Virtual reality and the possibilities that it creates I find both incredibly exciting and somewhat terrifying at the same time. I definitely believe that this technology has the potential to change the framework of our society. While the current integration into to legacy games have helped launch the Oculus launch, I am far more excited about the games that will be designed around the Oculus rift especially those that explore MMO virtual worlds.
Something I haven’t seen mentioned on these forums is the idea of how virtual reality could significantly minimize our carbon footprint on the world. Already a lot of companies are adopting new ideas about staff working from home. It minimizes overheads and with modern technology often staff are able to work more efficiently with fewer distractions while still communicating effectively with the wider team through modern communication means email, skype etc.
However not being in the same space as someone will always have its limitations. For instance explaining how to fix a car is much harder over the phone compared with having the car in front of both teacher and student so they can disassemble and reassemble things together. Virtual reality overcomes those kind of problems, in fact having an interactive CAD model of the car would probably be even better than the real thing!
Imagine how much our foot print on the world would reduce if 50% of people didn't have to drive to work every day. Also depending on how fulfilling our virtual environment was, people’s homes could be significantly smaller. As we could be expending less energy, the amount of food we need to consume could also decrease (probably unlikely until we get a good tasting steak in the virtual world - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7BuQFUhsRM
However the idea of being trapped in a small room and spending the majority of our time in a virtual world is also kind of whack.
Another area I think Virtual reality could play a big role is Education. I think it’s no real surprise that our education system is out dated. The biggest change was the elimination of corporal punishment in 1967 or the replacement of OHPs with actual projectors :P
I have seen many ideas posted about the benefits of learning in a virtual environment. These have mostly revolved around the ability to visit for instance a volcanic eruption while learning about geology, or having 100,000 people attend the same class. However concepts such as “augmented gaze” in itself can radically increase the learning outcomes of students.
The lecture below from Stanford University outlines a number of really interesting ideas including adopting characteristics from our virtual Avatars etc. The stuff on “augmented gaze” is about 15 mins in.
Looking forward to hearing your ideas on how the future is going to play out