In the early 1990s, the public's exposure to virtual reality barely exceeded a relatively primitive demonstration of a few block figures chasing a rudimentary pterodactyl around a chessboard. Although the entertainment industry is still interested in virtual reality technologies for games and theater experience, VR systems' most important uses are in other fields.
Some architects construct virtual versions of their building plans so that people can walk around the structure before the foundation is laid. Clients may walk around the exteriors and interiors, ask questions, or even improve the design. Digital models will give you a much more realistic idea of navigating around a building than a miniature model.
Car companies have used VR technology to create virtual prototypes of new vehicles, to test them extensively before manufacturing a single physical component. Designers may make changes without scraping the whole model, as they would always do with physical ones. As a result, the production process is becoming more efficient and cheaper.
Virtual environment and digital worlds are used in military training programs, space programs, and even medical students. The army has long been a supporter of VR technology and development. Training programs will cover anything from vehicle simulations to battle squads. Overall, VR systems are much simpler and, in the long term, less costly than alternative training approaches. Soldiers who have undergone intensive VR training have proved to be as successful as those trained under conventional conditions.
In medicine, workers can use simulated environments to train in anything from surgical procedures to patient diagnosis. Surgeons have used virtual reality technology to train and teach and perform remote surgery using robotic devices. The first robotic surgery was performed at a hospital in Paris in 1998. The biggest obstacle in using VR technology to perform robotic surgery is latency, as any pause in such a delicate operation could be unnatural to the surgeon. Such systems will need to provide the surgeon with finely tuned sensory input.
Psychological treatment is another medical application of VR technology. Dr. Barbara Rothbaum of Emory University and Dr. Larry Hodges of the Georgia Institute of Technology has pioneered simulated worlds to treat people with phobias and other psychological disorders. They use simulated worlds as a form of exposure therapy, where the patient is exposed — under regulated conditions — to stimuli that cause anxiety to the patient. The application has two main benefits over natural exposure therapy: it is much more accessible, and patients are more likely to pursue treatment because they know it's not the real world. Their findings led to Practically Better, a company that offers VR therapy systems to physicians in 14 countries.