Virtual Reality Summer 2016

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“Virtual reality or virtual realities (VR), also known as immersive multimedia or computer-simulated reality, is a computer technology that replicates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user's physical presence and environment to allow for user interaction. “[1]

people wear Samsung Gear VR devices



A simulator that is called Sensorama was invented by Morton Helling to create the illusion of reality through delivering 3D images in terms of smells, wind, and sound in 1957. Four years later (1961), Philco Crop. Develops the project head sight. The head sight uses the head tracking system to connect to the video screen and this kind of technique has been widely used in military training systems. In 1965, the concept of Ultimate Display was brought up by Ivan Sutherland which intends to make it possible for users to see a virtual world through connecting head-mounted display (HMD) to a computer. Roughly 2 decades later, virtual reality name was born and firstly introduced to the public in the movie “Star Trek: The next generation”. Virtual reality was applied in arcade video games, leading the games to a three-dimensional era at the beginning of the 19s. In 1997, VR was used to build war zone scenarios as PTSD therapy. Before our world entering the 20th century, the producers of the film “The Matrix” managed to create a computer-generated future world and made the film a hit. In 2012 and 2014, both Oculus and Sony was eager to integrate the VR device into their games. Due to the successful development in VR, Oculus was purchased by Facebook for nearly $2 million. At the same time, more and more companies start to see the significance of VR, Virtuix even raised $3 million to develop a VR treadmill which allows their users to move characters through the game using their own body movements. The year 2016 is widely recognized as the Year of VR. VR is landing on Rift, Vive, and PlayStation with no doubts.[2]

Date Development Image
1957 Morton Hellig Invents the ‘’’Sensorama’’’-a silulator with 3D images along with smells, wind and sound – to create the illusion of reality.
Sensorama - 1957
1961 Philco Corp. develops project ‘’’Headsight’’’, a helmet incorporating a video screen with a head-tracking system. This technology has been used in military training operations.
Project Headsight - 1961
1965 Ivan Sutherland comes up with the concept called ‘’’Ultimate Display’’’. Using a head-mounted display (HMD) connected to a computer, users could see a virtual world.
Ultimate Display - 1965
1987 virtual reality name was born and firstly introduced to the public in the movie “Star Trek: The next generation”. Virtual reality was applied in arcade video games, leading the games to a three-dimensional era at the beginning of the 19s.
Star Trek - 1987
1997 Georgia Tech researchers use VR to create war zone scenarios as PTSD therapy for veterans.
PTSD Therapy

2014 Sony introduces the Project Morpheus VR headset for PlayStation.

The Federal Trade Commission approves Facebook’s purchase of Oculus for nearly $2 billion. Virtuix announces it has raised $3 million in funding to develop a VR treadmill that will allow gamers to use their own body movements to move characters through the game.

Playstation Morpheus - 2014


Immersive Reality

Immersive reality is the complete “immersion in an artificial environment where the user feels just as immersed as they usually feel in consensus reality”.[3]

Generally immersive reality devices feature a screen in front of your eyes which provides a full field of vision to the wearer.

Some of the most popular devices that feature immersive reality are as follows:

Device Specifications Image Price
Oculus Rift
  • Uses cameras and sensors to track users movements
  • Oculus is currently in the process of developing handheld controllers to increase the users immersion experience [4]
Oculus Rift
HTC Vive
  • Tracks users using a gyro sensor and accelerometer in the headset in conjunction with two infrared sensor cameras placed in the corner of the room
  • Comes with two handheld controllers to better interact with the virtual world[5]
HTC Vive
Playstation VR
  • Originally dubbed the PlayStation Morpheus, this VR will work with the PlayStation 4
  • The tracking will come from the PlayStation camera which will track at about 1000 time per second to ensure seamless quality
  • Will officially be released to the public on October 16th, 2016[6]
PlayStation VR
Fove VR
  • Similar to Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, the Fove VR also comes with the traditional screen in front of the users eyes
  • In addition, it uses eye tracking software to know where exactly the user is looking
  • This eye tracking creates a distinct interaction with the game and the user[7]
Fove VR
Avegant Glyph
  • Instead of a screen in which the users looks into the Avegant Glyph instead projects the images onto your retinas
  • This is done by shining lights that are bounced off of mirrors into your eyes simulating the picture
  • Currently this headset is designed more for media consumption rather than interaction[8]

Avegant Glyph

Mobile Phone Headsets

Mobile Phone headsets are a way to enable your phone to become VR enabled. It is similar to immersive reality devices however, it does not provide the user a full field of view as the above devices do.

