It seems as if a new technology is introduced every day, but these offerings hardly happen overnight. Take augmented, or virtual reality (VR), for example. VR headsets have been around for decades, but suddenly they are everywhere. Samsung, Sony, HTC, and Oculus Rift (recently purchased by Facebook) all offer VR headsets””some are currently available, others are being released this year.
My VR headset was delivered with my Sunday edition of The New York Times. The publication included a Google Cardboard viewer as a promotion for the launch of its VR app. Talk about bringing pages to life! One video, “Walking New York,” presented a 3D, 360Â° view of the Big Apple through a piece of cardboard and a smartphone. I was able to experience the city without leaving my living room””no bus, boat, train, or car required.
Google Cardboard retails for about $10, with some assembly required: You fold the cardboard according to directions, download an app via Google Play or the App Store on your smartphone, and slide the device inside. Once assembled, the headset looks similar to a View-Master (which, by the way, offers a VR headset for kids.)
But, its potential goes beyond games and 3D movies. NPR reported on various uses for the technology in healthcare, from treating phobias to reducing pain via cognitive distraction. People with disabilities or those who can’t travel are finding benefit from the gadget as well.
In optometry, it has potential for patient care. A developer with amblyopia created VR software that may help strengthen a lazy eye (it’s currently undergoing studies to back up the claim). The interactive 3D game, designed for patients with amblyopia and strabismus, is currently available only to optometrists, but the company, Vivid Vision, has plans to release a consumer version. Imagine a parent nagging a child to play his video game instead of putting on his eye patch? Welcome to a new reality.
Joanne Van Zuidam | Editor-In-Chief