Virtual Real Estate In The Metaverse Is Declining In Value 

Decentraland is known as one of the most prominent virtual real estate platforms in the metaverse. While it was once valued at $1 billion, revenues have been on a major decline within the past year, according to reports from The Block

Only a handful of users have reportedly been trading virtual real estate in Decentraland. The real estate traded can be transacted in the form of NFTs for users. 

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According to the reports from The Block, only about 20 to 30 people are actively buying and selling property weekley on the platform; valued at about $50,000. This marks a massive decline when compared to the millions of trades being made between 2021 and 2022. 

This decline shows a major lack of interest in owning virtual real estate, and the metaverse in general. 

While Decentraland had a billion-dollar market cap originally, reports from data collector DappRadar showed that only 38 active users were present over a 24 hour period on the platform. Other platforms within the metaverse have had the same level of struggles within the past year. 

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According to The Block, Decentraland also saw a decline in their Fashion Week event. Last year, over 60 brands sponsored the virtual fashion event with over 100,000 users showing up. This year, however, only about 26,000 users attended the event. 

According to a gaming report from Jay Peters, “the world didn’t feel very alive. While walking around, I’d usually only see one or two other people in my vicinity.”

Hunter Swihart, a metaverse architect, told The Block that he wouldn’t be surprised if Decentraland would completely go under as a business in the near future.

“Everybody saw prices skyrocketing with big businesses buying land for millions of dollars, which now in retrospect was a terrible mistake.”

This decline in interest in virtual real estate shows that users are losing interest in spending their money within a virtual world, and the metaverse in general is losing hold of its audience.


The Newest VR Headset To Be Released In October From Meta

On Thursday, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed the latest addition to his line of virtual reality headsets will be making their debut in October.

The new product from Meta is expected to be fully revealed at the Meta’s annual Connect event which usually takes place sometime within the month of October.

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The codenamed “Project Cambria” is set to contain features that will help users experience the feeling of social presence and have them feel more connected with other users.

Some of the features that will be included with the new VR headset will be more eye- and facial- tracking features. These new features will allow digital avatars to smile and frown within the virtual reality. 

“For me, this stuff is all about, like, helping people connect… I just started thinking about… what would be the ultimate expression of, basically, people using technology to feel present with each other, right? It’s not phones, it’s not computers.”

The new VR headset is supposed to contain a high-resolution color screen, internal sensor for the eye tracking and sophisticated augmented reality. 

The name of the VR headset has yet to be revealed but the cost of the headset is projected to cost around $800. This is a significant price jump up from the popular Quest 2 headset which costed $399 to $499 depending on the model. 

“In the previous version eye contact was all just AI simulated, we didn’t actually know when you were making eye contact because we weren’t tracking the eyes. Now for this version, and hopefully a lot of the different ones we build going forward, you’ll be able to have realistic facial expressions and more transmitted directly to your avatar,” said Zuckerberg. 

In a recent interview on Joe Rogan’s podcast, Rogan was allowed to be one of the first people who got to try out the new VR headset. He stated that he was impressed with all the features and how well his avatar was able to match his facial expression and eyes. 

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“It’s getting to the point where it’s mimicking human patterns in kind of a creepy way,” said Rogan. 

Over the last few years, Meta has been putting a lot of their effort and money into VR and augmented reality to keep expanding and evolving the world of computers and how people interact with them. 

According to Digital Trends, VR players usually identify themselves and have a strong connection to their alternates in virtual reality where real connections can be formed. 

With the increase of the technology, it could become a huge stepping stone in the world of virtual reality.

Virtual Real Estate Marketplace Launching In Metaverse 

Origin is a technology company that is gearing up to launch a virtual real estate marketplace in the metaverse that can be done across multiple blockchains. Origin is providing a singular marketplace for users to buy, sell, and trade land in the metaverse, as well as physical homes sold as NFTs. 

Origin is aiming to be like traditional real estate platforms in the sense that they will be a hub for sellers and buyers to connect with each other based on the clients needs. 

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According to Fred Greene, the founder of Origin, “the demand for metaverse land is continually growing. What the market needs is a single source of data. A reliable platform that simplifies the purchasing of land, while providing buyers and sellers with all the information they need to navigate the process.”

