“It’s A Shift From Storytelling Into Story-living – You Actively Become A Part Of The Experience.”
For many of us, our first taste of virtual reality (VR) came in the form of paper 3D glasses, cut out from the back of a cereal box. Then came the motion simulators at theme parks, where clanking machinery underneath uncomfortable plastic chairs took us on adventures into the deep sea or high skies.
Today, VR has come a long way. You can download an app on your phone that shows an animated penguin dancing in the palm of your hand. You can upload your photo onto a website to try on a new outfit or hair colour. You can scan your living room and rearrange furniture.
But there’s more to VR than just what consumers experience on a daily basis. Here are five creative ways that take advantage of what VR can do to change the way we live.
VIRTUAL REALITY IN FASHION
It’s common to see fashion and beauty brands offering virtual try-ons of their products, which is often done with VR or augmented reality (AR) technology. With testers removed from shelves and fitting rooms closed during the pandemic as safety measures, these features have become even more important.
Having worked with big names from the likes of Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s, NuORDER is one of the emerging e-commerce platforms that optimize the online shopping process with digital showrooms, where shopppers can browse the racks as if they were in a store.
To streamline the experience, you can also get 360-degree look at each product, or shop items directly from videos or images. Why go to the store, when you can bring the store to you?
Simulating an in-store browsing experience, you can shop from virtual showrooms like these with the click of a button.
While previously used as a novelty in fashion shows, VR is now being explored as a major aspect for brands to reach their audiences by way of virtual runways. Taking things up a notch is RYOT, Verizon Media’s Emmy Award-winning production house.
In partnership with Kaleidoscope, the Museum of Other Realities (MOR) and the Fashion Innovation Agency (FIA) at the London Colleage of Fashion, The Fabric of Reality is a fully-immersive fashion show that can be viewed on VR headsets, creating a unique real-time 3D experience.
Instead of replacing the traditional catwalk, this project is intended to recreate the excitement of a physical show, and express the limitless possibilites of showcasing fashion within a virtual environment.
Here, “attendees” exist as avatars, where they can explore the space freely, go backstage to see behind-the-scenes moments, or even try on some pieces for themselves!
Head of FIA Matthew Drinkwater explained, “Brands and designers need to figure out how to completely redefine that physical experience in a virtual world.
Many think you need to take the current format and drop it into a virtual work, but you can build something entirely different in how you communicate. It’s a shift from storytelling into story-living – you actively become a part of the experience.”
VIRTUAL REALITY IN EDUCATION
Last year, over 1.2 billion children in 186 countries were forced to study online during the pandemic. Research suggests that online learning takes less time, with higher retention of information if compared to conventional learning methods.
According to American educationist Edgard Dale’s Cone of Learning, the human brain only remembers 10% of what it reads after two weeks, but retains 90% of what it does.
This is where VR training and education experience company Unimersiv comes in, aiming to help students of all ages learn faster using virtual reality. Launched in 2015, Unimersiv offers immersive learning experiences using educational videos.
Viewed through VR headsets, school children can walk with dinosaurs from more than 100 million years ago, stroll across historical locations like Athens and Stonehenge, or take a 3D adventure into the human brain.
Since its inception, Universiv has continued to develop a variety of immersive content, bringing them to schools in the States the UK and the Middle East, so that the learning process can be transferred online.
Founder Baptiste Greve believes that with virtual education, students of the future no longer need to attend physical classes at school, which is something that is becoming increasingly relevant in the world of today.
VIRTUAL REALITY IN FORENSICS
Many of us tend to associate VR with entertainment, but this technology actually plays an indispensable role in forensic science. This is especially important in the courtroom – evidence can be falsified and witnesses can lie, but science tells the truth.
3D recreations of crime scenes allow the jury to better-understand and observe important details. For people who were not present at the scene, these models are incredibly useful in helping them visualise scenarios more accurately.
