Forays into virtual reality technology have been mostly limited to creating increasingly immersive gaming experiences, but the technology is also being put to practical use in some truly groundbreaking ways. Access to virtual environments can have educational and professional applications, which Google and associated companies have been working on.
Google’s virtual reality headset is called Google Cardboard, and is literally made out of the material for which it is named. Users fold up the flat pattern and slide their smartphones into the headset, which is worn like goggles. The phone displays an immersive 360 degree environment at the correct distance to give them a realistic 3D view.
Cardboard VR Headsets are easily obtained, either from attending movies, by fax from Adult Swim, or for a few dollars on Amazon. Right now the headset only works on Android but is expected to expand to iOS soon.
An Indian company, HomeLane, has applied Cardboard to India’s quickly-growing home decor industry by using it to exhibit home decor designs, writes Nalna Khedekar of Tech 2. The new technology is fitting with the company’s philosophy of providing a “showroom in a box,” according to the Tech Desk of the Indian Express.
Srikanth Iyer, HomeLane co-founder and CEO, said:
We expect Kaleido to be a game changer in the home furnishing industry and make it dramatically convenient for a new home owner to decide on the perfect design, color and look for their dream home.
The Cardboard team has recently revealed a project called Google Expeditions. Aimed at students, it will bridge Cardboard and Google Earth to allow students to experience virtual environments all over the world.
Since its release in 2005, Google Earth has become a valuable resource. Far from being a novelty, its detailed satellite photography has a variety of practical applications. For example, Google can use its data to scan for deforestation, possible food shortages, and the contents of oil tankers to attempt to predict gas prices, writes Cade Metz of Wired.
It’s not just for fun and gaming. It can give people a more immersive understanding of the planet– places that matter and places that are changing.
Combining the power of Google Earth’s detailed photography and record-keeping with the engaging new virtual reality technology will open up a variety of research and educational opportunities.
According to Stephany Nunneley of VG 24/7, the other long-awaited virtual reality systems Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus will be released in 2016.