The current metaverse marketplace makes it difficult for transactions to occur over multiple blockchain platforms. Origin is hoping to fill this space in the industry by acting as the middleman between sellers and buyers, and interacting with hundreds of tokens and metaverse worlds. 

By simplifying the transactional process, Origin is hoping to make digital real estate available for everyone. The company wants the masses to see the metaverse as universally accessible so that more people can take advantage of the many perks that it can offer. 

Beyond giving buyers easier access to real estate, Origin is aiming to build communities of active and interested buyers and sellers, who will be able to advertise their listings in front of a much larger audience than the metaverse currently allows. 

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By becoming a multichain platform and simplifying the overall transaction process, Origin is creating a space for even more buyers. 

The company is reopening current barriers that make it difficult for architects and innovators to communicate with each other on certain projects. The metaverse is known for hosting a multitude of isolated worlds catered to each user. Origin is building bridges to make it easier for those worlds to come together when it comes to real estate transactions.

Origin is patent-pending currently, and is aiming to be a major marketplace that focuses specifically on metaverse land. The company has plans to incorporate the sale of both real world properties as NFTs as well as virtual properties. 

The company is currently on track to become the biggest hub for buyers, sellers, and renters, as it will likely be the only source for all metaverse real estate transactions across multiple blockchains.

Auto Racing

What The World Of Sports Looks Like During A Pandemic: Timmy Hill Wins Virtual NASCAR Race

Thanks to iRacing, a subscription-based gaming platform that requires a makeshift virtual reality-esque race car set up to play, racing fanatics were able to log on and watch as the platform hosted a virtual race at Texas Motor Speedway.


How Virtual Reality Is Changing The Way We Train Firefighters

Climate change has certainly taken its toll on our planet within the past decade. 2019 was defined by a myriad of natural disasters and unfathomable damage to the Earth and its many inhabitants. Specifically, the Australian bushfires have kept the continent ablaze for over three months; burning over 2.3 million hectares of land, and killing over 1 billion animals. 

While climate change wasn’t the sole reason for the fires, as Australia has an annual bushfire season regardless, it definitely intensified them to a level that the continent has never experienced before. The same issue occurred in California earlier in 2019 when the results of climate change only further fueled the wildfires that ravaged the state.

Australia’s firefighters did their best to contain the fires and focus on search and rescue efforts for any and all living things. They even called on American firefighters to join the movement, creating a unified law enforcement base that would work to contain the fires as much as possible. Since these bushfires were unlike anything that most firefighters have seen in their career, some departments are developing new methods of training to better prepare them for the unexpected. 

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These new methods involve virtual reality (VR) technology that can quite literally place the firefighters in the middle of a massive bushfire without any risk of actual injury or burns. The specific VR technology that Australian and American firefighters are beginning to implement into their training programs come from an Australia-based tech company known as FLAIM Systems.

“The whole point of VR is that we can put people in a traditionally dangerous situation, let people make decisions, and let people make mistakes. The VR technology produces realistic renders of smoke, fire, water and fire-extinguishing foam in several different scenarios, such as a house fire, an aircraft fire or wildfire,” said James Mullins, founder and CEO of FLAIM Systems.

Beyond the visual element, Mullins states that the technology also pairs with a heat suit that can replicate temperature levels based on each VR fire scenario. The suits themselves can heat up to 100 degrees Celsius, and also pairs with a FLAIM extinguisher that has sensory elements to replicate the force one would feel if they were actually extinguishing a fire, or putting it out with a fire hose. The suits also are able to measure the trainee’s heart and breathing rate, to ensure that they remain calm and steady during the simulation. 

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The technology is especially beneficial to volunteer firefighter trainees who don’t get as much exposure to real world fires; it also is much more environmentally friendly. Typical firefighter immersion training involves setting contained fires on designated plots of land, which not only releases unnecessary smoke/pollutants into the air, but also requires massive amounts of water; which is problematic for environments like California and Australia that have both found themselves dealing with severe droughts within the past few years. 

After California’s devastating 2019 wildfires, the Cosumnes Fire Department in Sacramento decided to test using VR technology to train 20 new recruits for future emergencies (this was October 2019, right before Australia’s bushfire epidemic). The trial period with the new recruits, and some more experienced firefighters as well, was hugely successful, to the point that they continue to use the VR training program now, as well as other departments in the state. 