Device Specifications Image Price
Google Cardboard
  • Is a viewer in which a mobile phone can be placed to enable virtual reality applications
  • Headsets can either be made from a template on the website or bought for a low cost
  • There is an official Google Cardboard app which simulates various simulations straight off your phone[9]
Google Cardboard
Free - $100
Samsung Gear VR
  • Powered by Oculus, this device enables users to place a Samsung phone (model S6 or higher) and use their phone as a VR ready device
  • While close to immersive reality, it does not offer the full field of vision[10]
Samsung Gear

Augmented Reality

“Augmented reality is the integration of digital information with the users environment in real time. Unlike virtual reality, which creates a totally artificial environment, augmented reality uses the existing environment and overlays new information on top of it.” [11]

Device Specifications Image Price
Microsoft Hololens
  • Blends reality with holograms to create “mixed reality”
  • Similar to immersive reality devices, it relies on sensors as well as a forward facing camera as well as an external camera to track movements[12]
Microsoft Hololens
Meta 2
  • Similar to the hololens, projects holograms onto the see through screen to superimpose images on reality
  • uses front facing camera and sensors to pick up hand movements so there is no need for a controller[13]
Meta 2

Current Applications

VR & Health Care

Most of us experience some level of stress and anxiety throughout our lives, for example, stress from work, fear of height, depression, etc. Virtual reality has been used to treat different types of disorder and it has been found to be an effective, cost-efficient treatment method.

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET)

VR uses specially programmed computers, visual immersion devices, and artificially created environments to give the patient a simulated experience. This therapy is aimed at generating stimuli that will desensitize patients to their fear. In VR-based therapies, a therapist can recreate artificial, controlled stimuli and expose it to patients gradually which trigger their traumatic stress responses, such as fear and anxiety. Also, the therapist is able to monitor the patient’s reaction and adjust the virtual environment. [14]

This VR therapy is available in VA hospital, military hospital, University research clinic, Virtual Reality Medical Centre. Besides going to the actual clinic centre, affordable VR headsets could be set up at home, such as Google Cardboard, Gear VR, Oculus Rift, with a suitable app.


  1. Increased control and security: the virtual environment allows for the control of unexpected occurrences that may come up during exposure to the real world, such as broken elevator, plane turbulence. In addition, the virtual environment allows the patients to be exposed to certain fears that may be difficult to reproduce in reality, for example, fear of flying in an airplane.[15]
  2. Reduction of costs: Comparing to the traditional therapy, virtual therapy can reduce cost. For example, a person who fears of flying, turbulence or normal take-off and landing doesn’t need to buy plane tickets or go to the airports to face their fear. He can do the treatment without the therapist.
  3. Avoidance of public embarrassment: Virtual environments allow the patient to avoid public embarrassment as the patient can have treatment at home.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy
PTSD Therapy
PTSD is a condition which develops when a person has been placed under extreme stress or suffered a high level of trauma. For example, a soldier who was assigned for the front line duty might suffer from PTSD.[1]

VR is being used to help soldiers who have developed PTSD since 1997. Bravemind is one of the VR-based exposure therapy that being used to assess PTSD. It allows clinicians to gradually immerse patients into virtual environments that trigger their traumatic experiences. Patients will be taught relaxation skills and coping strategies. Their physiological and psychological responses are monitored and analyzed as part of the treatment. As they are exposed to this over time and combined with the relaxation skills, they will feel less sensitive to the stimuli. The level of threat is removed which helps to reduces their anxiety levels.

Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety disorder is a mental illness that its symptoms interfere with your normal day-to-day activities or affect your life. For example, if a person worries about falling, they might avoid the situation related to height. The key to overcoming a phobia is confronting it as if you don’t, the situation will get worse with time. About one in four Canadian will have at least one anxiety disorder in their lifetime.[2]


Similar to PTSD, VR therapy has been used in treating patients with phobias and anxiety disorder for many years. It begins with less threatening situations and then goes to more anxiety producing situations. Samsung developed an app called BeFearless. It is a self-training VR program that helps you overcome your fear through Samsung Gear VR. It can be used to deal with the fear of heights or fear of flying. it has different scenarios at different levels of difficulty. To advance to the next level, users had to pass an evaluation based on several scientific proven criteria, for example, heart rate which is measured with Samsung Gear S smartwatch, eye movement and self-assessment of anxiety levels.[1]

The success of this training program is backed up by the doctors who tested 82 people to see whether VR BeFearless program could help them overcome their fears. The results turned out to be 90 percent success rate in reducing anxiety among those with fears of heights and public speaking.[2]

Stress Relief

Guided Meditation VR

Meditation is a great way to improve your mood and induce a state of relaxation. You can use VR and leave your worries in the physical world, while your mind vacations in exotic locations across the universe. There are two apps that you can use with VR headset and relieves your stress.

