Virtual Reality

February 26, 2016 • Volume 26, Issue 9
Will consumers embrace the emerging technology?
By Patrick Marshall

Introduction

A patient wears a virtual-reality headset during a therapy session (AFP/Getty Images/Boris Horvat)
A patient wears a virtual-reality headset during a therapy session on Jan. 26, 2016, at the Institute of Movement Sciences in Marseille, France. The institute uses virtual reality to treat phobias such as claustrophobia and acrophobia. (AFP/Getty Images/Boris Horvat)

Technology that immerses users in artificial, but strikingly realistic, experiences is poised to move beyond flight simulators and other specialized training applications into games, health care, education and mental health therapy, to name a few uses. Improvements in the technologies that drive virtual reality — computing power for creating virtual worlds, cameras that track and analyze users' movements, sensor-rich devices for processing touch and software allowing multiple users to interact — are behind the advances. Programmers can now create an array of lifelike sensations: flying like a bird, fighting off predators, riding a roller coaster or climbing a mountain. But experts are concerned that virtual reality also could cause disturbing physical or psychological reactions, such as paralyzing terror, motion sickness or injuries caused by disorientation. Meanwhile, others worry that so much can be learned about individuals' personalities from tracking their behavior in virtual-reality environments that personal privacy could be compromised. Some are calling for strict regulation of the technology while others say voluntary ratings of games and programs would be enough.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Computers
Feb. 26, 2016  Virtual Reality
Feb. 12, 2016  Video Games and Learning
Jan. 15, 2016  The Dark Web
Feb. 15, 2013  Improving Cybersecurity
Apr. 13, 2012  Internet Regulation
Sep. 16, 2011  Computer Hacking
Sep. 24, 2010  Impact of the Internet on Thinking
Feb. 26, 2010  Cybersecurity
Aug. 01, 2008  Internet Accuracy
May 02, 2008  Cyberbullying
Jul. 28, 2006  Cyber Socializing
May 12, 2006  Controlling the Internet
Jun. 10, 2005  Identity Theft
Sep. 17, 2004  Cyberpolitics
Sep. 26, 2003  Cybersecurity
Apr. 12, 2002  Cyber-Crime
Oct. 27, 2000  Computers and Medicine
May 26, 2000  Future of Computers
Jan. 28, 2000  The Digital Divide
Feb. 05, 1999  Digital Commerce
Jun. 30, 1995  Regulating the Internet
May 21, 1993  Software Piracy
Sep. 30, 1988  Management's High-Tech Challenge
Jan. 09, 1987  Power Surge in Personal Computers
Feb. 13, 1981  The Computer Age
Nov. 03, 1978  America's Information Boom
Jan. 06, 1978  Computer Crime
May 12, 1971  Reappraisal of Computers
Jul. 25, 1962  Approach to Thinking Machines
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Consumer Behavior
Engineering
Military Training
Popular Culture
Regulation and Deregulation