Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have been around in the gaming sphere for a while, with technology like Oculus Rift allowing users to truly live and breathe the worlds of their favourite games. However, whilst the vast majority of coverage focuses on the use of VR and AR in gaming and entertainment, the technology could have significant real world applications.

The Arts and Heritage sector, for example, have begun to use VR in museums. At the start of August, the British Museum launched its first virtual reality weekend, creating digital recreations of newly discovered Bronze Age artefacts and placing them, using VR technology, within their original environment.

Neil Wilkin, curator of the exhibition that took place on the 8th and 9th of August, believes that the technology could significantly enhance the museum experience: “The technology is particularly useful for the bronze age, a difficult period for visitors to engage with and imagine museum objects in their original context.

Similarly, many media experts believe that VR should be used in journalism. By using VR to transport ordinary people to the scene of the news, journalists and film-makers alike believe that audiences would be able to a gain a deeper and more empathetic understanding of events.

The use of VR technology within the news could be revolutionary: in the same way that television created public backlash against the Vietnam War – often referred to as ‘the first televised war’; VR technology could facilitate an even more emotional public response to journalism and current affairs.

Augmented Reality – different to VR in that it overlays digital life onto real life, as opposed to creating a completely alternative reality – is also finding more uses than just entertainment. Following the launch of Microsoft’s HoloLens, new and exciting applications for AR are emerging.

For instance, Microsoft have been working with NASA to support space exploration. NASA’s project Sidekick, for example, aims to put HoloLens on the International Space Station in order to provide virtual aid for astronauts. Such technology could prove to be invaluable in situations that are regularly hindered by communication delays.

Additionally, NASA have co-developed with Microsoft a new software for the HoloLens called OnSight. The software will simulate the environment on Mars, by using data collected by Curiosity rover. This will enable scientists to explore Mars themselves from the comfort of their office, and will allow them to plan new routes for the rovers for future missions.

It is clear then that both AR and VR are more than just gaming technologies. Although Microsoft’s HoloLens will not be available for personal use for some time yet, with developers and enterprise users expected to receive the first version of the HoloLens within the next year, exciting times are undoubtedly ahead.

Image courtesy of Microsoft Sweden