  1. DEEP : It is a meditative VR game where the user explores a beautiful underwater world. The unique part is that the game is completely controlled through breathing (biofeedback) by using Oculus Rift and the custom DEEP controller. The central of meditation is to learn correct breathing techniques that can help you to relieve stress, anxiety and mild depression. This app had received few different awards, for example, The Leftfield Collection EGX Rezzed 2015, Most Amazing Game a Maze 2015 and Perceptual Computing Challenge IC Tomorrow 2013.[3]
  2. Guided Meditation VR : It offers four relaxing immersive environments— an autumnal forest, a Japanese village, the tropical island beach, and a snow peak in the arctic—allows users to enjoy a guided meditation section. This is the world’s first VR app that measures heart rate in virtual reality without add-ons. It won the Most Innovative Game Award at the Meaningful Play Conference. Besides, it has been spotlighted by The Boston Globe, TechCrunch, Polygon and other global publications.[4]

There are some other areas of research and development in virtual reality for clinical healthcare including managing phantom limb pain, brain damage assessment, pain management, stroke rehabilitation, etc.

Surgical Training

Surgical Training

VR training allows the surgeon and medical professionals practice life-saving procedures, especially ones that are not commonly performed or has never been performed before, in a risk-free environment. It is not only educating surgeons but also rehearsing complex surgical procedures without putting patients at risk.[5] Users’ needs to be able to gauge the amount of time to use when performing a procedure. Comparing to merely observing the procedure, VR training is more conducive to long-term memory and learning as the surgeon is engaging in the procedure (they need to remember every step of the procedure and do it correctly). In addition, Next Galaxy combined virtual reality with leap motion feedback technology which recognizes hand gestures and translates them into interface commands.[6] That’s user will feel like he or she is doing surgery in real life and the program will guide the user through procedures.

The VR training can be used for laparoscopic surgery, emergency or panned surgery and organ transplant surgery, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), nasal gastric tube insertion, nasal gastric tube insertion, etc. There are a variety of different mobile virtual reality devices (e.g. Gear VR, VR One, Google Cardboard) that are becoming equip to handle these exercises.

Live Stream Operation

In April 2016, there was a VR live stream operation about removing tumors from the liver performed by Dr. Shafi Ahmed, who is a cancer specialist surgeon. This allows 13,000 medical students to witness a surgery through the surgeon’s eyes. Students can experience what is going on in all aspects of the operating room, such as the stress levels, how a team functions. [7]

VR & Fashion

Dior VR Headset

There is a potential revolution in the way fashion items are marketed and sold, major brands such Dior, Topshop are already embracing virtual reality technology. Topshop held a three-day VR experience about their runway show in 2014; Dior created its own make-up-orientated headset, named “Dior Eyes”, used it to present backstage of its catwalk show in 2015; Rebecca Minkoff filmed New York Fashion Week.[8]

Most of the fashion brands broadcasting their runway show in 360-degree virtual reality allowed customers to have first-row seat experience. This immersive experience isn’t just limited to catwalk show. It creates an intelligent retail shopping experience.

FX Mirrior
FXGear company uses both augmented reality and virtual reality technology and developed FX Mirror in 2012. This FX Mirror created virtual fitting room that measures your body dimensions in real time and you can try many different outfits without waiting in line.[1] It is a new channel in the supply chain. However, it might not as effective as actually trying on the outfit to see if it is comfortable and how it really looks on you.

VR & Real Estate

Real Estate and VR

Virtual Reality in Real Estate gives buyers a different view of a home. Buyers are used to be given the two-dimensional floor images and be showed with introducing the video. With virtual reality, buyers can be virtualized with what might look like when the home has been constructed. Giving the opportunity to feel something which doesn’t exist would be an exciting experience for customers. They can check the streets around the home and what looks like out of the window. People don’t need to follow the sales steps in routes, they can look back and take a better experience the home at their own pace with virtual reality. In the other way, it can be really cost-efficient applied to supervise when a new home being constructed. It does not necessary for people to take a lot of time to travel there to update what’s going on for each day in the new place. They can use virtual reality to walk through the new place with 360-degree tour in different homes and even diverse neighborhoods in advance.[2] In this way, customers can make a wiser decision because they can hit all options only with the one-time visit.