London-based Forensic Architecture is a research agency known for its pioneering techniques – immersive technologies and digital modelling are used in the investigation of human rights violations.
Most recently, the agency was invited by Al Jazeera to analyse and reconstruct evidence to verify the testimony of the detainees in the Myanmar military coup in early 2021.
Along similar lines of work, forensic documentation company ai2-3D also specialises in animations, 3D virtual models and other visual strategies for litigation support. Its founder, 3D forensics analyst Eugene Liscio, runs Forensic Animations, a YouTube channel that discusses extensively about the role of VR tech in forensics.
“Forensic architecture” refers to the production and presentation of architectural evidence, an academic field developed at Goldsmiths, University of London.
VR can also help in the training process, where investigators can virtually walk through simulations of crime scenes. RiVR Investigate sets up different photo-realistic scenarios in which users can investigate a scene to find out the cause of a fire, using the same tools available in the real world.
Through the VR headset, they can look everywhere, open doors and closets, and pick up objects. The tool belt offers additional help in the form of evidence markers, flashlight, camera, and dictaphone, while the evidence lab lets them take a closer look at certain objects in better lighting.
In an interview with Liscio, Creative Director of RiVr, Alex Harvey, said that upcoming features of the Investigate programme will include customisable details (like casualties or blood splatters), allowing the VR training to be even more specific.
VIRTUAL REALITY IN MANUFACTURING
American investment banking giant Goldman Sachs predicts that by 2025, the VR/AR industry will be worth $80 billion, with engineering and manufacturing at its core. As the industrial internet of things (IIoT) continues to advance, so will virtual reality, which means that the development of 3D modeling is only going to get more interesting.
By superimposing a physical object onto a virtual one so that it can be manipulated freely, 3D modeling gains a huge edge over its 2D counterpart, which will gradually lose its appeal as clients become more comfortable with a more immersive visual experience.
VA and AR technology adds value to the manufacturing industry in terms of design, production and service.
Like in forensics, the use of VR-based training in manufacturing and construction has also proven its worth, allowing employees to undergo the necessary training required for their jobs, even while off-site.
This comes in highly useful for high-risk professions, so that engineers and technicians don’t have to resort to making life-or-death decisions for the first time under duress – with VR, it’s more than likely that they will have had adequate practice even before these situations arise.
VIRTUAL REALITY IN BEREAVEMENT
What would you do if you were given the opporunity to reunite with a deceased family member? Creator of controversial Korean documentary Missing You Kim Jong-woo says, “Just like a picture or a video, VR technology can be one way of remembering someone.”
In Missing You, a grieving mother, Jang Ji-sung, meets her daughter Na-yeon in a tearful reunion, allowing her to spend time with her beloved child and say goodbye properly (Na-yeon passed away suddenly in 2016 at the age of seven due to a mysterious illness).
To recreate Na-yeon’s likeness, Kim and his team spent months collecting information that enabled them to bring Jang’s memories with her daughter to life.
An avatar of the child was designed through 3D scanning of a real-life child, which was then remodelled based on Na-yeon’s photos and videos. Her voice was also reproduced using child actors with similar voices.
For Jang, being able to see her daughter again gave her the closure she needed – previously, whenever she dreamt about Na-yeon, her daughter never smiled back.
But this time, she was able to see a happy, smiling child enjoy her favourite seaweed soup and rice cake, which she describes as “dreaming a dream I’ve always wanted to dream”.
In 2017, Japanese tombstone maker Ohaka Ryoshin also developed a mobile app called Sumabo, which combined AR projection and GPS positioning to recreate memorable pictures of loved ones.
Users could upload photographs or videos, then “project” them onto specific GPS-linked locations like the deceased’s favourite places or grave sites.
The now-defunct app Sumabo enabled users to project their late loved ones onto their favourite locations.
While reuniting through a VR headset or looking at composite photographs might not be for everyone, psychologists say that it can help relieve emotional distress for people who have lost their loved ones through traumatic experiences.