When virtual reality (VR) was introduced in the 1980s, the technology was still in its infancy. Early VR games were disappointing experiences, and few other industries saw immediate potential in the emerging technology. With the immense horsepower of today’s computers and gaming platforms, however, VR is poised to make the mother of all comebacks in all manner of industries and institutions.
10. Virtual Crime Scenes
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Physical tours of crime scenes by juries are no longer as prevalent as they once were, largely supplanted by high-definition photography and video equipment. But one British research team is making a strong case for VR headsets as standard courtroom equipment.
The British have long been proponents of this use of the technology, having completed a study over a decade ago at William and Mary College which found it feasible. Today, a Staffordshire University team is engaged in an extended study using multiple VR platforms, including those designed for gaming. Crime scenes can be scanned using lasers or documented in 3-D video using drones.
The Ministry of Justice has high hopes that the relatively inexpensive technology can help keep costs down by making complex information much easier to clarify, resulting in fewer hearings.
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One particularly interesting VR technique is called CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment), which uses a cube-shaped room in which every wall is essentially a 3-D projector. With special glasses, users can closely examine 3-D objects from all angles, just like fictional characters do on the Star Trek holodeck.
This technique is already used by auto manufacturer Ford. They use a physical model of a vehicle that is overlaid with a virtual model with which their engineers interact. This all but eliminates the need to construct multiple physical models when dealing with design problems, saving a ton of money in product development.
If not for their VR-assisted design, Ford says that several potential design issues would have been missed in its latest vehicle line.
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With ads becoming more ubiquitous and intrusive thanks to the Internet, most consumer-oriented applications related to marketing now aim to remove these ads. But many in the marketing industry feel that VR could be the first major technology to make ads, well, cool.
Google has led the charge with their Cardboard device—stereo lenses mounted in an actual cardboard viewer that users fold themselves (and which looks like a homemade View-Master). Cardboard works with smartphones and can be used to view VR content easily and cheaply.
Auto manufacturers like BMW and Volvo have commissioned virtual test drives and races, while clothing labels like Hugo Boss and Dior have assembled VR campaigns that put viewers beside the runway at fashion shows. However, this is just the tip of the VR marketing iceberg.