“It allows them [trainees] to experience first hand the unique challenges with communication, limited visibility and come face to face with the flames in fire situations that they most certainly will encounter during their firefighting career. I could feel my heart rate climb as I looked around the room, seeing where the fire started, watching the rapid rate of fire spread. It was amazing to experience the inherent risk, extreme danger and fire intensity without feeling any of the dangerous effects from the fire,” said Cosumnes Fire Department Captain Julie Rider


Young Refugees Take A Field Trip To London Using Virtual Reality

In Kenya, a group of young refugees had the opportunity to be one of the first groups of students to take a field trip using the power of virtual reality. Using VR headsets the group of students, aged from 13 to 22, we’re able to go all the way to Europe to visit London’s National Gallery, without even leaving the classroom.

The Kakuma Refugee Camp has made headlines before, as they are one of the largest refugee camps in the world, housing approximately 190,000 individuals from dozens of countries. Kakuma became the first refugee camp to host a TED talk as well. Now, on their field trip to London, students were not only able to observe the gallery’s wide collection of paintings, but also get an educational art history lesson from one of the galleries artists, Lisa Milroy. Workers for the Gallery claimed something like this has never been done before, at least in London, but the results were amazing. 

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“It’s wonderful to be able to share an experience of the National Gallery and my thoughts about the paintings with the students in Kakuma through technology. The live virtual reality tour makes it possible for the students to get a feeling for what it’s like to wander through the galleries and enjoy the paintings as objects in a space, to get a sense of their fabulous material form, and encounter them each with its particular setting,” Milroy said. 

According to Milroy the lesson featured nine paintings that were based around the central theme of “time,” as this was a part of a much broader lesson that the students were already learning in their curriculum. The kids absolutely loved the entire experience; 18-year-old student, Nyagoa who’s been a camp resident her whole life, stated that she “really enjoyed it. It felt like we were there with Lisa, together. It looked just the way that I always imagined…it felt just like I was in London.”

The VR field trip was organized by the Vodafone Foundation Charity, and was done as a part of the United Nations International Day Of Education. Organizers from the camp, charity, and museum itself used 360-degree cameras that were set up all throughout the areas of the gallery that the kids were focusing on. Once the headsets were on, the cameras were able to live-stream footage of the museum and Milroy directly to the eyes of the students at the camp. 

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The tour, according to Milroy, consisted of paintings done by world renown artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Titian, the entire tour and lesson lasted for an hour and a half, with little to no technical difficulties, giving all a hopeful outlook on the future of educational experiences. 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is a United Nations branch that’s main purpose is to protect refugees, and reintegrate them into traditional means of education and society. They were crucial in making this virtual museum visit happen, as it was a part of an ongoing initiative from UNHCR that brings digital education to students in underfunded and underdeveloped refugee camps across Africa. 

The entire experience took about thirty-eight tons of digital equipment and 250 individuals from the camp, museum, UNHCR, and Vodafone to make happen, however, the results seemed to have made it completely worth it for everyone on all ends. 

“To think of children in Kenya, and all over the world being inspired by art here is truly wonderful. Something that struck me is what would Manet, Van Gogh, Titian, Hobbema and Bonheur have thought of this? I think they would have been incredibly excited, and probably humbled, that their work is being experienced in this way across centuries and continents,”  Caroline Campbell, director of collections and research at the National Gallery, said.


Can “Virtual Travel” Replace Traditional Vacations?

While the desire to visit foreign countries and exotic locales is a near-universal human experience, it is also one that can only be realized by people with a certain amount of privilege. For one, traveling is expensive, and it requires a job that allows employees to be absent from work for several days at a time. And health issues like disabilities keep many would-be travelers stuck at home. Recently, environmental concerns have given tourists a bad name; flying by plane is considered one of the most environmentally-damaging ways to travel, and tourists often litter, much to the chagrin of local residents. As the global population expands, an increasing number of people are visiting vacation destinations, leading to overcrowding and worsening the problem of tourism for locals. As technology advances, though, the future of tourism may lie in virtual reality, as simulations of tourist experiences grow ever more realistic and immersive.