VR & Military

Military and VR

Virtual Reality has been adopted by the military (Army, Navy, and air force) and It has also been used for training purposes such as flight simulation, battlefield simulation, Medical training etc.[3] It definitely creates a better and safer situation for those soldiers who may get danger in combat situations. Soldiers can learn how to react properly if it is in the real situation but without any death. The flight simulator creates a flight environment for training the pilots. Pilots can learn how to do the flight control and other flight systems. With 3D images, the pilots can feel a more realistic environment including the aircraft, the changes in weather and height. It does not like the traditional 3D animation which can only be received information by pilots. This technology enables pilots to communicate and practice in-time reaction. Medic training is another effective training purpose in the military field. Soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological conditions can be trained to deal with their symptom in a proper way and also a safe environment. Being exposed to the triggers for their condition, they can be easily getting adjust to the battlefield. It really helps to decrease the symptoms and knows how to respond to unexpected situations.

VR & Entertainment


VR Game

According to SuperData Research, for this year, consumers will spend $5.1 billion on VR gaming equipment, while game developers will have 55.8 million VR users around the world and produce 38.9 million VR devices.[1] The Annual Game Developer Conference also concluded that Virtual Reality was unmistakably main focus of this year’s game development.[2]

On Steam, an online store for computer games, there are already 358 games under the category of “virtual reality” excluding demo on August 1st, 2016. Recognizing the influence virtual reality has on games, Mirage Interactive, a Chinese game studio, funded $1.5 million into virtual reality development.[3] They are planning to bring more original games to the market with a prediction of $40 million expenditure by 2020. Other than China, the government of South Korea has invested $86.9 million in total to develop the virtual reality industry which includes VR service platforms, VR game experience, VR theme parks and so on.[4] Besides those investments happened in Asia, Huffington Post also joined in virtual reality game industry. [5]

There are two main advantages of virtual reality games over traditional games which encourage people to apply virtual reality in the game industry.

  1. Virtual reality fight against isolation, which is the main drawback of traditional platforms. It allows children playing games with their friends rather than lock themselves in the room.
  2. Virtual reality enables incorporate your body into the game. Instead of just sitting on the couch and press buttons on the handles, virtual reality will require physical movement as you are actually in the game.


Oculus Cinema

Oculus Cinema

Virtual reality in the film industry is still at the very beginning stage of development. Ivan Reitman, a Hollywood director, said that “VR is remarkable. What it does is force you to bring yourself into the story”.[1] Sony’s “Ghostbusters: Dimension” helped introducing virtual reality experience into movies.

Many companies have realized the trend of VR movies and invested into this industry. Facebook has purchased Oculus Cinema for $2 billion. Oculus Cinema is an APP developed by Oculus to both watch virtual reality movies and help users get used to and comfortable watching the screen through VR glasses for hours at a time. It is one of the best VR movie experiences out there in the market. Designers and engineers are now working on trying to bring movie characters or your families and friends, even those who are far away, watching the same movie next to you at the same time.

Other than Oculus Cinema, M-GO Advance is another APP launched by Oculus which simply provide users with video titles and trailers. Besides Facebook, Comcast, Fox, and WME have invested more than $43 million into virtual reality films. During this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival, virtual reality movie experience is provided to audience which demonstrates a video to them in 360 degrees with a more immersive experience.[2]

VR Theatre in Toronto

In Canada, we have North America’s very first virtual reality theater in Toronto.[3] The cinema charges $20 admission fee from each audience, which allows them to experience a 360-degree view of a 40 minutes demo. New movies will be introduced in August.

Co-founder of the VR theater in Toronto believes that “there are still opportunities for people to try virtual reality in film and it will continue to grow.” That’s because virtual reality movies have several advantages over the traditional ones and 3D movies:

  1. VR movies allow a 360-degree view of the environment within the movie. VR put you into the movie to “join” the story rather than “watch” it. Since virtual reality captured images from all angle which brings a more immersive experience, while 3D only collected a few images from some angles which make some of the objects in the movie look closer to you.
  2. VR glasses are intended to be designed more comfortable for glasses wearers. It will be complicated and uncomfortable for people with glasses to wear a 3D glasses over their own glasses. While VR glasses are designed to enable people putting on VR glasses without taking their own glasses off. According to the reviews, PlayStation VR glasses tend to be the most comfortable one for glasses wearers.


