Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) Oculus Rift headsets have received an extravagant amount of press and are finally due to arrive this coming Monday, March 28th. While the initial early adopters of this technology will mostly be gamers, there is a huge potential outside of games for Virtual Reality. Below are a small sliver of applications that virtual reality can be used for.
Helping Treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
One of the key symptoms of PTSD is the inability or refusal to recall the events that cause the pain and symptoms. However, this is a crucial part of the recovery procedure, as it is important to gradually process the event and move past it. A program is already in place in the military, called Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy. In this program, engineers reconstruct the events that took place in a virtual environment controlled by the patient. This method has seen some highly convincing results, as research has shown "drastic decreases in PTSD symptoms, one finding 80% of patients no longer classifying as PTSD sufferers."
Virtual Reality's practical application is exceptionally promising in the field of medicine. In the past, students have typically learned how to perform a surgery by watching a doctor perform that procedure. With virtual reality, students will have the ability to practice complex surgeries in a virtual environment with no risk to patients. Aside from training, virtual reality can also help guide complex procedures. At Angers University Hospital in western France, physicians successfully used virtual reality to map a patient's brain during surgery to remove a tumor. A single mistake damaging nerves or tissues in the human brain could cause permanent and severe damage, so it is essential that doctors use every available tool at their disposal to ensure the patient's safety.
Run by Jeremy Bailenson and Derek Belch, STriVR Labs has taken the spotlight when it comes to the application of VR in sports. They flaunt a client list that currently includes NFL teams, college programs and as of late, NBA, NHL and even WNBA organizations. STriVR Labs differentiates itself by using real video of each team's individual players (and not computer generated images) to simulate game-like situations. The technology is useful for accelerating transformational learning moments by giving players an immersive experience. Instead of assembling 30 players to help the quarterback practice how to read the defense, the quarterback can simply put on his headset and practice 30 snaps by himself. David Shaw, head coach of Stanford's football team, is embracing the technology that VR provides. When he tried out the technology for the first time, he wanted to have it right then and there to use with his team.
The Vision of Infinite Dimensions, or VOID, is demonstrating VR capabilities in entertainment. The VOID combines physical and virtual gaming to create an experience like none other. Rather than try to explain it further, you can watch their promotional video here to get a better understanding of what they do.
Virtual reality can play an important role in travel and tourism. Visualise is a new company that teamed up with South Africa to create a virtual tour of the country. The program allows people to "experience highlights of a trip to South Africa, such as visits to markets and bars, shark diving, kitesurfing, and paragliding". In the future, videos such as this can help tourists "test out" where they want to travel before actually deciding on a location.
Virtual Reality opens many doors within the education market. VR will be most beneficial to those who are visual learners, as they will be able to grasp concepts and formulas by being immersed in them. Schools will also have the option to take their students on high-tech field trips to foreign lands for a fraction of the cost. Learning through experience is one of the most highly effective ways to learn, and virtual reality is in one of the better positions to provide these experiences.
Although not described in detail, virtual reality can also be used in 3d design, architecture, unique cinematic experiences, and so much more. Facebook's Oculus Rift easily has the most brand recognition of the current VR modules and is poised to be a possible leader in all that is virtual reality. It should be noted that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) owns the premiere augmented reality device, the HoloLens. While this may be more useful in some of the applications listed, the virtual/augmented reality is expected to be so large that the two can coexist and still make a sufficient amount of money. Virtual reality alone is expected to bloom into a $30 billion market in just four short years. Through Instagram and its core business, Facebook has proven that in can scale its products. I have no doubt in my mind that it can do the same with Oculus and will take full advantage of this opportunity.
Disclosure: I am/we are long FB.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.