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Long considered to reside squarely in the realm of futuristic sci-fi stories, virtual reality simulations of tourist destinations are already widespread in the form of 3D videos and games designed for use with headsets like the Oculus Rift. While impressive, these simulations don’t come close to replicating the experience of visiting a faraway destination in person, as they are limited to sights and sounds and generally offer users little to no freedom to shape the nature of their experience. All of this is set to change, however, as technology improves and developers invest more into expanding and refining these experiences.

Already, the travel industry is undergoing disruption thanks to the influx of technology like augmented-reality apps that help travelers determine whether their luggage will fit in the overhead compartment, and apps that allow users to preview restaurant meals by viewing 3D models superimposed on real-world objects. Some companies, like the airline KLM, are looking to entice tourists by offering vacationers a preview of their destination in the form of 3D 360 degree videos to be viewed with a virtual reality headset. While immersive, these experiences are not interactive, so their appeal in replicating the travel experience is limited.

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Other companies, however, are looking to replace the travel experience altogether by incorporating more sophisticated elements, like computer graphics and interactivity, into their virtual-reality offerings. Similar programs already exist in the form of video games, which is currently the industry most heavily invested in virtual reality. With time, though, virtual reality headsets are likely to grow in popularity as they become more useful for medical, business, and educational purposes. One company that’s pushing the boundaries of virtual travel experiences is TimeRide, which offers a virtual reality experience in Berlin which allows customers to “experience the past directly” by wearing a virtual reality headset that shows images of the city’s past. Other companies are looking to entice customers by offering live, 360-degree videos recorded by drones exploring locations from around the world.

Despite these developments, though, virtual reality has a number of hurdles to overcome before it can truly replicate the travel experience. For one, virtual reality headsets only provide video and audio, whereas real-world traveling obviously incorporates all of a person’s senses. And while artificial intelligence and telecommunications technology has improved, it still cannot replicate the experience of meeting another human being face-to-face. Nevertheless, virtual reality technology promises to shape the future of the travel industry, and it has the potential to bring the joy of travel to millions of people who otherwise don’t have the means to experience it.

Girl Vaping

Researchers at Yale use Virtual Reality to Fight Teen Vaping

The phenomenon of teen vaping has certainly drawn a tremendous amount of concern this year, as a record number of teens report using vaping products and public health officials worry that a generation of kids will grow up to suffer from lifelong nicotine addictions due to the explosion in popularity of e-cigarette brands like Juul. Regrettably, while much of the work that’s been done to discourage young people from smoking cigarettes has been successful, teens are developing nicotine addictions nonetheless due to the marketing success of e-cigarette companies, which have been found to deliberately market tobacco products to young people and non-smokers. While vaping is widely considered to be healthier than other forms of tobacco consumption, it carries with it its own set of health risks, as the long-term effects of consuming nicotine via vapor are as-of-yet unknown and a series of vaping-relating hospitalizations earlier this year demonstrated that some vape products can be dangerous and even deadly.

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Dissuading young people from vaping is a difficult task for a number of reasons. For one, nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs that exists, and vaping products allow users to easily consume very large amounts of nicotine relative to smoking cigarettes or other methods of tobacco use. Additionally, as their brains are still developing, teenagers have difficulty assessing risk and making smart long-term decisions for the future, making it harder for them to appreciate the dangerous impact vaping could have on their lives. Teenagers are also notorious for their resistance to authority, and can have a natural inclination to reject messages from authority figures, instead taking cues from their peers in order to fit in with their social environment. Many young people believe vaping to be safer than other forms of nicotine addiction, and while this could be true, such a belief can cloud a person’s judgment when considering whether to start vaping. As such, researchers and doctors must come up with novel solutions for persuading children and teenagers not to engage in dangerous behaviors like vaping.

Like vaping, virtual reality is a new technology that has taken off in recent years

One such solution was imagined at Yale University, where researchers developed a virtual reality video game with the intent of discouraging vaping among teenagers. Like vaping, virtual reality is a new technology that has taken off in recent years, as display technology and advancements in computer graphics have made a product which for decades has been confined to science-fiction stories a reality. The game is called “Invite Only,” and puts players in the role of a student in a high school environment as they engage in scenarios such as being offered a vape pen at school or at a party and encouraging a friend to quit vaping. In addition to its educational value, the game is meant to be fun, engaging players with various activities and mini-games.

