Virtual Reality is emerging from the difficult teenage phase – when it was constantly ‘the next big thing’, but not actually getting there – into a series of applications that can improve, develop and even save lives across the world. Think the medical profession and you’ll know what I mean.
So – what are good examples of VR done well? Let’s take a look.

Medical

Making VR work in the medical sector has been a success story of recent years. VR is saving lives right now.
One of the most successful applications within the medical sector is within education. Only a few medical students will have had the experience of peering over a surgeon’s shoulder during a complicated cancer operation. VR, especially when live streamed, can take countless students into the operating theatre, showing them techniques they would never have experienced before. The Medical Realities platform is an excellent example.
Books are great and will always be a key part of a medical student’s learning journey, but goodness me – VR really does take that education to a much, much, higher level.
VR can also help to relax a patient who may be waiting for that magical release date from hospital. Dark thoughts will inevitably enter his or her head as the days pass by. On a psychological level, VR can take a patient into a stress-free world that provides an escape from the white walls of a hospital ward. This can be used for children as well, temporarily taking them back into the home environment during a long – and let’s face it, boring – stay in hospital.
And don’t forget the potential for teaching young medical professionals about the effects of conditions suffered by the elderly. An application called ‘We Are Alfred’ is showing these people what it’s like to live as an older patient. Losses in eyesight, difficulty moving limbs, changes in hearing. All these can be experienced through the use of VR applications like ‘We Are Alfred’, fostering an understanding of how different treatments can help.

Gaming

We’ll get this one out of the way right now. VR and gaming were made for each other – so much so, that it’s pretty much revolutionized the sector. And I don’t use that word lightly.
Applications such as Rush are delivering a sensation of flying that actually puts you in the flying suit. Virtually of course, but clever use of the excellent Samsung Gear means the user never notices.
For more serious gamers, VR delivers with aplomb in End Space, a game that places the user within the cockpit of a fighter jet in a futuristic space world. It offers a stunning example of how VR creates the wraparound, three-dimensional world that doesn’t just blur the divide between reality and a virtual world. It smashes it to bits.
Of course, futuristic space worlds have been a staple of computer games since Sir Alan Sugar slapped an Amstrad sticker on his latest invention. But today, things are different. So very different.
And talking of blurring lines, the Walking Dead has proved to be a phenomenally successful television series. But how to use VR and develop interest in new content? Easy. To market the launch of a new series, AMC created a VR experience that actually took people into a world of zombies and other questionable scenarios. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but for fans of the series it provided incredible access to the stories themselves and crucially, additional content. That’s not all. The use of VR offered the series to a whole new market of fans, who may be seeing – and enjoying – the series for the very first time. Clever, eh?

Travel

The world is your oyster. That’s the line, right? So what if that oyster is seen through a VR headset? It’s hard to know where to stop.
Already, many of the world’s leading hotels and destinations are using VR to sell a vision of their facilities. You might call it selling the dream. That’s what holidays often are – a chance to live the dream for a week or two.
 
Giving people a snapshot of that dream plays with the mind and increases desire to buy a holiday. Job done. Well, not quite. These snapshots might show a holidaymaker the experience they can have in a normal two-person room. Nice enough, but what if they’re shown a much better junior suite? The facilities, the views, the space. All things that could tempt them into upgrading at the booking stage.
Hotels like Best Western, Shangri-La, and Carlson Reizdor are already using VR as a tactic to sell before guests arrive at the property and believe me, more will follow.
Airlines can also use this tactic to up-sell at the booking stage. Most long-haul airline seats are comfortable enough, but what if you’re shown the extra room and facilities offered by an upgraded seat? Or even in first class? Ten hours in the same seat can be made so much nicer in a bigger, better space. Quantas are doing this with an app that shows the benefits of different classes within the same aircraft. All with a ‘book now’ call to action within reach. That’s the way to do it.
But it isn’t just within the premium sector that VR is playing a part.
Companies like Butlins are offering 360° tours of their facilities, as they dip a toe in the waters of VR. Not quite a full experience, but it shows that across the travel world, operators are embracing the potential that VR offers.
These are just three sectors where VR works well, but of course there are many, many, more. Think of education, and how VR can show youngsters the thrills of Victoria Falls – while sat in a classroom in Rotherham. On a rainy day. National Geographic really did a number with their VR video of this incredible scene.
Then there’s music, and the possibilities that VR offers for fans to see behind the scenes at concerts. On the stage, with the stars. Live Nation have got the ball rolling with NextVR, which offers fans just that – backstage access like never before.
I could go on – sport is another area where VR can take fans closer to their heroes. Fox Sports VR is offering live VR experiences, where people can watch sport from their own personal box in a stadium. Virtually, of course.
So there we are – VR really is doing well and it’s not a teenager any more. The ‘next big’ thing tag is no longer a weight around the shoulders. It’s time to shout about how VR is doing what it always promised to.