How Virtual Reality Technology Can Change the World For Good
If you watch Chris Milk’s 2015 TED Talk on “how virtual reality can create the ultimate empathy machine,” you might be in awe as I was after watching it for the first time. In fact, it was the inspiration for this blog post. There’s a short demo in Milk’s talk where he shows United Nations officials using the virtual reality headset, Oculus Rift, to actually see and experience what a daily life was in a Syrian refugee camp for a 12-year old girl named Seedra and her family. It was an incredible experience. As Milk said, “it’s one thing to read stories, but it’s another to see and experience it for yourself.” Virtual reality has the power to create those experiences. It also has the authority to be a significant influence on decision-makers who run our world. This is a big deal.
How It All Started & What VR is Now Becoming
The term “Virtual Reality” (VR) was coined by computer scientist, Jaron Lanier, who used to work at Atari, Inc. and is widely credited as the pioneer of the virtual reality field. VR technology was originally intended to help enhance video games, but it is now also burgeoning in the video and film world. As virtual technology is improving and changing, its original purpose has adapted as technology innovators and leaders become more aware of how it can have a greater purpose and truly change our world — for good. The power of VR is in its ability to immerse a subject into any virtual realm. These realms play on our senses, and our senses impact the way we think, feel, interpret the world around us, and most importantly — they can drive life-altering decisions. Recently, virtual reality’s immersive power has caught the global attention of impact makers and leaders for social change.
Virtual Reality & Filmography Combined
Even the popular Oculus Rift co-founder, Palmer Luckey, has realized the potential of his invention and stated, that it really can “make a significant difference in people’s lives.” Cinematography and videos are important tools that tell stories, but there is something even more powerful when those resources are combined with immersive technology, such as Virtual Reality headsets. VR can do this “because virtual reality has the ability to put you in places in a much more real way; it has the potential to be a much better canvas,” says Luckey.
What to Keep in Mind as VR Gains Popularity
As VR gains popularity, it’s good to keep in mind that although it can effectively immerse someone in a world that “seems” and feels real, it’s still a virtual world. It’s healthy to remember that a virtual world is simulated and created by a “storyteller” or artist and the world you’re immersed in was selected for you to see and is an interpretation of the artist. Although, if done well (like Milk’s video about Seedra and her family in Syria), it’s a pretty darn good reflection of the real deal.
Why VR May Not Always Be “THE” Solution
In addition, VR may not be for everyone or aid every solution. Oculus founder, Luckey, advises that a “legitimate reason” is needed before philanthropists or organizations begin using and trying VR. Second, the technical resources, development needed, and skills are significant factors to consider before diving headlong into the VR field when it comes to utilizing it for social change.
The Takeaway: Virtual Reality is a Powerful Communication Platform
By 2020, VR headsets are predicted to have a hardware market of $2.8 Billion. It’s entering our lives and transforming the world we live in whether we recognize it or not. As we’ve discovered, it’s a technology resource that’s not just for individual consumer purposes, but it’s an amazing communication platform with the power to influence major decisions for humanity. Virtual reality is happening now. Hopefully, it will continue to change our future for the better.