Every now and then you see a headline just like the one overhead, indicating that virtual reality is moving into some unexpected new industry or enterprise. It can all be a little bit dizzying, even if you’ve been following VR since its humble modern-era beginnings as a concept from Oculus demos. But what’s really interesting – particularly with regard to health care, one might argue – is exploring how a simple VR application in an unexpected area could, in theory, evolve or branch out. Here are a few examples of what I mean.
VR in Museums – Lots of museums offer virtual tours online, through which you can click through galleries and exhibitions. But now, venues as prestigious as the British Museum in London are partnering with VR companies to design full-fledged VR tours as well. It’s a whole new way for people to explore remotely. But think of the implications for tourism more broadly. Could more experiences like these lead to full VR city walking tours, incorporating multiple attractions at once?
VR in Casinos – Various components of casinos have been reimagined in VR. Naturally, a few simple poker experiences led the way. We’ve since seen some of the popular free slots displayed at international SlotSource platforms adapted to VR as well. But what if these slots, poker games, and other casino experiences weren’t one-off VR games? Could this lead to entire virtual casinos within which gamers could mingle and stop off at games of their choice?
VR in Cars – Racing was one of the early genres to really reach the potential of VR gaming. As a result, there are plenty of different VR driving experiences. Some are more realistic than others, but what if developers focused more on the realistic? Could VR driving be used to test young drivers? Or help people test drive cars they might want to buy in rapid succession? Or even help city planners to do practice runs of new traffic patterns?
The examples could carry on, but you get the idea. An individual VR experience that works well can hint easily at a whole category ripe for development. And that logic, when applied to VR in health care – and specifically diagnostics – is fascinating.
VR as a diagnostic tool has been buzzed about for years now, actually, even dating back to the days before the technology’s commercial availability. As VR has become better known though, this idea has taken clearer shape. Earlier this year, Wired did a relatively brief but helpful look at VR’s applications in diagnosing mental diseases (and in some cases treating certain conditions, like PTSD). The thinking, right now, is that through careful VR analysis, medical professionals can accurately determine what may be ailing a given patient.
Expand this concept beyond mental illness, however, and imagine applications with social components, and you can begin to see how the idea – like those examples listed above – could branch out significantly. VR examination apps with diagnostic components and social capabilities, specifically, would allow patients to broadcast their own injuries and ailments to people remotely, in order to receive diagnostic opinions. Ideally, that would mean physicians, but it’s highly possible it could mean other things too: friends, family, medical communities online, or even social network groups dedicated to various medical purposes.
In short, while it may seem like a stretch now, there’s a certain logic to the idea of near-future crowdsourced diagnostics in VR.