering the capabilities of VR, there are three areas in which I believe VR should be further explored: VR in relation to stress, VR as a means of training first responders, and the effects of VR in the field of medicine.
Virtual reality could be a way to reduce stress in teenagers and adults. According to an article by Jessica Lofgren for the Carrick Institute, VR can be used for different types of stress relief. The first method of stress relief is relaxing. By using VR to relax, you can do things like meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and yoga. Additionally, people are shown different environments to make the experience as personal and calming as possible. Another form of stress-relief from VR is engaging. People can interact with things virtually and the environment is customizable to help people relax in an active way that they prefer. For example, there are fight games if someone is angry and needs to smash a plate or two. The final one is personalized. This is a newer development, but it is developed on distinctive features derived from the users’ memory. This would probably include artificial intelligence, which could provide an experience that lets a person take a walk down memory lane. Since so many people are extremely stressed all the time, using VR could be an interesting way to unwind. It can be as involved or as uninvolved as the user wants. Personally, I would use relaxation VR and do something calming, like walking on trails or sitting on a nice beach.
Another area of research in training first responders. The Shenandoah Center for Immersive Learning created simulators to present at a public safety open house. Using VR to train first responders is a smart use of the technology because it allows people in training to be put into a simulated situation where they can apply the skills they were taught and see how one course of action could have a different outcome, either for better or worse. The director of the Emergency Preparedness Instructional Center agreed, saying that he is more prepared to handle real-world tasks than before due to the additional training. This is a direct link to show that virtual reality can help keep our neighborhoods safer because our first responders feel better equipped to handle certain situations. Additionally, using VR to train could open the possibilities of making it easier to deal with cybercrime. Understanding the technology behind virtual reality forces everyone in the unit to be more familiar with current technology, which can lead to improvement in tracking and preventing online crimes. It seems like Shenandoah first responders had a positive experience with this training and I firmly believe that other departments, especially those in large cities, can benefit from VR training.
The final area of research to investigate regarding VR is in the field of medicine. Like the first responders, using VR in a hospital could help surgeons train before performing surgery. Additionally, it allows for practice and means that more skilled specialists could be available in the workforce. Already, there have been some visible advantages to VR in the healthcare industry. VR can be used to treat chronic pain because it forces the brain to not focus on the pain. This also shortens the duration that people will need to stay in a hospital. VR has proven effective in fighting memory loss. Through VR, memories of Alzheimer’s patients can be jogged by helping them to recall past experiences through associations, places, or images. Having a family member with severe memory loss can be a strain on a person, but being able to see them have a breakthrough or remember something significant could be a huge comfort. Virtual reality has a place in medicine and can be used to improve the overall health of the population through trainings and treatments.
Virtual reality and other video games can be seen as “pointless” or as “time-wasters.” However, virtual reality has the potential to improve everyone’s lives. As of now, most virtual reality headsets are marketed towards people who play video games, and thus, is labeled as a video game. This is a major issue, because as expressed, there are several different areas in which VR can be used to improve the world. In the future, it would be very interesting to see how VR becomes a part of our daily routines because of the convenience and flexibility it offers.