In our previous blog we wrote about what the Oculus Rift is and how it works. See it here along with the video showing it in action.
So that’s how the Oculus Rift looks and you can see how it would work in a gaming capacity, but how else can it be utilised?
Yep. Robots. The Oculus Rift has already been used by NASA themselves to control robots from afar. With a single operator, they’ve manage to perform simple tasks, operating a robot’s arm and getting it to pick up blocks.
There are plans in place – should these experiments prove successful – to remotely control rovers on Mars, as well as Robonaut 2, a robot currently on the International Space Station which is designed to work alongside humans in space.
The prosthesis manufacturer Otto Bock in collaboration with Vienna University of Technology has developed a Virtual Reality environment in which tasks can be trained in order to continuously motivate amputees with upper-body prosthetics to practice their control skills without taking risks. By tracking the amputee’s arm and head movement the Oculus can generate input for grasping control of the virtual prosthesis, creating a realistic simulation, lessening the frustration that many amputees feel with new prosthetics.
Online courses are nothing new, but the Oculus Rift could boost what’s currently possible with that. With the possibility of virtual outings to historic places, or simply being more immersed into a presentation from the comfort of your own house, learning can be a more practical experience. There are already a number of programs that can virtually transport students to a virtual classroom where they can interact with the environment.
There are now a number of apps being made for virtual reality that allow users to experience 3D models through virtual interaction. By creating visualisations that are true-to-scale, immersive, and fully navigable, users can now imagine how completed projects will both look and feel.
The great thing about these apps is that they’re compatible with a lot of modelling software that’s currently already out there. So not needing to learn anything new, any profession that uses models – such as architects – can create a model of a building as they normally would and then virtually step inside of it.
Trainee surgeons need some of the best education available. Simulations of some types are already available but compared to just watching standard videos on a computer screen, the Oculus video is arguably better at blocking distractions. Plus, it shows you exactly what the operating surgeon was seeing during real-world procedures.
As far as Oculus demos go, the surgery isn’t a particularly advanced use of virtual reality. It’s basically just a widescreen video playing in front of your eyes, with the ability to lean in for a closer view of the action, but being able to virtually look over that expert surgeon’s shoulder provides that intimate learning that could greatly help a trainee surgeon.
The Oculus Rift has already been used to treat people with anxiety and stress related mental health disorders. Exposure therapy is advocated by a number of therapists, and virtual reality can bring people face to face with their fears in a safe environment, and with the ability to disengage from it at any time if required.
Up until now, the cost of the hardware to enable these types of treatments has been prohibitive outside academic or well-funded environments. With the Oculus Rift this barrier will be completely erased, opening the door to independent professionals, mental health organisations and institutions.