Measuring the success of a virtual reality experience is challenging. While user studies are the gold standard, there isn't a lot of good data out there on successful immersive virtual reality use cases, unfortunately. With entertainment, success is much easier to calculate: You create something; often, it is a variation of an existing property; and, if it sells, then it is a success.
Yet, with serious immersive virtual reality, such as training or healthcare uses, you need to be held to a higher standard. For instance, there are clinical studies that show that using VR as part of exposure therapy for treating post-traumatic stress disorder patients has good efficacy. Likewise, VR distraction therapy has been used successfully with burn patients.
In the training realm, ongoing and planned efforts will use current and emerging technology toward a goal of providing virtual training to augment physical world training. While VR will never be able to recreate all the facets of a physical training exercise, some aspects can be trained upon with high effectiveness. In particular, being able to get multiple repetitions on tasks that would otherwise be expensive holds the promise of enabling personalized individual and collective training anywhere at any time.
We also are looking at use cases where healthcare is provided virtually, be it immersive with augmented reality (AR) and VR capabilities for patients and caregivers or with virtual doctors providing remote and 24/7 care capabilities.
There are almost infinite possibilities for the applications of AR and VR. The trick now -- and into the future -- is to design an interaction that has a significant and measurable benefit to the user, rather than one that is just cool and seemingly innovative only because it is new technology. For certain interactions, old-school analog will remain preferred; for many others, though, VR can be faster, better and cheaper, if done correctly.
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