Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality have tremendous potential to help human beings perform complex actions and acquire unique skills that are currently either impractical or out of reach. What has been overlooked for some time is the fact these two technologies and the various scientific principles they are constructed upon are not limited to the now famous “goggles” and “lenses” model of current applications. Haptics, hypersonic sound systems, and enhanced prosthetics will eventually create a world where each person will be able to interact with the environment in a unique way. Visual applications will be important, but the advancements in this area will not be limited to them.
Virtual and Augmented Realities
VR and AR, as they are often called, are complementary technologies. VR creates an imaginary world and puts a person inside it. AR puts imaginary things in the real world. The practical applications for these technologies have been around for decades. The flight simulators used by the armed forces and airlines to train pilots are a form of virtual reality, while the structural evaluation RADAR and SONAR displays used to look for victims in disasters are an example of augmented reality. While these systems are effective, they are narrowly tailored to a single purpose. The future is where these two technologies will become more generally applicable.
The key area where both VR and AR will blossom is education. Imagine taking a tour of a historical site or even a museum and being able to see virtual exhibits surrounding each of the attractions that are geared to revealing facts and categorized information based on the viewer’s interests? The more someone “investigates”, the more focused the presentation could become until it leads to a series of reading suggestions or an Internet site with “the rest of the story” so to speak.
Imagine a VR simulation to help train people to render first aid or CPR. Now imagine the same simulation in a fire, or a hurricane, or a flood. All of those things become possible when an imaginary world can be presented as reality.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are two sides of the same coin. They will not only help train human senses, but they will help improve the human condition by giving individuals a context in which to acquire and learn to understand new experiences.