Virtual reality (VR) refers to computer-simulated environments that look, feel, sound and sometimes even smell like the real thing. As technology advances, virtual life becomes increasingly more lifelike and is applied across a broader range of fields from entertainment to medical therapeutics. The advantages of virtual reality are numerous and vary based upon the application of the technology.
When applied to therapeutics, augmented reality can allow people with disabilities to experience places and tasks that are otherwise unavailable to them. A person in a wheelchair can play a basketball game with the aid of virtual reality games. A person undergoing psychotherapy to confront a past event can do so safely in a virtual reality world without the fear of physical harm.
The advantages of virtual reality extend to the realms of design and architecture. Computer-aided design allows architects to build and envision a structure to eliminate any potential problems before money is spent actualizing the design. Fashion designers can put together fantastic creations and see how they move and look before mass-manufacturing their collection. Those who design safety features such as emergency exits or rescue equipment can see their designs in play without having to manufacture a prototype and conduct costly testing.
Learning how to react to any given situation, especially a life-or-death situation, is one of the prime advantages of virtual reality. Military exercises performed in a virtual reality environment save lives. Exercises designed to train military personnel allow service members to experience a high-pressure situation without the threat of danger or death. These exercises can be performed over and over again until the person feels comfortable and confident in that situation, a scenario that is improbable and not feasible when engaging in real-life training exercises.
Productivity also benefits from virtual reality. "Telepresence" refers to a type of technology that allows a person to feel as if he or she were present in another location. Used in the business world as a form of telecommunications, telepresence allows a person to conduct intimate business transactions in all corners of the world without ever leaving his place of residence.
The advantages of virtual reality aren't limited to practical applications. As virtual reality improves, the methods with which it is used for relaxation and recreation expand. Stereoscopic displays allow people to appear in a movie as if they were part of the action. Haptic systems allow you to feel physical sensations such as the rocking of a boat in a fishing video game. An increase in relaxation can lead to an overall improvement in physical and mental well-being.