Many people might consider Virtual Reality (VR) to be just a game, something to pass the time even. While gamers have typically been the principal consumers of VR, many fields are beginning to embrace the usage of VR. Market forecasts have predicted that VR will be a $21 billion dollar industry by the year 2021. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which you can find at the Library, propelled the use of VR to the forefront. He describes a world in which a large majority of the population spent their days in a virtual world because the actual world was a harsh place to be. Ready Player One could quite possibly become a new reality.

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Virtual Reality is a reality that does not exist, yet does. How is this possible? Many VR experiences are games set in worlds that don’t exist except in the makers’ minds, then displayed for all the world to see. Some VR experiences are just games, like Beat Saber or Project Rampage, although, the workout involved in these may get your heart pumping! VR isn’t just for playing, however. There are other experiences that allow users to express their creativity with paint and 3D modeling programs, such as Maker VR Pro. These kinds of programs are advantageous because users can see their designs in the three-dimensional space around them as if they were holding the real thing. This allows the designer to see all aspects of their creation and makes it easier to spot design flaws so that improvements can be made.

Several VR experiences are meant solely as educational tools. CalcFlow, for an example, is a great tool to help students visualize mathematical computations and how different numbers and functions affect the results. The Body VR is an educational experience that makes biology more interesting as a user explores the human body functions starting from the cellular level. There are interactive lessons on how the body fights off a virus where the user maneuvers a nano-ship through the blood and shoots antibodies to defend against the virus. Schools and libraries across the country have been integrating VR into their curriculum. I learned in a recent Library Journal class that these educational experiences have resulted in a 29% increase in proficiency levels!

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Some employers have also used virtual reality in job training. Sixty-four percent of US consumers believe that VR could benefit the workplace. Instead of watching instructional videos and taking a quiz to test an employee’s knowledge, immersing an employee in a possible scenario can test how they would truly react. The employee-in-training could actually experience the consequences of their decisions and learn from them in a safe environment. In the medical field, VR has given new and existing doctors and nurses an alternative way to practice medicine without harming patients. Virtual Reality may not replace teachers and focused, methodical education, but so far it has been a great way to enhance the learning experience across many professional fields.

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Image: Air Education and Training Command

Virtual Reality is an emerging technology that has broadened the scope of entertainment, education, training, and design. As VR equipment becomes less expensive and more readily available to the public, society might just propel themselves into a virtual world that may soon become the new reality. In the meantime, do you want to try visiting a new land? How about expressing artistic talent? Or sit back with some relaxing views and music? Get ready to explore VR at the Library Tuesdays from 3 - 6 PM or reservea session for a Saturday!

Vanessa Thiele, Emerging Technology Staff

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