The future of virtual reality: an expert opinion

The way that most people interact with VR technology is in the form of entertainment. For instance; the most famous applications are in the gaming sector. Beat Saber is an old favourite. Anyone who’s ever played it knows how hilarious it is to see a player flailing around their lounge while trying to dodge in-game objects. In 2021, Valve’s Half-Life: Alyx was one of the best VR games on the market. In other words, VR is a phenomenal medium for entertainment. It has a unique ability to cater for immersive and highly interactive gameplay.

Beat Games’ “Beat Saber” (2018) is a favourite amongst VR gamers.

Where VR is Going

Alex Rühl believes that entertainment is just the tip of the iceberg for VR. At Sozo, we agree that this technology will play a more significant role in our lives. Rühl is an award-winning VR creator, public speaker, filmmaker, and podcast host. In her 2019 TEDx talk, she spoke about how VR could be used in a hospice context. It allows frail members of society to “exist beyond their reality”. In her weekly podcast, AlexMakesVR, she covers how to start a career in VR, from: creativity and sales, to virtual storytelling and 360° filmmaking. We caught up with Alex Rühl to find out her thoughts on future of VR.

Re-living some of the happiest memories of her life” – Alex Rühl explains how “virtual field trips” can improve quality of life in hospices and frail care.

Alex’s Reflections:

Q: Hi Alex, our research team are interested to hear your thoughts on all things VR!

A: Thanks so much for getting in touch.

Q: What are the biggest misconceptions of VR in your opinion?

A: Broadly speaking, I think the biggest misconception is that VR is specifically for gaming. I think most people see it as a technology that’s kind of like an advanced 3D television. Actually, the power of VR is so much greater than that. As a result, I think VR will revolutionise the way that you do everything.

“The biggest misconception is that VR is specifically for gaming … actually, VR will revolutionise the way that you do everything.”

Alex Rühl

The reason that’s a big misconception is because VR is actually just a totally new computing platform. We call it the spatial computing revolution for a reason. VR is just one part of the puzzle. Ultimately, you will be able to do anything in VR. It might be that you’re in hospital, and you don’t want to feel like you’re there. You can go on a quick trip to the Maldives. VR will become so commonplace, that travelling with a small VR device to allow you to work remotely will be as common as a laptop is today.

Alex Rühl speaking at TEDx Leicester in 2019. Her talk: “Existing Beyond Your Reality” explains both VR current applications and the phenomenal potential of VR.

Challenges VR Advocates Still Face:

Q: In your history of working with/in VR tech, what are the biggest barriers to entry in terms of mainstream adoption?

A: I think there are three main issues that are hampering VR’s potential for mainstream adoption. Price, usability, and the learning curve for people to actually use the technology. Above all, organisations will have to cater for the infrastructure and resources to actually roll out a VR program successfully.

Alex Rühl’s podcast: ‘Alex Makes VR’ covers VR development, filmmaking, business advice and more.

More Applications for VR

Q: What are your thoughts on the use of VR as a mechanism for training in the workplace?

A:  I think that there has been overwhelming evidence of how powerful VR training is in the workplace. Those are the main projects that I’m involved with nowadays. I’ve directed, produced, and written so many VR training pleat pieces for the workplace that have gone on to have incredible impact within organizations; whether it’s unconscious bias training, to help encourage diversity and empathy around unconscious bias in the workplace, or to demonstrate the importance of cybersecurity and showcasing the fallout of an online attack in the workplace. VR training can also help with soft skills like leadership training, like teaching you how to have difficult conversations, for instance.

I always say that the big three reasons why you would do a VR experience … to recreate something that’s expensive to do, something that’s impossible to do, or something that is dangerous.”

– Alex Rühl

VR in Soft Skills Training

Q: Are you surprised to know that staff who use VR for learning can be trained on soft skills up to four times faster than in the classroom and show greater focus and confidence in applying what they’re taught?

A: I’m not surprised in the slightest. And the reason I’m not surprised is just like I said, when you are in VR, it’s as close to doing the actual thing as possible, your brain retains that memory as if you actually did it. I think there’s a study that suggests that your brain takes about 20 seconds to acclimatize to your environment and believe – essentially like trick itself into believing what it’s seeing. And so therefore, of course, for something like soft skills, you’re going to have a huge amount of focus and confidence when you feel like you’re actually in that scenario, demonstrating those soft skills, especially when it comes to having hard conversations, or understanding how to handle uncomfortable situations in the workplace.

“When you are in VR, it’s as close to doing the actual thing as possible, your brain retains that memory as if you actually did it.”

– Alex Rühl

Q: Thank you so much for your feedback Alex, we really appreciate it.

A: Thanks for including me, I’m really happy to be a part of your research!

Immersive technology has the power to engage and delight your users.