7 Fields and Professions That Are Beginning to Rely on Virtual Reality

by Andy Heikkila

7 Fields and Professions That Are Beginning to Rely on Virtual Reality

Innovations in technology are evolving so rapidly that the sci-fi depictions we dreamed of as children are becoming reality. Cars that drive themselves, mini personal computers with touch screens populate our pockets, and now, virtual reality is becoming increasingly more common — so common, in fact, that professionals of all types are beginning to rely on VR in particular.

Here are seven professions that regularly use virtual reality in innovative ways to bring their ideas to life or train others for real-life situations.

1. Architecture & Real Estate

Soon the days of designing buildings with hand-drawn sketches will be completely gone, if they aren’t already. Today’s architects are becoming familiar with 3D software to design their projects, allowing them to design not just the exterior of the structure but the interior as well. This is great not only for architects, but also for realtors and homebuyers.

“A number of young tech companies are exploring an entirely in-VR experience when it comes to shopping for your next home,” write the Zolo Staff. “These experiences allow buyers to enter search criteria — like price, location, and the number of rooms — and then offer VR tours of the homes that meet the criteria. This new real estate technology can fundamentally change the way people shop for homes.”

2. Hospitality & Tourism

In the same way that people can scope out new homes and buildings from the comfort of their existing home, VR allows for tourists and vacationers to preview their destination spots in detail. Some people are even using VR to fuel their entire vacation!

“One of the most common uses of virtual reality in the hospitality industry so far has been the creation of virtual travel experiences, using 360 degree video technology,” write the experts at Revfine. ”Through this, users can experience a virtual recreation of different aspects of travel, from the flight, to arrival, to some of the key sights.”

VR is, no doubt, capturing the imagination of many who wish to provide entertainment and an immersive experience. While a user is in the virtual world, companies will begin to advertise using virtual means, drawing customers in with virtual marketing and PR campaigns, as well as augmented reality. Eventually, it won’t just be vacations or tourism, but everyday tasks like learning and teaching that will accommodate VR.

3. Teaching & Learning

Educators the world over are turning to VR to bring immersive experiences to their students. In the same vein as the tourism and travel niche, innovations like Google Cardboard allow teachers to take their students on a field trip anywhere in the world — and even off of it! — without leaving the classroom.

Some argue that the classroom itself will undergo a virtual transformation, shifting to an entirely online format. As it is, telepresence learning and work can be facilitated with two-way cameras and the internet. However, ASU Online mentions that “as online learning continues to evolve, students will be presented with even more options — through virtual and augmented reality — giving them more choices and creating a richer, more immersive learning experience.”

4. Piloting & Parachuting

The list of training exercises the military uses VR for is probably endless and buried in classified, redacted literature — but the main ones are parachuting as well as piloting. It’s not just military training facilities either. Other training facilities are starting to use hanging harnesses to simulate parachuting under certain conditions.

Imagine the ultimate ride, as the students and cadets are hanging no more than a foot off the ground and wearing full survival gear, but are put through a simulated 4,000 ft jump and drop. This training program uses a computer system hooked up to fans that simulate wind, displays of different types of terrain, and ultimately simulations of different weather conditions to prepare students for the real thing. This is essentially the ultimate flight simulator!

5. Surgeons & Healthcare

When it comes to the human body, surgeons and physicians must be as skillful and knowledgeable as a veteran car mechanic. Unfortunately, putting the wrong part in a human has life-threatening consequences. This is why medical schools are not only applying the use of cadavers, but now, also virtual reality training to map out a proper surgery and prepare professional physicians.

Interestingly, some believe that as the IoT and 5G technology advances, a combination of VR and telemedicine could allow surgeons to perform remote operations from anywhere in the world. Anjali at OnTrack writes:

“5G enables enhanced minimally invasive remote surgery. Mischa Dohler, a professor at King’s College London, along with Peter Marshall of Ericsson, demonstrated a touch-sensitive medical tool that provides haptic feedback to a remote clinician.  The tool can detect early cancerous lumps under the skin of patients. The robotic representation gives the surgeon the sense of touch in minimally invasive surgery and is able to send accurate real time localization of hard nodules in soft tissues.”

As this technology advances, expect to see more and more remote VR applications in the medical field.

6. Law Enforcement & First Responders

Like surgeons, law enforcement and first responders really only have one opportunity to “get it right,” so to speak. These include fire fighters, the bomb squad, and anybody else that responds to emergencies requiring hands-on training. Crispin Andrews, writing for the IEEE institute, outlines how that could and already is happening.

“Researchers made a 3D model of the MITRE campus, in McLean, Va., which included the floorplan, details of the structural materials of the building, and layout of its heating, cooling, and electrical systems. They then uploaded this data onto the Unity gaming platform and removed superfluous items such as plumbing details due to information overload. They then highlighted key features of the area to help responders easily spot, for example, emergency staircases. This would allow users to view all this information through a virtual reality simulator as they move through the building.”

The point is that any agency can design their VR environments to match their own familiar surroundings, making training that much more tailored and effective.

7. Welding & Manufacturing

Welding is a very hazardous job. Underwater welding is even more so. This is why more and more welders are using virtual reality to train, simultaneously perfecting their craft and staying out of danger. Underwater welding, for example, threatens the dangers of an explosion due to the combination hydrogen and oxygen pockets, accumulation of nitrogen due to high blood pressure, and electric shock from their own equipment underwater. Eventually, in the same way that surgeons might perform remote operations via 5G technology, welders could also operate from a difference.

Welders below sea-level aren’t the only manufacturers and fabricators that could benefit from VR tech.

If we add unmanned aerial drones into the mix, VR brings manufacturing and construction to new heights.

“Usage of VR and UAVs particularly can enhance inspections industry, where all the user has to do is put on a VR headset and use a drone to inspect the facility needed, from more angles than manually possible,” writes Adam Shore with Dronegenuity. “In the construction industry, this technology can be used to monitor movement of resources, construction progress, perform safety inspections without any probability of personal injury, analyze effects of surroundings etc. Similarly, in the manufacturing industry one could use VR + UAV capabilities to analyze movement of material or figure out ways to optimize capacity or space. Getting a high level view of a location can provide a lot of insights on space optimization and usage.”

All of these professions are beginning to push VR toward mass adoption by proving effective and innovative real-life use cases. It’s only a matter of time before VR permeates every aspect of life — enjoy the real world while you still can!

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Andrew HeikkilaAndrew Heikkila, a tech enthusiast, and writer from Boise, Idaho, and a frequent contributor to Innovation Excellence. He also writes for Tech Crunch. You can follow him @AndyO_TheHammer