A ray of virtual realism during the Pandemic

At present COVID-19 is wreaking havoc across the world, with over 28 lakhs affected and counting, 213 Countries, areas, or territories with reported cases. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus, which forms a large family of viruses that may cause illness in animals or humans. Several severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are also caused by these viruses.

Covid-19 has disrupted almost every industry like airlines, the travel industry, retail segment, transportation, tourism, and many more, pushing economies around the world into chaos. It is going to have a long-lasting impact on the world. Self-quarantine, imposed quarantine, lockdown, etc. have limited the conventional work environment. But the advancement in technology has allowed businesses to prevent a complete standstill and VR could help the industries around the world to sustain themselves by taking technology to a whole new level. One question that remains is whether the evolution of the very idea of how organizations work together is lasting, or will it die down if everyone returns to office life once the danger of the virus dies down

Currently, almost every business has gone online, allowing employees to work from home. Organizations are trying to make use of the best collaboration tools that are available. As of now, employees are collaborating utilizing video-conferencing platforms, such as Zoom, Google Meet, WebEx meeting, and many more; and talking on Slack, Teams, and other texting applications. However, there is another, a conceivably undiscovered path for organizations to consider through which their individuals can work together regardless of whether they’re several miles apart: virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

Conventionally VR technologies are being extensively used for creating an environment for gaming. There is a lot more to VR than just that and it is necessary to understand the use cases of VR. During this extraordinary situation, virtual reality (VR) offers a solid alternative to video conferencing, and the organizations that take up VR solutions could keep these solutions for the long term. It makes the employees feel like they are in the same place together which could even be there office meeting room, giving them the feeling that they are at the workplace rather on a sofa in their home. Employees can share and work together in real-time in a collaborative manner. The use of a whiteboard to write in realtime can make the meetings more interesting and interactive. An added advantage of VR when compared to videoconferencing is that all distractions can be muted and individuals can completely focus on what’s going on around them. Researches have also supported the fact that VR could be more effective than conventional videoconferencing. This could also reduce the cabin fever that one might experience during the lockdown situation

Same is the case with the educational institutions, due to this pandemic, they have also been forced to go online and might also come as a blessing in disguise to a sector that has for long followed the age-old practices. Imagine a biology class regarding the human brain, wouldn’t it be more fruitful if the participants are shown brain in an interactive environment where they could be shown the various parts of the brain in real-time! Here is an example where VR technology has been put to use: first-year medical students at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) are using HoloLens and HoloAnatomy, to learn from their homes. This has helped students to learn about the human body in ways that could not have been otherwise possible. The smallest details of the human anatomy are available in 3D; students’ learning is not limited by the availability of cadavers for dissection or 2D medical textbook illustrations.

During this pandemic when the health care systems of several countries are strained beyond imagination, VR could potentially help reduce it. Experts of the medical field can directly analyze what one is looking at to guide others. This remote assisting can be extended to emergencies in remote locations where a medical professional, may not be readily available to guide those present there.

Not everyone does online shopping, many still preferred to do shopping at a physical store. With lockdown forcing non-essential stores to be closed, VR could still allow customers to visit these stores virtually. One could shop in these virtual stores see how things, for example, a piece of furniture would look in their house and order them, preventing people from going out for shopping.

VR could also act as a means of entertainment. People could be virtually present for a concert, without violating the social distancing, they could go on a trip virtually with friends, relatives even if they are miles apart. Many people are also concerned about their fitness since they are not able to fitness centers, VR technology could also provide an interactive solution for this situation. They could be used in coordination with the smart bands, fitness trackers to provide real-time data to a person, like how many calories one burns and so on.

The application of VR could be said to be limited to one’s imagination. As human beings are social animals, and being restricted to oneself is not such a good prospect for such beings. VR could help humans to be socially distant and virtually close. As mentioned all along these solutions need not be limited to this situation, the future use of this technology is vast and could be adopted by society for the long term.