Virtual reality has finally arrived, and has already begun to evolve in exciting ways. By now, even casual observers who are not yet VR consumers are aware of the best headsets on the market, and what some of them are capable of. All across the internet there are countless demonstrations – most of them dealing with popular gaming titles, and a few of them delving into cinematic material.
We’ve seen the early VR market developing in interesting ways with regard to gaming, its most popular category, as well. It’s been less about major, recognizable titles, and more about innovation. VR is being used to make artistic games more engaging, and is proving to be the next frontier in casino gaming also. It’s showing the potential to bring board games back to life, and it may revolutionize the shooter genre. But in a broader sense, it’s starting to become clearer that the VR phenomenon isn’t just about entertainment.
Virtual reality is going to make an impact on a huge range of industries. But one use for the technology that holds enormous potential and isn’t being talked about very much is that of assisting the fight to save the planet. VR has the ability to show people experiences in new and immersive ways, and through this ability it might just be the near future’s greatest tool for spreading awareness about climate change.
This is the focus of an initiative launched earlier this year, in which HTC launched a $10 million fund for “content and technologies that will drive sustainable development” around the world. HTC is responsible for one of those high-end headsets alluded to earlier (the HTC Vive), and thus has a pretty significant impact on the market. And with this program, titled “VR For Impact,” it may be sparking developers to focus on creative means by which to convince consumers to take a more active role in environmental protection.
It’s unclear exactly what these sorts of programs might entail. But the CEO of HTC mentioned VR’s potential to help people to “learn, understand, and transform the world.” She went on to suggest that the program will challenge developers to drive awareness and solve the planet’s biggest challenges.
The science behind concepts like climate change and ocean acidification is more accessible to people when they are able to have a VR experience. “Virtual reality can give everyone, regardless of where they live, the kind of experience needed to generate the urgency required to prevent environmental calamity,” says Jeremy Bailenson, professor of communication at Stanford University. “One of the greatest challenges to staving off irrevocable climate change isn’t simply getting buy-in from skeptical politicians — it’s getting people to visualize how driving a gas-guzzling car or living in an energy inefficient home is contributing to a problem that may only manifest itself completely in future decades.”
That could lead to all kinds of educational VR apps and other creative programs that actually help the average consumer to recognize problems and make a difference. It won’t be quite as popular as, say, those revolutionized shooters or brand new casino games. But it could be one of the more impactful developments to come out of the emergence of VR.