Virtual Reality Essay

Submitted By shively8
Words: 1910
Pages: 8

The Reality of Virtual Reality
Christopher Shively
Computer Literacy 103
Instructor Howard
November 19, 2012

While many people believe virtual reality to be an entertainment feature, virtual reality is a feature that will one day shape many of our common industries in the world. From arts, communication, and architecture, to engineering, education, and the medical field, the advancements virtual reality is taking in these professions is vital to their progression in the future. Virtual reality can be defined as a three-dimensional, computer-generated simulation in which one can navigate around, interact with, and be immersed in another environment. In this sense, "virtual" is derived from the concept of "virtual memory" in a computer, which acts "as if" it is actual memory (Briggs, 1996). Virtual reality provides a reality that mimics our everyday reality. The most important part of virtual reality is the ability to navigate in a programmed virtual world at close to real time. Virtual reality is a means to create, experience, and share a computer-generated world as realistic or as fanciful as you would like (Briggs, 1996). Head-mounted displays, data gloves, and other devices are only tools to help us experience this parallel world. From mechanics being able to navigate a vehicle’s motor, to the tourist at an amusement park seeking to experience a place they will never be able to see in person, virtual reality allows the user to experience this through simulation, which over time is becoming more and more realistic (Briggs, 1996). Virtual reality is and will continue to be a very important development for the medical field. Currently one of the biggest uses of virtual reality in this field is to treat PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). This hits home to me because I am currently in the military and I know many people who have come back from deployments in a bad mental state. The Department of Defense is currently using this with many vets who have returned from Iraq [ (Salamone, 2010) ]. The medical professionals can re-create a combat situation such as an attack, an explosion or an ambush, and help the veteran work through the elements of that situation that triggered the stress [ (Salamone, 2010) ]. The system was developed as part of a joint effort that involved the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Army, along with the University of Southern California and the virtual reality development company Virtually Better Inc. Working together; the groups produced a system dubbed Virtual Iraq, which electronically re-creates Iraqi environments [ (Salamone, 2010) ]. The system uses graphics to deliver a video game-like display, as well as sounds and even smells, to help those suffering from PTSD revisit the events that affected them. Ivana Steigman, MD, PhD, Chief Medical Officer for Thrive Research, a California-based company that develops online programs, said one benefit of using virtual reality for clinical purposes is that patients can create an avatar, a computerized representation of themselves, which interacts in a virtual setting; they can act in a way the patients wouldn't act in real life [ (Walker, 2012) ]. For instance, if a drug addict were to seek help a therapist would not give the patient temptation by handing them drugs; the therapist can however have the patient set up an avatar. This will allow the therapist to put the avatar in a party situation to evaluate how the patient would act in such an environment [ (Walker, 2012) ]. This will give the therapist more information to build up for the next meeting. Another use of virtual technology that has gained some attention in the medical world is a game called Snow World, which is a virtual world specifically designed to alleviate pain for burn patients [ (Walker, 2012) ]. Snow World is an icy virtual world where the player shoots snowballs at snowmen, igloos, and penguins [ (Walker, 2012) ]. Patients put on a helmet and play the game during