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The Importance of Virtual Reality for Modern Society

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In 1968, Ivan Sutherland, an American computer scientist, with his student Bob Sproull made the first ever virtual reality head-mounted display. Virtual reality (VR) is a technological interface that allows users to experience computer-generated environments within a controlled setting. VR has made some remarkable advancements in the past few years; when Sutherland and Sproull invented this VR display it was a large and heavy contraption that was suspended from the ceiling, now it can be as simple as a headband with your smartphone attached.

When this technology was first made public, they were contraptions only the rich would have access to, or you would only see in movies but wouldn’t be widely accessible to the majority. Now in the 21st century, it has been made into a simple device that has been made affordable to many. VR now has the power to positively change the world with the improvements that have been made in the last 10 years with helping and educating the public. Virtual reality can help individuals learn how to cope with their own phycological disorders while also offering various educational opportunities such as surgical practices, teaching piolets how to fly, and preparing for space explorations.

When a new surgeon is being trained in how to do specific surgeries, the normal procedure would be for them to use a plastic model or a human that has left their body behind for medical science/research. This leaves room for the plastic model to not be realistic enough and not able to mimic what would truly happen in surgical instances. The same obstacles are shown when dealing with an actual human body, if you cannot complete the surgery correctly the first time there is no way to go back and practice the surgery again without having a new body to work on. With the help of virtual reality, surgeons can have a fully interactive experience with a precisely modeled patient that can be suffering from a wide variety of complications. With VR, the trainee or surgeon can learn new techniques as many times as they need to perfect their surgeries, this would make for better trained and better performing surgeons.

It is known that piolets use flight simulators to learn how to fly already, but with the practice of VR, learning how to fly could be a lot more interactive and realistic. Like practicing surgeries, it can be risky when learning how to fly; learning to fly isn’t very straight forward, an individual may have to learn in many different environmental changes in such as weather, and various different sized planes. When using virtual reality, piolets in training are able to experience risky situations with weather without putting anyone in danger. Other positives for VR flight training would be to cut training costs by not having to provide the copious amounts of fuel and maintenance to the planes which are also able to then help the environment by not having those chemicals in the air.

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Exploring space before virtual reality meant going to an underwater facility that was supposed to mimic a space station or only being able to look at previous videos and pictures that had been taken. Previously, researches haven’t been able to wonder very far outside of the Martian locations, they would just have to conduct their research based off of long, flat panoramas of the surface taken by rovers. Now with technologies growing in virtual reality it has become easier than ever to study space. In a study done by Scientific American, partnered with NASA, a group found that researchers were two times more accurate at determining distances and three times more accurate at determining angles between specific Martian locations when they could look around from within the VR headset (Lewin). Furthermore, with this study, NASA has decided to use virtual reality for their next launch to Mars in 2020.

In addition to the educational positives of virtual reality, doctors are finding many ways in which VR is helping many patients of theirs with psychological disorders. When it comes to the patients with disorders, VR is used to mimic situations that typically would give be harmful to a person with a disorder but is able to be altered or manipulated in a way that a patient could change the outcome, which can result in getting over the anxiety or fear. The US National Library of Medicine, with the National Institute of Health, conducted a study with patients that suffered from anxiety disorders, psychiatric disorders, and PTSD. Studies showed that after patients had been exposed to virtual reality, they had a large drop in anxiety symptoms. On the other side, virtual reality can be intimidating when first introduced; a person who suffers from a disorder understandably may not be willing to try and dive into this virtual world. For example, in a study with 150 patients with specific phobias, the refusal rate for VR exposure was only 3%, but in addition to that 19% of those who reported that they would not be willing to talk to a counselor in person reported being willing to use VR approaches to access mental health care (Harv).

Although there are many ways in which virtual reality is growing and is able to help, there are still some kinks that need to be improved on moving forward. Since 2001 there have been rapid improvements to the growth of virtual reality. If VR continues to grow at the speed it is now, it could become a household item and possibly even a part of everyday life. This could have some major effects in years to come if it is not used positively. There are worries on the user being harmed while in a virtual reality, this meaning running into walls or unable to recognize the key dangers in the immediate surroundings. A bigger issue is when spending a reasonable amount of time in a virtual world, does there comes a point where it is difficult for the individual to differentiate the real world versus the VR world. For instance, there are many arguments on if videos games are making people more aggressive in real life; with video games it typically means you are using a controller to play, but if you are playing a violent video game in VR you are physically doing each movement to steal from, harm, or kill another avatar.

In 2019, the VR market is expected to reach a market size of 20.4 billion US dollars, by 2022 that amount skyrockets to an overwhelming 192.7 billion US dollars. The virtual reality technologies have been improving since it was invented and is projected to be very successful in the years to come. Not only is virtual reality is helping individuals cope with their psychological disorders, it is helping educate many when it comes to becoming a surgeon, learning to fly, or space exploration. VR is creating many opportunities for people to get the education they need to do the best they can in many different lines of work. Even with the possible negative impacts that this device has to offer, I believe that virtual reality has the power to outweigh the ‘no’ and change the world positively.

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The Importance of Virtual Reality for Modern Society. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-importance-of-virtual-reality-for-modern-society/
“The Importance of Virtual Reality for Modern Society.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-importance-of-virtual-reality-for-modern-society/
The Importance of Virtual Reality for Modern Society. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-importance-of-virtual-reality-for-modern-society/> [Accessed 1 Feb. 2023].
The Importance of Virtual Reality for Modern Society [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2023 Feb 1]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-importance-of-virtual-reality-for-modern-society/
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