Currently, NASA is relying heavily on virtual reality for their training, modeling and virtual tour to Mars. There are four programs using by NASA where virtual reality techniques are implied to improve the performance and experiences: Mars 2030, ProtoSpace, OnSight, and Hybrid Reality System.

Mars 2030

Mars 2030

Mars 2030 is an immersive Mars experience which allows interact with the environment. It provides a simulated life on Mars to people. This program is collaborated by NASA, FUSION Media, and MIT’s Space Systems Laboratory. Mars 2030 is developed to allow technicians testing vehicle and system under immersive environment, and prepare astronauts for their journey to Mars.

Beyond NASA, the Mars 2030 experience will be accessible to everyone on Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, and Samsung VR Gear. You will be able to download this app from Steam, Fusion or even your iPhone or Android. NASA wants to share this opportunity to the public in order to inspire the next generation exploring the space.[4]



The Mars 2020 rover is planned to be launched in 2020.[5] Instead of developing a prototype, NASA is using virtual reality equipment to build and illustrate the rover. This program is called the ProtoSpace. Within the virtual world, technicians’ movement are tracked around the rover. It allows them to look at both the bottom and top of the rover by kneeling down or peeking up. Technicians are also allowed to inspect the inner structure simply by putting their head through the rover. The rover will peel off layer by layer till the center is shown up.[6]



OnSight is a virtual trip to Mars. Curiosity collects images from 360-degree and enables OnSight to illustrate a simulated environment on Mars. The most amazing part of this program is that it allows distant collaboration even if scientists are not physically at the same location. In the virtual world, they can see and interact with each other.

The Mars experience is actually available to visitors in Florida. NASA is also working on bringing both ProtoSpace and OnSight to more community and eventually homes.

Hybrid Reality System

NASA is now applying a new system called “Hybrid Reality System”, which uses NVIDIA GPU technology with Unreal Engine 4, consumer-grade VR, physical mock-ups and models, wearable technologies and room scale tracking. It creates a highly realistic environment for both training and testing at a low cost. Matthew Noyes, software lead at NASA’s Hybrid Reality and Advanced Operational Concepts Lab, claimed that weightlessness is their next goal, and he thought ARGOS can create a reduced gravity environment. With Hybrid Reality System, astronauts are allowed to practice navigating within real-time scenarios because the system provides photorealistic graphics. The highlight of this system is that it allows users to interact with the environment. To be more immersive, NASA 3D-printed tools and control surfaces mock-ups and put them into the scenario.

To sum these up, there are several benefits that virtual reality brought to NASA:

  1. Lower cost and easy application. It is nearly impossible and most costly to build a traditional “analog” field for the purpose of training and testing. VR lowers the cost and only needs headsets and maybe several models for implying. If there are any changes needed, technicians only need to modify the program rather than restructure the whole physical scene.
  2. Avoiding potential risks. Using VR, astronauts are prepared for potential dangerous in a simulated environment which will reduce the risk of unexpected injury when they are in the space.
  3. Allowing distance collaboration and interaction with the environment. Distance collaboration eliminates the location constraint and makes the process more accessible and smooth. The interaction with the environment makes the experience more immersive.
  4. Saving time and resources. Testing vehicles and system in a simulated environment can allow scientists and engineers to detect potential issues and update them in advance.[7]

VR & Automotive

Virtual reality is also impacting the automotive industry in the aspect of both marketing and prototyping.


Car Dealership

VR changes the location, size and format of car dealerships.[8] Virtual reality eliminates the location constraints of traditional dealerships and allows customers have access to car models wherever they want. REWIND developed an interactive and simulated car configurator for Lexus NX. It allows customers to inspect every angle of the vehicle and take them into a test drive. Audi has also implied a VR system which enables customers to customize their own vehicle inside-out. Besides REWIND, Vroom is also applying virtual reality into car selling which collaborates with HTC Vive.[9] It is capable of taking customers into test-driving for 10 cars within 10 minutes. However, customers are questioning the “reality” of the test-drive. The test-driving lacks physical sensation and has limited time, even though developers captured a 360-degree view and trying to make the experience more “realistic”. Gaurav Misra, the chief marketing officer, said that the Vroom is still at the beginning stage and will become more realistic after further development.

