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12 Amazing Uses of Virtual Reality

From medicine to architecture, VR has proved to be a breakthrough technology for a variety of industries.
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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Virtual reality technology holds enormous potential to change the future for a number of fields, from medicine, business, architecture to manufacturing.

Psychologists and other medical professionals are using VR to heighten traditional therapy methods and find effective solutions for treatments of PTSD, anxiety and social disorders. Doctors are employing VR to train medical students in surgery, treat patients’ pains and even help paraplegics regain body functions.

In business, a variety of industries are benefiting from VR. Carmakers are creating safer vehicles, architects are constructing stronger buildings and even travel agencies are using it to simplify vacation planning.  

Check out these 11 amazing uses of VR.

12 Amazing Uses of Virtual Reality

To make going to the dentist less painful.

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Dentists may soon use virtual reality to distract patients and ease their anxiety and pain. A recent study tested 79 patients, outfitting one-third of them with a VR headset depicting a coastal scene, one-third with a VR cityscape and the remaining third with no VR at all.

Patients who experienced the VR coastal scene reported having “significantly less pain” than those in the other two groups. The patients who experienced the VR city did not feel this way -- it was the calming scenery that helped distract and soothe the patients, not just the VR itself.


12 Amazing Uses of Virtual Reality

To train employees.

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Walmart is using virtual reality to train its store employees. Partnered with virtual reality startup, STRIVR, Walmart uses virtual reality technology at its training academies to help employees experience real-world scenarios. Employees can experience a holiday rush or a mess in an aisle, and learn how to effectively respond and handle these events.

12 Amazing Uses of Virtual Reality

To help paraplegics regain body functions.

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A year-long study conducted by Duke University discovered huge benefits of virtual reality technology for paraplegics.

Patients wearing VR headsets tasked to move through a stadium as a soccer player were able to regain some brain functions associated with moving their legs. Of the eight patients tested, each regained some control and four were upgraded from full paraplegics to partial paraplegics.

12 Amazing Uses of Virtual Reality

To treat PTSD.

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Traditionally, doctors use “exposure therapy” to treat the nearly 8 million adults who suffer from PTSD a year. Exposure therapy pushes patients to recount their traumas, visualize it in their imaginations and explain to the doctor what is happening as they experience the stressful scenario.

Virtual reality essentially employs the same method, while utilizing headsets to create a virtual world with custom elements (for example, helicopters, machine guns and missiles may be used to customize the experience for a war veteran). The patient is then asked to narrate what is happening.  

12 Amazing Uses of Virtual Reality

To train medical students.

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Virtual reality provides medical and dental students a safe and controlled environment to practice surgeries and procedures, allowing them to make mistakes without having any impact on an actual patient, and prepare for any unexpected situations.

Performing a "hands-on" procedure and being able to interact with a virtual patient lets students develop their skills, which they can later apply to the real world.

12 Amazing Uses of Virtual Reality

To treat pain.

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Doctors are using “distraction therapy” through virtual reality to help people handle pain while they undergo treatments such as physical therapy. A 2011 study on military burn victims revealed that SnowWorld -- a VR game that allows users to throw snowballs at penguins while listening to Paul Simon -- has proven more effective than morphine in pain management.

U.K. researchers in 2017 tested VR on patients undergoing dental treatments and found its use simulating a coastal scene reduced both experienced and recollected pain compared with no VR. The VR was less effective when portraying an ubran scene, however.

12 Amazing Uses of Virtual Reality

To treat anxiety attacks.

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More than 40 million adults in the U.S. experience anxiety. The virtual reality game Deep -- “a digital version of a diaphragmatic exercise" -- looks to help those individuals deal with fear and anxiety with the use of a belt that monitors breathing. The game puts the user into a natural setting and guides them through deep belly breathing exercises -- calming users in about five minutes.

12 Amazing Uses of Virtual Reality

To help children and teens with autism develop social skills.

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Professors at the University of Texas in Dallas have created a program that uses virtual reality to help children with autism develop social skills. Putting kids, teens and young adults in social scenarios such as job interviews or blind dates with avatars, they learn how to pick up on social cues and respond appropriately.

By monitoring brain waves throughout the program, professors noticed increased activity in areas connected to social understanding.

12 Amazing Uses of Virtual Reality

To help in business.

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Look out video chat, virtual reality is here. Businesses are beginning to employ VR in a number of ways: to reduce costs, lessen business travel, conduct interviews, give tours, forecast trends and hold meetings.

Rather than traveling for a conference or meeting, or interviewing a candidate “face to face,” companies are using virtual conference rooms.

Businesses that have dangerous products or are in the early stages are using VR to test safety and functionality without risking the health of employees.

12 Amazing Uses of Virtual Reality

To better model architects' designs.

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Virtual reality will benefit key players in the construction space such as architects and designers. The tool allows a user to virtually inhabit spaces in three dimensions. Computer-generated images will replace hand-drawn renderings -- ultimately reducing time spent reworking layouts and drawings, effectively reducing costs and increasing safety.

Simulating the real world will not only allow designers to more easily create buildings and spaces -- from lighting to flooring to foundations -- but it will also let designers test out environments before actually building them. For example, they can realistically understand how quickly someone is able to exit the building in the case of an emergency.

12 Amazing Uses of Virtual Reality

To test car safety and drive sales.

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VR gives cars engineers the ability to test the safety of vehicles in a virtual setting before actually manufacturing them. Aside from the building process, large car companies such as Ford, Volvo and Hyundai use virtual reality in sales as well by having potential customers use a VR headset to test drive vehicles.

12 Amazing Uses of Virtual Reality

To plan your next vacation.

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You'll soon be able to “try before you fly” destinations through virtual reality. Travelers looking to book their next trip can observe a destination, hotel or city to see what it has to offer. For example, patrons in a U.K. mall were able to experience a helicopter flight around New York City or a boat ride around the Statue of Liberty.