Virtual reality has promise for nearly every industry ranging from architecture and design to movies and entertainment, but the real industry to gain from this technology is science in general. The money that can be saved examining the probability of experiments in an artificial world before they are actually carried out could be great, and the money saved on energy could be even greater. Virtual reality is something that personally excites me because uses and benefits of it are never ending.
The best example of how virtual reality can help science is that of the 'molecular docking' experiments being done in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Scientists at the University of North Carolina have developed a system that simulated the bonding of molecules. However, instead of using complicated formulas to determine bonding energy or stick drawings, the chemist can use a high-tech head-mounted display. With this they attach their bodies to an artificial arm from the ceiling. This system is so easy to operate that children could learn to form bonds using a trial and error method.
In another field, architectural designers have also found that virtual reality can be useful in visualizing what their buildings will look like when they are put together. Often, using a 2D diagram to represent a 3D home is confusing, and the people that fund large projects would like to be able to see what they are paying for before it is constructed. An example, which is fascinating, would be that of designing an elementary school. Designers could walk in the school from a child's perspective to gain insight on how high a water fountain is, or how narrow the halls are.
Product designers could also use virtual reality in similar ways to test their products. NASA and other aerospace facilities are concentrating research on such things as human factors engineering, virtual prototyping of buildings and military devices, aerodynamic analysis, flight simulation, 3D data...
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