Normally thought of as a far-fetched dream of science fiction, Virtual Reality has recently emerged as a viable platform for various uses. Ranging from Gaming to Rehabilitation, virtual reality is now a medium for plenty of forward thinking individuals. Much like how video games back then was a burgeoning platform for a variety of uses, so is virtual reality in this day and age.
The visual fidelity of games in recent years kept on escalating. It was more than a decade ago when we were playing games such as Fallout 3, wherein we could see the clear limitations of their then current-gen technology. Gradually, games became more and more beautiful as the technology continued to improve upon itself. Nowadays, we have a slew of games that can take our breath away, with games such as Red Dead Redemption 2, Destiny 2, Monster Hunter World, Witcher 3, and many more.
But there is always the lingering want of not only just playing the game, but being in the game itself. The want to see the world as the characters do, to interact with the environment that has captivated us through the screen.
Enter Virtual Reality.
The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive platforms were released just a few years back, and they established a platform upon which a great many things would be built upon.
While the starting programs were simple walk-simulators or had the person interact with an NPC (Non-Player Character), people did not hesitate to dive into the phenomena that was virtual reality.
Now, we have social platforms such as VRChat where one can interact with other people that also have VR Headsets, some may even have full body tracking. However, personally I would advise those interested in the program to be wary as the freedom of the avatar customization can get pretty wild.
Aside from being a gaming platform, virtual reality can also be used for medical purposes. There are plenty of simulations out there that can help with one’s phobias, even more that can help with physical rehabilitation. Studies by various institutions and researchers have given credence to the possibility that virtual reality can help in such a manner.
A study done by RVS Technical Campus in India has yielded results that prove that VR technology can become the next step in affordable and customizable systems that can help monitor disease, healthcare, help in therapy, etc. (Smys, 2019). Another study done in 2017 which centered around physical rehabilitation following a stroke had found out that, while not visibly significant, those who were using VR tech in their physical rehabilitation were in the same level as those in gym-based physical therapy (Stockley et al, 2017). A similar study was done a year before that wherein the results were, if not, the same as they found that virtual reality gaming rehabilitation was just as equally effective as traditional methods (Yates et al., 2016).
In 2017, a study done on VR tech concerning Social Anxiety Disorder had given results that put VR technology as a potential solution for treatment avoidance and as a cost-effective, efficient, and practical solution in cognitive behavioral therapy (Bouchard et al, 2017). In another study done concerning anxiety and other related disorders, it was found that VR Exposure Therapy has a larger effect size compared to controlled environments and equal to that of vivo exposure, meaning that more people would find an appeal in VRET, and thus can be a cost effective method in certain aspects (Carl et al., 2019).
Virtual Reality technology is young, and with the leaps and bounds of technology going on with each passing day, it can evolve to even greater heights. In this decade, we may have VR Headsets and walking simulators, but perhaps in the next we may have a whole virtual reality setup wherein we get taken into our favorite games and play as our character in real time.
S, S. (2019). Virtual reality gaming technology for mental stimulation and therapy. Journal of Information Technology and Digital World, 01(01), 19-26. doi:10.36548/jitdw.2019.1.003
Stockley, R. C., O’Connor, D. A., Smith, P., Moss, S., Allsop, L., & Edge, W. (2017). A mixed methods small pilot study to describe the effects of upper limb training using a virtual reality gaming system in people with chronic stroke. Rehabilitation Research and Practice, 2017, 1-8. doi:10.1155/2017/9569178
Michael Yates, Arpad Kelemen & Cecilia Sik Lanyi (2016) Virtual reality gaming in the rehabilitation of the upper extremities post-stroke, Brain Injury, 30:7, 855-863, DOI: 10.3109/02699052.2016.1144146
Bouchard, S., Dumoulin, S., Robillard, G., Guitard, T., Klinger, É, Forget, H., . . . Roucaut, F. X. (2017). Virtual reality compared WITHIN VIVOEXPOSURE in the treatment of social anxiety DISORDER: A THREE-ARM randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Psychiatry, 210(4), 276-283. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.116.184234
Carl, E., Stein, A. T., Levihn-Coon, A., Pogue, J. R., Rothbaum, B., Emmelkamp, P., . . . Powers, M. B. (2019). Virtual reality exposure therapy for anxiety and related disorders: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 61, 27-36. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2018.08.003