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Helle Kinning

How virtual reality is changing the way in which we connect with the real world

Author: Helle Kinning, Marketing and distribution support specialist


26th Oct 2017


Advances in technology are speeding up at an incredible rate

Technology is evolving faster than it ever has before. 40 years ago, ‘computer’ was not a household word. Since the turn of the millennium, phones have evolved from the trustworthy and tough Nokia 3310 to the mind-blowing capabilities of the iPhone 7.

Tech companies constantly battle to release the biggest and best inventions from game consoles to smartphones. The digital technology industry is currently growing faster than any other industry in the UK, contributing approximately 93 billion pounds a year to the economy.

Virtual reality as a sales tool

Virtual reality is being seen across brands to give their customers a feel for products before they actually purchase them. From in-store retailers such as North Face right through to car manufacturers such as Jaguar and Audi, virtual reality is offering an immersive experience to effectively ‘try before you buy.’
A report from digital agency SapientNitro said: “Virtual reality is going to fundamentally transform the human experience of shopping,” predicting that it would, “lift sales for those retailers who get ahead of the curve.” With virtual reality software becoming more of a household name, it’s seemingly becoming more popular with retailers across the world when looking for cutting-edge marketing techniques.

High-end manufacturers are utilising these experiences with many seeing an increase in sales as a result. Jaguar has previewed models including the F Type, F Face and Discovery Sport with Robert Herd, head of communications at Jaguar Land Rover UK saying: “Initially consumers think it’s a gimmick but they quickly convert and it is driving a lot of additional car sales for us.” Benefits are being seen for high-end retailers across the globe making virtual reality a valuable marketing tool.

Using virtual reality techniques to aid flight training

Since the first flight simulator in the 1920’s, virtual reality (VR) has been on the minds of many technology experts. Professionals soon started to realise the benefits of this new concept and began developing new ways for it to be used.

As virtual reality improved over the years, it became ever-more relied upon in the aerospace and military industries. Trainees are able to learn difficult manoeuvres without leaving the ground, reducing the risk of death or injury and saving the respective industries a lot of money.

Virtual reality headsets or head-mounted displays (HMD) were created in 1961 to help helicopter pilots fly in complete darkness. Small infrared cameras would send images of the surroundings to the HMD. The camera’s angle would correspond with the pilot's head movements offering an unparalleled flying experience. These technologies are continuing to develop and are an important part of the training process.

Recreating combat scenarios using virtual reality

The military is increasingly using virtual reality to train their staff in dangerous situations. Gaming technologies such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are bringing cost effective solutions to the table, which is essential for government funded industries.

Tech companies are often battling for first place with new products being released at cheaper prices to attract new customers. This competition benefits the consumer as new advances are released quickly at a lower cost. Virtual reality systems are becoming more accessible every day, with the cost of this specialised equipment recently dropping to below £700.

The introduction of VR in the military is giving non-combat personnel such as medics the opportunity to work within combat scenarios without the associated risks. Medics must be able to focus in some of the most difficult situations and new technologies can make training for these situations much easier than ever before.

The Human Interface Technology department at the University of Birmingham has developed a VR scenario that incorporates helicopter turbulence and the sound of machine gun fire into the scene. This unrivalled technology will hopefully save many lives in the future.

Bringing virtual reality to the public eye

Gaming is a massive sector within the entertainment industry. According to the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment, the global gaming industry is worth $99.6billion. With approximately 31.6million people playing games in the UK alone, it’s not surprising that companies are constantly trying to come up with the newest, most exciting consoles.

The integration of motion sensors in products such as the Nintendo Wii in 2006 and augmented reality (AR) hitting the high street with Pokémon Go in 2016 has increased physical interaction with the gaming world.
As with other areas of science and technology, virtual reality and simulator systems have greatly improved in the last century. One of the original, less serious, applications of VR was to improve the gaming experience of dedicated players. It is still one of the main industries for VR and the release of the Oculus Rift was purely intended for gaming.

The idea of virtual reality gaming is to put the player in the game. Their actions will determine how the game plays out, with the use of motion sensor gloves or special handheld devices to control virtual hands for example. In terms of gameplay, the person is more involved than ever before.

Virtual reality is set to be an important part of our future

Virtual reality has already become very accessible. Advances in the technology have seen the likelihood of motion sickness lessen. Concerns still exist over personal safety whilst playing with VR headsets however it seems as though the benefits of this advanced technology will out-weight any negatives.
We can be sure to expect VR to become part of our daily lives in the future, whether that be travelling to exotic parts of the world from the comfort of your sofa, as part of the education system or visiting your GP without leaving the house.

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