It’s hard to believe that VR has been a concept for almost forty years in the UK when it has only really been in recent years that we’ve seen it come into our everyday lives. It has been around as a form of entertainment for a while but the development of it recently, has created completely immersive experiences that have never been seen before. If entertainment is the objective, VR is now the main event, with more and more creative VR experiences being open to the general public. A prime example is the Star Wars hyper-reality experience in Westfield shopping centre that has pushed the boundaries of VR by making the experience completely multi-sensory.
However, the prospects and potential of VR has now massively surpassed this sole use of entertainment. New VR technology is constantly being developed to assist with education in a variety of sectors.
One of the biggest developments has been within healthcare which was demonstrated at London Tech Week, with a particular focus on the impact of VR on dementia. Studies have shown that the affect is generally very positive. VR can help transport someone with dementia to a place that they remember and associate with happy memories. It can provide a moment of tranquility in what can be a very stressful situation of not recognising their current environment. This can often trigger memories for them which they wouldn’t have been able to remember on their own.
An app called Sea Hero quest is changing the way research is done into Dementia. By getting participants to play a two-minute VR game, scientists are able to generate the same amount of data that they normally would in around five hours of lab research. This has become the largest study of dementia, inadvertently creating the world’s first benchmark for human spatial navigation with the goal to improve the early diagnosis of dementia.
A further app has been created called ‘A Walk Through Dementia’ which helps people to understand what dementia is really like. This is not only helpful for family, friends and carers of those suffering from the disease but also for architects or interior designers of care homes. Dementia can massively affect spatial recognition and sometimes vision, so for architects to be able to experience the exact same challenges, they could alter how care homes are designed and really change the quality of life for people living with Dementia.
Dementia is just one aspect of healthcare that is being greatly improved with the use of VR. The ability to fully visualise surgery before it happens so there aren’t any surprises has been a life-saving discovery. For example, doctors at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami used an app called Sketchfab, which showed a baby’s heart that they were about to operate on. It helped them to work out the exact procedure they were going to perform and to make sure the baby was in surgery for the least amount possible. Ultimately, this is what saved the baby’s life.
VR in healthcare was the focus of discussions at the London Tech Week forum but there was reference to imminent plans to roll out VR in the education sector as well. It was clear how important VR is becoming in everyday life with the potential for it to develop even further in the coming years.
Although VR for entertainment has developed massively in recent years to create completely immersive experiences for consumers, the potential benefits of using it to better educate and inform people is where the future of VR really lies. In the event sphere, this takes us beyond your average conference and into a completely new way of engaging with delegates. It allows for them to actively explore of their own accord, rather than relying on absorption of information solely from speakers. Any kind of active learning, whether it’s polling through apps, break-out sessions or the use of VR, has been proven to dramatically help with retention of information.
More and more companies in both the private and the public sectors are seeing the benefits of VR and turning to it as a new method of education. In order to ensure there is a return on investment, conferences have to be designed to make sure delegates retain core strategic messaging. It’s never been more important to branch out of the ordinary by engaging in new ways with delegates, and as VR develops in the educational sphere, it is the perfect opportunity to do this.
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