With this blog we finish the theme digital from the 2017’s tech trend series. In this theme we covered digital twins and blockchain. Before kicking of with the next theme, read this week’s blog about the sixth tech trend virtual and augmented reality, which seem to transform the way individuals interact with each other and with software systems.

2017’s tech trend 6: virtual reality and augmented reality

Albert Heijn’s dinosaur card-promotion last summer introduced people to virtual reality in the Netherlands. But the potential goes further than those cards or games; scientists, care providers, and organisations are discovering the virtual world.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are about transforming the interaction between people and between people and software, which create an immersive environment. VR is about creating a complete new digital environment, while AR is about enriching the existing environment with digital additions. The applications of VR and AR go beyond your imaginations. Think of real-life training scenarios of personnel, meetings in a virtual environment and more…

Health

The British Kings College Hospital developed an Android application that is helping children to get through a scary medical procedure by virtual reality. Many children think that an MRI scan is frightening. The app has to make sure that children know what to expect in order to ease them before and during the scan. They then go prepared into the MRI scanner. The hospital hopes that children will be less scared and that fewer anaesthetics will be necessary.

In principal, everybody could use this app, although the environment, which is the one of the British hospital, could differ per hospital. In the app children get a virtual tour of the room; while the video explains what will happen and what they could expect from the moment they enter the room.

But it is also a tool that could help people to overcome their fears. At the TU Delft they are doing research on how to overcome your fear (such as fear of heights) with VR. People will receive several scenarios in which they are challenged. In this way the fear can quietly disappear or people learn to cope with it.

On the other hand, there are also treatments possible with VR. For instance, a 32-year old woman who had been paralysed from the waist down for 13 years has regained some muscle control with the help of VR. The woman is part of a research study that uses a system of brain-controlled robotics and VR. In this way neurological and physical interactions can be restored.

Education

Last year 729 young children were injured and 10 were killed in a car accident in the Netherlands. For this reason VVN (Veilig Verkeer Nederland) and Dutch insurer Interpolis want to reduce the number of young victims in traffic accidents to provide children with VR traffic training, called WegWijsVR.

The tool is developed to train participation in traffic. The children are experimenting with a route of 1,5 km around their school, which is shown in 3D. They have to cycle or walk this route with VR glasses. In the meantime various traffic situations occur; for instance, children wants to cross a street, but a double-parked car blocks their vision. With VR children can learn how to respond to unexpected events in traffic.

Sports

Besides VR in health and education, VR is already serving as broadcast of games. The NBA, for instance, decided to take a step toward bringing fans further into the action by broadcasting at least one game per week in virtual reality. The NBA is the first major professional sports league to broadcast regular-season games in VR.

Not only the NBA broadcasts games, also the 51st Super Bowl was partly broadcasted in VR. Fox and its VR partner LiveLike featured 20 game highlights in the format. During the game, four of the plays in each quarter were shown in VR, which were available in nearly real time but fans are still able to watch them now after the fact.

But not only watching sports is possible with VR. With VR people could get acquainted with, for instance, football. They could both train their physical and tactical skills with the help of VR. At Dutch football club AZ they are experimenting with it in order to learn young children to play football (better).

There is more…

Of course, there are many more possibilities with VR. In a lot of branched such as real estate, for instance, VR can come in handy. In this way potential buyers can ‘step foor’ into more homes in a shorter amount of time by viewing houses with VR. Also, in health there are endless possibilities, such as listed above. But there is way more to come.

It is therefore, that Gartner expects that the market for VR and AR will enormously expand in the coming years, and not only in the entertainment market on which the focus is right now. Does this mean that VR and AR will expand beyond visual immersion to include all human senses over time?