Four Things You Can Do Better Virtually

Resistance to the increasing virtualisation of the modern-day world might be costing companies money but it’s certainly not surprising. Inventions like the printing press and even the written word were criticised by nay-sayers in their time, who thought their convenience would make people lazy. The virtual gaming industry has been making huge strides this year, with many companies releasing their own headsets, but here’s a few other things you might not have thought of that can be better done in the virtual world.

Facing Your Fears

Chris Brewin, a professor of clinical psychology at UCL, is one of the first to point out that virtual technology might have more serious uses than just gaming, saying he’d “put money on this becoming an important part of mental health treatment”.The feeling of embodiment created by the technology could allow people with intense phobias to confront their fears in a completely safe and totally customisable environment. In a preliminary American study, 83% of arachnophobics who took part in a virtual exposure therapy course were better able to interact with a real tarantula afterwards. For those with a fear of heights, the Vienna University of Technology has created an even more impressive set-up, combining a mechanical bearing structure, a small physical jump and a 3D simulation to create the experience of sky-diving over Vienna.

120828-A-BO052-013

120828-A-BO052-013” (CC BY 2.0) by USASOC News Service

Flying

Flight simulators aren’t a new invention and have been used to train pilots for years due to their safety and in order to conserve fuel. While previously these machines have been too expensive for personal use, apps like War Thunder, which allows you to simulate flying a WW2 plane, are now available to download for free. However, flight simulation has gone one better with Birdly, designed by researchers at Zurich University, which is heralded as the most realistic bird-like flight experience to date. Users lie on a cross-shaped apparatus that simulates flight posture, even tilting as you turn or dive, while wearing a headset. The device’s movable flaps become your “wings” and a fan blowing at your face adjusts to your imagined speed. After years of testing, Birdly is finally commercially available but is also occasionally made available to the general public at venues like the Sundance Film Festival.

Seeing New York from a bird's eye perspective

Seeing New York from a bird’s eye perspe” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by 4nitsirk

Gambling

Like flight simulation, “virtual gambling” might seem like old news, since there are numerous online casinos available across the web. However, the online gambling world has been making new strides recently by allowing gamblers to pay using the virtual currency Bitcoin. Bitcoin was invented in 2009 by “Satoshi Nakamoto” but only recently have industries started to take advantage of its unique transaction speed and security. Gambling with bitcoin allows greater safety from identity fraud, negligible credit card fees and near-instant pay-outs. As more websites get wise to these advantages, players can now enjoy not only a wide variety of individual games such as slot machines but also more competitive, traditional games like blackjack on casinos like bitcasino.

Yup. Now accepting bitcoins. Only casino in #lasvegas to do it!
Yup. Now accepting bitcoins. Only casino” (CC BY 2.0) by sarahstierch

Making Decisions

For the indecisive among us, virtual reality also aims to change the way we make major decisions, allowing us to more accurately visualise our choices. Volvo, for example, have teamed up with Microsoft to create the HoloLens Showroom, which allows potential buyers to not only view virtual cars but also to see inside their mechanics and customise their features. VR can also help with even larger purchases, allowing potential homeowners to remotely tour potential properties, saving both time and money on transport. You could even preview a possible vacation spot using YouVisit, a website that also allows American users to tour college campuses.

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