COLLABORATIVE ENVIRONMENT (BUSINESS & TRAVEL)
American aerospace engineer, Burt Rutan, predicted in 2002 that ‘within the next 20 years future-generation VR environments will be almost indistinguishable from physically being there’ (Rutan, 2002, pp. 110) and consequently air travel will become an anomaly, rather than the norm. His predictions pertain mainly to business meetings and the ability to duplicate meeting environments virtually, rather than having to travel overseas or even across the same country to meet in person. However, he does mention the use of virtual reality technology to create better virtual simulations which he believes will ‘probably be led by the pornography industry’ (Rutan, 2002, pp. 111) and will eventually lead to the replacement of physical travel as people are ‘able to experience the feeling of sun and surf in Hawaii, see and hug a relative in Pittsburgh or shake hands with a convention exhibitor in Las Vegas without actually being there’ (Rutan, 2002, pp. 111).
Rutan’s prediction of the decline in the air travel industry has become true in the 10 years since he made it according to a report from the World Travel Monitor (ITB & IPK International, 2010) and the trends show that business travel budgets are being cut so he was correct in saying business travel would take a big hit. Coupled with the improvement of virtual reality technology, we could possibly be conducting business in life-like virtual reality environments by 2022, and if not, we at least have the previously mentioned Japanese 3D TVs to look forward to.
Since we live in a capitalist society, the factor that determines whether a technology sinks or swims is whether or not that technology is able to be monetised. As previously mentioned in the history of virtual reality technology, the technology didn’t take off within the entertainment sector because the production costs outweighed the profit. Examples of the need for Information Technologies to be profitable include:
- Facebook, which started off as a free service, but gradually had to integrate advertisements to generate revenue to keep itself running, and has now introduced a ‘bait and switch’ which now requires its users to pay to ‘promote’ their posts in order to reach their full audience of friends and followers
- Youtube was another free service which now has to play ads before and sometimes at the end or in the middle of a video. Youtube is also trying to tap into the broadcast market that has traditionally dominated by television by introducing channels such as The Jamie Oliver Food Channel, The Onion and The Warner Sound by linking up with media companies to create broadcast-quality content whilst taking advantage of the level of interactivity that television doesn’t have
However, now that technology that can be applied to virtual technology is becoming more streamlined i.e. more powerful and both easier and cheaper to produce, it’s highly likely that virtual reality will make its way back into the entertainment sector.
LEARNING & REHABILITATION
Another positive aspect of virtual reality is using it in the learning environment. Depending on how effective the technology becomes, we could eventually use the virtual environment to master skills in the real world that we may not have been able to achieve because of the danger involved, fear and pain.
An example of this sort of learning/rehabilitation through virtual reality was a study of virtual reality exposure as a therapy for the fear of flying (Rothbaum et al., 2000). The therapy allowed patients to be exposed to flying without the danger involved and they could work on their anxiety problems without the need to worry about possible outcomes such as engine malfunctions etc.
A different aspect to learning in a virtual environment would be determined to how our physiology reacts to virtual reality. If while immersed in a digital environment, our senses were heightened we could possibly move and think faster and therefore have more time in virtual reality to hone skills than we would have in our normal reality.