Social impacts of immersive technology.

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Virtual reality has been gaining a lot of attention in the media lately. Some of the largest companies in the world are turning towards this emerging technology in a big way. The question that should be on everybody’s minds is what kind of impact will immersive technology have on society? So far the impact has been huge, but it’s still not enough to answer that question.

Few people know that virtual reality applications are now commonly used in the medical field for anxiety treatment and PTSD therapy. This is done by exposing patients to their fears under safe conditions until they can overcome them. For example, a soldier who was in the midst of war can be exposed to battlefield simulations until he or she doesn’t feel anxious anymore. This is an excellent application due to its ability to expose patients to their fears while being in the comfort of their homes or an appropriate clinical setting.

Virtual reality as an empathy machine.

The social impact of virtual reality is very big, but it’s also a double-edged sword because anything can be used for good or evil. One project called “The Machine to be Another” attempts to use virtual reality for exploring the human experience from another person’s perspective. In other words, the user puts on a headset and through first person perspective, he can see what it’s like to be someone of another race, gender or sexual orientation. This is an excellent way to explore inequalities and develop empathy for other people. It can be used as a scientific method for better understanding how different people feel about certain issues that divide society.

Virtual Reality for education.

One of the most important social applications of virtual reality is education. Many universities and colleges have already started using programs for teaching foreign languages, anatomy, history and other subjects in a more engaging way. For example, students can be taken back to ancient Greece or Rome without having to spend thousands on traveling costs. This allows for learning from different perspectives and getting more out of the education process.

Virtual reality as an entertainment platform.

The social impact of virtual reality is huge but many of today’s biggest companies such as Facebook, Google and Samsung are looking to expand its use beyond learning and therapy. Each of these companies has invested millions into making virtual reality a new major platform for social interaction. For example, Facebook is working on an app called Spaces that would allow users to join together in virtual reality and chat with each other face-to-face. However there are still many technological kinks to be worked out before this becomes a reality. The future of immersive technology may not look so bright for social interaction. Currently, video games are the most popular application for virtual reality headsets, however many critics believe that it will get worse from here. One of the biggest reasons that we should be cautious with virtual reality becoming a new platform for in-game interaction is that loneliness can become a huge problem. Some people already struggle with depression and studies show that spending most of your time indoors by yourself increases your chances of causing mental illness or other problems in society. Though VR headsets may help to cure some of these problems, it may also create a new wave of them. As mentioned in an article from Forbes “People can become isolated when they spend too much time in virtual reality socializing”.

Domes and technology used to create social spaces – Dining Domes in Detroit, MI – by Lumen and Forge

Conclusion

The future of Virtual Reality seems to be very up for grabs with different companies already giving their own vision of how the technology should be used. We will have to keep in mind the concerns of experts and decide for ourselves what kind of future we want to be a part of. The future is uncertain but what is clear is that immersive technology is wide open for almost any use case you can imagine.

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