With virtual reality (VR) technology growing, its implementation is becoming more diverse. While most headsets and motion-tracking controllers are being used for entertainment purposes, other companies and institutions are experimenting with alternative uses.
Since hitting the mainstream, VR is now becoming more accessible. Various headsets are available from a few different name brand companies, such as Sony's PlayStation VR, HTC's Vive, and the now Facebook-owned Oculus Rift. Samsung and Google have also produced mobile-based VR headsets and allow smartphones to be equipped. Programmers and developers are finding new ways to fully grasp the capabilities of VR technology.
Sea Hero Quest is a mobile game that has received a VR sequel. That matters more than one might expect from a bubbly adventure game involving a son setting sail to recover his father's lost memories. In tune with the narrative, the entire game is set up to collect data for Alzheimer's research.
According to the game's website, "By playing Sea Hero Quest for only two minutes a day you generate the same amount of data scientists would take 5 hours to collect in similar lab-based research." The game has had over 3 million downloads since its release in August 2016 and the VR component is now available. Sea Hero Quest utilizes spatial navigation to gauge people's cognitive abilities with real life navigation, being as it is usually the first sign of degeneration.
Virtual reality will provide more in-depth data, catching the subtleties of movement and recognition. Alzheimer's Research UK, along with University College London, the University if East Anglia, German telecommunications giant, Deutsche Telekom, and game developer Glitchers all collaborated on the project to help further the study of dementia by focusing on using consumer generated data. Sea Hero Quest VR is compatible Samsung Gear VR and available for download with the Oculus Rift.
This is just one, but massively rewarding use of up-and-coming technology that is not strictly for entertainment. Other examples range from helping children and teens with autism to develop social skills by helping them understand certain social cues for real life scenarios, to assisting architects create better models by letting them test their designs with digital walkthroughs. Virtual treatments for pain and PTSD are also being looked into as well as training programs for medical students. News organizations such as CNN and the New York Times are currently having readers literally "enter" their stories to immerse themselves in current events.
Unfortunately, with the rise of VR also comes the rise of the bandwagon to be a part of the growth. This past June, a charity event held in Sydney, Australia had CEO's wear VR headsets to simulate homelessness as part pf the Sydney "CEO Sleepout" fundraising event before they spend a night sleeping outside. Although they claimed to have raised $5 million, the VR aspect was criticized for being "dystopian" in nature by further exemplifying the gap between elites and poverty-liners. Despite potential cringe-worthy situations such as with "CEO Sleepout," VR is thriving and will continue to do especially if applications are constantly broadening. Queue the Blue Pill, RED Pill debates now.
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