Car Prototype

Car Prototype

Other than a method of marketing, VR techniques are also used in car designing process. Collaborating with HTC Vive, BMW is the first to imply mixed reality system into producing vehicle.[1] The VR system accelerates the process of implementation and testing, and also allows collaboration among developers around the world. Rather than uses only the VR model, BMW also combines reusable interior assembly and acoustic playback to create a more immersive experience. This also allows engineers to test the vehicle in different environments. Ford is using Oculus Rift for prototyping and evaluating vehicles.[2] According to Warren Lester, the product manager of Vicon, VR allows designers to inspect the design in details, such as their color, material, and finish. Compared to the CAD software (computer-aided design) which automakers commonly use, the VR technology allows Ford keep their expense low.

’’’Applications of VR’’’
Showrooms Test-Drive Design Explore Assembly Plant Demonstrate Danger of Distracted Driving
Car Manufacturers Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz Audi, Infiniti, Volvo Audi, Mitsubishi Chrysler Toyota

VR & Education

Schools are starting to adopt virtual reality to offer much more immersive education. For example, students can experience the Great Wall of China, Trojan War or even trip to the Earth's core through a virtual reality headset. Study suggests that students can remember 90% what they say and do from virtual reality education whereas 10% of what they read from tradition education system. Sometimes, virtual reality can bring the entire class into a virtual space. This eliminates geographical limitation of receiving education. For instance, students from South Africa can attend to Harvard lecture or sick children can now go to school in their bed.

Potential Issues and Challenges

Health Issues

Virtual Reality Sickness

One of the largest problems facing the VR industry is the proneness to Virtual Reality Sickness. VR Sickness has many of the same symptoms as traditional motion sickness including: nausea, vomiting, disorientation, headache, and instability. The main different between virtual reality sickness and motion sickness is that VR sickness is caused by the “visual induced perception of motion”.[3] Rather than the motion itself. Some of the causes of virtual reality sickness are a slow refresh rate of the screen, and when the users movements are not in sync with the device correctly, either leading to it moving too slowly or too quickly. Despite the research that has gone into determining what exactly causes this sickness researchers have been unable to identify an exact cause in order to eliminate it completely. [4]

There are techniques which users can employ to delay the symptoms of virtual reality sickness. They include:[5]

  • When turning lock your eyes on a fixed point on the screen
  • Take breaks while using immersive reality technology
  • Make sure the device is properly calibrated to your eyes
  • Restrict movement of your head
  • Sit down rather than stand when wearing the device

Eye Strain

Eye strain when using virtual reality devices is actually highly debated in the medical community. Some argue that because virtual reality devices are designed in such a way as to focus your eyes in the distance it would actually be less eye strain than staring at your phone. [6] In addition, it is argued that the overall brightness of the device will do no more harm than the current products we surround ourselves with. The other side of the argument is that since the screen is so close to our eyes we are continually focusing on that causing a great deal of strain.

In terms of eye strain the device makes all the different. For devices such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive the eye strain risk is much lower given that they are designed to focus your eyes to a great distance and their purpose is to generate a realistic setting. Mobile headsets on the other hand, were not specifically designed for that purpose. The problem arises because there is no different in pixel depth for near and far objects which can result in eye strain much quicker than other devices.

Similar to other electronic devices experts still recommend only using the devices for 30 minutes at a time and then letting your eyes take a break before continuing.

Physical Hazards

Since most virtual reality devices are completely immersive users cannot see the world around them and therefore cannot see any physical dangers that are present. This poses a problem in any space which virtual reality is going to be used. Everyday things quickly becomes hazards when you cannot see, such as the couch, the walls, or even cords coming from the VR headset itself. In order to safely use virtual reality the user should have a large clear area, free of objects and other people in order to limit potential hazards. [7]

Changing Brain Chemistry

Virtual reality with the current technology is a relatively new technology that has had very little testing done regarding the potential long term effects on humans. In studies done on lab rats at UCLA a researcher found that 60% fewer neurons fired in the rats brain when it walked down a corridor with virtual reality sets on than when they walked down the hall in reality. [8] This is a staggering number, and additional research needs to be conducted to determine if a similar pattern will happen in humans. In order for these devices to be used safely the long term effects of wearing these devices for long term period of time needs to be known.