Though the project was developed at Yale, it was funded by Oculus, a virtual reality technology company owned by Facebook, and was created in collaboration with PreviewLabs Inc., a New Haven-based game developer. The game is the subject of an ongoing experiment, involving 300 students, designed to assess whether virtual reality technology holds promise as an educational and public health tool. The educational aspect of game-play involves players choosing from a number of dialogue options when engaging in conversations with in-game characters, which tests their knowledge about the effects of vaping products and the availability of resources to help people who want to quit. For instance, the game teaches players that they can text the word “quit” to 47848 for information about vaping-cessation resources, and that they should consult with a trusted adult, such as a parent or doctor, for help with their nicotine addictions.

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In the past, similar programs that leverage gaming to send an anti-drug-use message have been developed, with varying success. But the researchers hope that virtual reality will do a better job by immersing children and teenagers in a virtual environment that helps them imagine how drug use can impact their own lives as well as the lives of their peers, particularly in a world that is densely saturated with tablets and smartphones, which compete for young people’s attention. While the cost of virtual reality has decreased dramatically in recent years, the price of a virtual reality headset can still impose a burden on some, as the Oculus Go headset for which “Invite Only” was developed costs $150 or more. However, if schools are willing to invest in virtual reality technology, researchers hope that this platform can be leveraged not only to dissuade kids from vaping, but for other educational opportunities as well. The Yale researchers expect to have final results from the experiment by next year.

Virtual Reality

Valve Announces Half-Life: Alyx, a Virtual Reality Exclusive

Over the past several years, the game development studio Valve has shifted its focus from developing new titles in its various critically-acclaimed video game franchises to developing Steam, its content-delivery platform and investing in innovative technology like virtual reality. As such, it came as a surprise when Valve announced Half-Life: Alyx, a new entry in the famed Half-Life series which revolutionized the first-person shooter genre when its first entry was released for PC in 1998. Half-Life: Alyx, the first entry in the series in more than a decade, is not the highly-anticipated Half-Life 3 that fans of the series have waited for, but instead takes place before the events of Half-Life 2 and puts players in the shoes of Alyx Vance, a supporting character from the main series. As the game is built from the ground up for VR, it will not resemble a first-person shooter in the traditional sense, but rather will ask players to use motion controllers to manipulate objects in virtual 3D space to solve puzzles and engage in combat.

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Valve has not released all of the details about the upcoming title, but has announced a launch date of March 2020 and has promised the game will be a full-length experience. The game’s trailer, posted to Youtube a few days ago, showcases the improved graphical capabilities of the Source 2 engine, which enables advanced lighting and other high-quality effects. Additionally, the trailer gives players a hint of the kind of gameplay they can expect, as the player character is depicted firing weapons and interacting with the visually-updated dystopian world first featured in 2004’s Half-Life 2. The title will only be available for PC, but will support all virtual reality platforms that can be used with a Windows computer.

It doesn’t seem likely that a real Half-Life 3 will ever see the light of day, as Valve has seemed to move on from traditional game development; however, fans may experience some long-awaited closure in the form of Half-Life: Alyx.

While fans are of course excited by the announcement of a new title in the Half-Life series, the game’s exclusivity as a VR title has drawn criticism. For one, though their price has lowered in recent years, virtual reality headsets continue to be prohibitively expensive for most, and they require a similarly-expensive high-powered gaming PC to function well. One of the biggest challenges in VR game design is the problem of locomotion, as allowing players to move freely within a virtual world while remaining physically stationary in the real world causes sensations of nausea in many people. As such, the locomotion system featured in Half-Life: Alyx is likely to be extremely limited compared to the movement systems featured in previous titles in the series. 

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Half-Life: Alyx will mark the first commercial use of the company’s Source 2 engine, an update to the revolutionary Source engine upon which previous titles in the series were built. Valve is also opening up their game development tools to the public, updating Hammer, the company’s free level authoring tool, for compatibility with the new game. Valve has promised that Half-Life: Alyx will be a flagship experience for the VR format, and the game’s $59.99 price tag reflects this ambition. While Half-Life 2 featured the “Gravity Gun” weapon as a tool to manipulate objects in the environment, showing off the game’s then-unique use of a full physics engine to breathe life into the game’s setting, Half-Life: Alyx gives players “Gravity Gloves,” allowing them to pick up objects, like guns and puzzle items, from a short distance.