The potential changing of brain chemistry also extends into the augmented reality field. In the experiment they mounted users with a head mounted see through display in which they displayed additional hologram information to test if this could work for surgeons. They found that the subjects depth perception became slightly distorted in the sense that objects were not where the subjects though they were. After 10 minutes of exposure the users became acclimatized to change. However, when the headset was removed the same distortion of perception took place, which wore off after 30 minutes. Due to this is was concluded that this technology was unacceptable for surgery’s given the long adaptability time. [9]

Privacy and Security Issues

Virtual reality does not bring up many new or revolutionary privacy or security concerns, however, it is worth noting especially with the collection of data.

Similar to many other devices, most VR devices require you to sign up and provide your email, date of birth, occupation, and residence. These companies in turn work to keep that data safe and confidential, however, as we have seen in the past especially with large breaches such as Sony, this is not always possible.

The primary concern when discussing virtual reality and security is the potential collection of data including audio data, video data and movement data. In order to support the most integrated user experience external cameras will be watching sensors on the device. In addition, the device will also be listening to your commands to create the best user experience. While this data may seem harmless now would we want that in the hands of hackers? And once the data is out there the primary concern is how that data can be monetized.

The other primary concern is the release of private information to third party applications. While most the companies that create these devices have strict privacy policies, it is more unlikely that third party applications do. As soon as you download the application to use with your virtual reality device they also could have potential access to your private information.

While this does not raise any new concerns, it just shows that there is the continued need to be careful with our information and be very aware who has access to it.

Social Issues


Escapism is the “tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy” [10] With this new emergence of virtual reality it may cause people to withdraw from normal society. This could be quite a troubling consequence. While not directly related to virtual reality, in 2004 a boy in China committed suicide after playing World of Warcraft for 36 hours straight because he wanted to “joint the heroes of the game her worshipped”. If a similar phenomenon of trying to escape society because a reality for many virtual reality users there could be serious repercussions.

However Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailensen bring an interesting perspective. “As with all things, virtual reality can be taken to unhealthy extremes, and the idea of such a drastic shift—one that may entirely redefine social needs—may cause unease. But amid all the warnings, for many bored and lonely souls, the promise of a virtual escape is not unsettling, but exciting”. [11]

As virtual reality develops further it will be interesting to see if there is a higher degree of potential withdrawal and escapism from normal society.

Desensitization to Violence

Many of the benefits and applications of virtual reality involve desensitizing individuals, especially when dealing with illnesses such as PTSD and reducing anxiety. However, there is also a dark side to desensitization. Desensitization is the concept that a “person is no longer affected by extreme acts of behaviour such as violence and fails to show empathy or compassion as a result. In some situations they actively seek out this type of scenario for the adrenaline rush and sense of power.” [12] As we become more desensitized as a culture we become less able to identify these troubling behaviours. I believe that virtual reality would only increase that potential for desensitization when it comes to violence. Previous studies done on video gamers, especially those playing first person shooter games that involved a high degree of immersion were often to some degree desensitized to violence. And virtual reality only takes that gaming to a whole new level. Instead of passively watching your character shoot someone, you are actually in the game, completely immersed and hurting someone is much more real. Virtual reality is more active participation which may lead to people increasingly becoming desensitized to violence.

Future of Virtual Reality

Future Outlook

Virtual reality is becoming more prevalent everyday. According to Greenlight VR, there will be 2 million virtual reality headsets sold by the end of 2016 and 37 million by the end of 2020. [13]Considering that PlayStation 4 has recorded 40 million sales in the last 4 years, we can see that 37 million sales are quite impressive projection. Supply of virtual reality headsets cannot match the demand, some consumers had to wait for 3 months to receive their orders.[14] Despite the rising popularity of virtual reality, there are still some cynics about the technology because it seems that nobody has not found the right application for it. Out of many speculations about the application of virtual reality, some are becoming more consensus predictions among the experts. Some of those predictions are a new social media platform, hyper-reality gaming and virtual society. They also agree that there are still few challenges the technology has to overcome be become mainstream and find a perfect application. Most developers cited market confusion as the main concern, where there are multiple devices are available in the market without a dominant leader. As a result, every headset has its own protocol and they no where near to become standardized such as iOS and Android smartphones. User experience challenge such as motion sickness and eye strain is listed next on the item, followed by high prices for hardware and content and a lack of VR content. Also, consumers’ preference is still unclear between headsets or smartphone-centric devices. Although recent hype of Pokemon Go has highlighted the smartphone-centric devices, many people are still cynical about the game’s sustainability and predicts that the focus will fade away if the developer cannot follow up. Pokemon Go is a smartphone-based augmented reality game that played a significant role in raising the awareness and adoption of the technology. Considering virtual reality and augmented reality are deeply correlated, the phenomena of the game made the crowd realize virtual and augmented reality are not exclusive to special organizational use anymore, but it has become a user-friendly prevalent technology that anyone can download to their smartphone and play a game with it. Pokemon Go will eventually fade away, but it leaves a hint that smartphone-centric application might be the starting point of discovering the right use of the technology.