The last entry in the series, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, ended on a major cliffhanger that after twelve years remains unresolved; while Valve’s newest title in the series takes the form of a prequel, fans still hope that the game will shed light on what happens in the aftermath of the precious title. It doesn’t seem likely that a real Half-Life 3 will ever see the light of day, as Valve has seemed to move on from traditional game development; however, fans may experience some long-awaited closure in the form of Half-Life: Alyx.

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality as a Medical Tool

In recent years, virtual reality devices, including the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and Sony’s PSVR system have exploded in popularity, primarily for their application as gaming devices. Gamers use virtual reality to immerse themselves into their favorite game worlds, racing around a track from the point of view of a racecar driver or looking down at the world from the eyes of a pilot in a flight simulator. Although the technology was originally developed for this purpose, the proliferation of VR headsets has led to their applications in unexpected fields. For example, digital artists have taken advantage of virtual reality to view their creations from different angles or even created sculptures in 3D space using handheld controllers, and businesses have experimented with using virtual reality to hold meetings in a collaborative environment with people hundreds or thousands of miles away. But perhaps the most consequential application of virtual reality is in the healthcare field, as medical professionals are experimenting with using the headsets to treat a variety of conditions.

One application of virtual reality is pain management. For patients with certain conditions, the reality of living with chronic pain, which is resistant to traditional pain medications, can border on the unbearable. Chronic pain can prevent patients from engaging in a number of stimulating activities, confining them to their houses or the hospital. For some patients, pain management is less about reducing the amount of pain felt and more about developing strategies for coping with it. It is theorized that virtual reality can help in this regard by taking the patient’s mind off of their painful experiences by immersing them in a more relaxing environment. Virtual reality has the potential to bring sufferers of chronic pain the experience of sitting by a waterfall, or lying down at the beach, helping to shift their focus away from their pain towards more enjoyable sensations.

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Virtual reality shows particular promise in helping with the treatment of psychological conditions. Exposure therapy, for instance, is a method of helping patients address their phobias by introducing the person to their fears in gradual steps, until they are no longer so overwhelmed that their fears negatively impact their lives. Virtual reality can provide patients undergoing exposure therapy with a controlled environment to introduce them to their fears before tackling them in the real world. Someone with a fear of flying, for instance, can have the experience of being inside of an airplane through virtual reality, and would be able to take the headset off at any time. Additionally, variables such as turbulence, or other triggers such as taking off and landing, can be controlled by the therapist, to introduce the patient to these elements when they are ready for them.

Virtual reality has even been used as a pain management tool for women who are in labor, in a study that provided women giving birth with VR headsets which simulated the experience of scuba diving alongside dolphins and manta rays. In this study, the experience of VR lowered the womens’ self-reported levels of pain and anxiety, and 82% of the participants said they very much or completely enjoyed using the technology.

Virtual reality has also been used as a motivational tool for patients who otherwise might neglect to participate in physical therapy as often as they should by making the experience of physical therapy more engaging and entertaining. Certain VR applications require the user to stand up and physically move around, making them useful supplements to some physical therapy. For instance, a VR skiing game might require patients to shift their weight from foot to foot. Additionally, VR programs have been used for patients with mobility or balance issues undergoing physical therapy to provide them with visual feedback to improve their skills.

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Doctors, in addition to patients, have seen benefits from using virtual reality. In Minneapolis, doctors recently prepared for a surgery to separate conjoined twins using VR. A medical team took detailed 3D twins of the scans, then used visualization software to project these models in a 3D environment, and used VR headsets to examine the scans in close detail from a variety of angles to determine how best to approach the procedure. 

It should be noted that virtual reality comes with its own health risks. People with photo-sensitive epilepsy should not use virtual reality, as rapid changes in the display could trigger seizures, and many people experience a kind of motion sickness when the movement of images in VR headsets do not perfectly line up with the movements of the user’s head. Nevertheless, virtual reality is an exciting new technology, which still has plenty of areas of potential improvement, and the application of VR in the medical field shows promise for bringing relief to patients with any number of maladies.