Future Application


Virtual Field Trip

Many schools are realizing the benefit of virtual reality education and starting to adopt the technology into their education system. Some schools in the United States and Europe are already using Google Cardboard, affordable smartphone-centric virtual reality headset, to take students virtual field trips.[1] However, not all school can afford $500 to $1000 dollars virtual reality headsets or smartphone-centric devices for every students. Plus, the lack of the virtual reality educational contents makes schools even more reluctant to purchase virtual reality devices. Despite all the challenges of adopting virtual reality into education system, it is still important to introduce virtual reality to young students. Before, virtual reality was only available to limited organizational use such as military and NASA. Virtual reality devices have just became available to general public only few years ago. However, many people are still struggling to find the right use of the technology. Most do not even know what virtual reality is because they were never introduced to. Without the proper introduction, virtual reality would fade like most technologies that failed to satisfy the consumers’ needs. For this reason, young students are the perfect candidates for schools to introduce the technology to. Businesses may not find the right use of virtual reality in near future, but young students in K12 education still have a decade or two to find the right use of it in more effective and efficient way.

Virtual Reality might also change the landscape of advanced education system as well. Many universities and colleges are starting to offer online education. Generally, online education is less expensive and more flexible. However, many people often criticize that online college experience lack socialization experience with college which is part of most important learning in the advanced education system. Indeed virtual reality cannot replace the real life interpersonal experience, but it is a better alternative than the current online college experience where students and instructors communicate over digital messages and discussion boards.

Driving School

Virtual reality driving school can a perfect example that can utilize the technology for the business. Consumers’ needs for driving school already has a big enough market size to profit from, but the business can be done much more effective and efficient way through virtual reality. As mentioned before, virtual reality training was exclusive for limited organizations such as NASA and military until it became available for consumer through products like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Adopting these headsets can reduce the cost of capital for most driving schools by replacing the a $10,000 to $30,000 vehicle with a $500 to $1000 headset as well as eliminating all the maintenance fees such as insurance and gas. The challenge of virtual reality driving school would be developing a simulation program specifically designed for driving lessons. Within this virtual road, student drivers can learn driving in a safe controlled virtual space from a virtual instructor which reduces risk of car accidents and instructors’ labour expenses. Virtual reality has been used for various training in many fields. It is time to revolutionize the driving education with the technology.


Virtual and augmented reality might show another evolutionary way to promote their goods and services. Many disruptive technologies have revolutionized the marketing industry numerous times in the past. However, none of them could give first impression of goods and services as effective as these two technologies could. For instance, in real estate industry, clients can take a virtual tour of a property before visiting the open house or even talking to a real estate agent. Another example is when people buy clothing, they can use virtual fitting room to try out the products without visiting the physical stores. Indeed, virtual experience may not be enough to confirm a purchasing decision. However, the first impression of products through virtual reality is still an important purchasing factor before investing any time or resources. As soon as businesses realize that virtual testing may trigger millions of potential sales, the future of shopping experience would become much more virtual.


Virtual reality is being used in various fields such as healthcare, fashion, real estate, military, entertainment, NASA, automotive, education, and etc. Though the technology is utilized in those limited fields, there is still a long journey ahead to become the mainstream technology. Many businesses are trying to find the right application of virtual reality but it seems that no one has found it yet. Because of this, some cynics argue that the technology does not have potential to become mainstream and will always stay in the niche market. Indeed virtual reality cannot perfectly replace actual experience of, for example, driving a car or performing a medical surgery. However, no other technology can give better the first impression or generate almost reality experience. As long as it holds such distinctive trait, virtual reality will evolve and eventually find its place in society just as smartphones were evolved from PDA phones. To bring virtual reality to the next level, many developers are working to make virtual reality more physical and realistic. As shown from the timeline of VR’s history, the gaps between the technology’s milestones are getting shorter and shorter. The rapid rate of development and the recent breakthrough indicate that we are one step closer to the future of virtual reality becoming part of our daily lives. At the end of the day, it is interesting to see what virtual reality holds for human kinds.


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