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Four Ways That Virtual Reality Upgrades Life

Imagine your wildest dreams or fantasies…

Maybe it’s to be a billionaire or a famous actress? Travel the globe, and see the world’s most spectacular sights? Or maybe to have your own private island?

While some things might be entirely out of reach in the real world, technology is making it possible to have them in the virtual world.

Specifically, through virtual reality – one of today’s fastest-growing and fascinating technologies.

If you need proof, just look at the $2 billion that Facebook (FB) paid to buy virtual reality firm, Oculus, which makes the Oculus Rift virtual reality device. It didn’t do that for kicks. Facebook knows that this is a major field to expand into.

But virtual reality isn’t just about fun and games. The technology can actually broaden your mind and help us be happier and healthier. Here are four ways it’s doing just that…

VR Upgrade #1: The Virtual Doctor Will See You Now.

Scientists have shown that virtual reality technology can boost therapy and expedite recovery for children.

A few months ago, for example, we reported the 3-D virtual reality “therapy cave” for autistic children in Poland. The premise is simple: It transports them to a virtual world, where their imaginations are stimulated, and a series of games and exercises aid their therapy.

Doctors are also using technology to help improve and expedite medical recovery for hospitalized children in a very easy way: video chat.

Yep… as simple as it sounds, video chat reduces stress. After all, what we experience affects how we feel, so it stands to reason that positive experiences result in a healthier mind and body.

For example, Reuters reports the story of 3-year-old Malia Ramirez. She suffers from a painful inflammatory bowel disease called Ulcerative Colitis, which has prompted an extended hospital stay.

While there are toys, games, and other activities, Malia sometimes gets scared when her parents aren’t there.

At this point, her nurse will usually hand over an iPad, so she can have an instant, comforting video chat with her father.

In the future, virtual reality will enhance this experience even more. Rather than just being faces on a screen, parents and children alike will actually be able to feel like they’re in the room together.

So if just seeing a loved one’s face can help improve your mood and health, virtually being with them will speed the recovery even more.

VR Upgrade #2: The “Empathy Machine.” One of the major reasons why certain situations are so often misunderstood is that it’s impossible to actually be there to experience it for yourself. But veteran print and video journalist, Nonny de la Peña, has a plan to change that.

And she’s using one of today’s most desperate events to prove it.

She’s spearheaded Project Syria – an experiment to immerse people into the tragic situation in Syria via virtual reality. The main objective of the project is to induce empathy in the participators. She explains her project below.

And here it is in full, no-holds-barred action…

The virtual reality headset has been dubbed, “The Empathy Machine.” As de la Peña says, “I sometimes call virtual reality an empathy generator. It’s astonishing to me. People all of a sudden connect to the characters in a way that they don’t when they’ve read about it in the newspaper or watched it on TV.”

She isn’t the only one, though. Many other experiments have tested the connection between VR technology and empathy – from living the life of a cow, versus adopting vegetarian eating habits, to living life in a completely different race or age.

The limits here are endless.

VR Upgrade #3: A More Tolerant Society. As a direct by-product of the second upgrade, virtual reality can make us more tolerant, too. The U.S. Department of Justice defines hate crimes as “the violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.”

And the reason for such hate crime? Per the National Crime Prevention Council, one of the top reasons is: “They are ignorant about people who are different from themselves (and terrified of the difference).”

It’s typical to fear the unknown, of course. But what if we weren’t so ignorant? And what if people could be “trained” to replace fear with understanding and tolerance?

With virtual reality, the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes will turn what was once unfamiliar and fearful into a new, more tolerant reality.

VR Upgrade #4: Change Your Scene, Change Your Mood. Sometimes, you need to detach and unwind from the daily routine. But this is easier said than done sometimes, of course. Especially if you want to take a trip to Europe or the beach when you live in Nebraska!

But virtual reality can transport you there.

This would prove particularly beneficial for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – a type of depression related to seasonal changes. Symptoms usually start in the fall, and last throughout winter, sapping your energy, and making you feel down. They don’t call it the “winter blues” for nothing!

But let’s face it… who couldn’t do with a change of scene now and again? And with virtual reality, you’re not just watching someone else relaxing in sun. You are the person in the sun.

Eliminating the Wooziness

The only drawback with virtual reality headgear, at the moment, is the lingering feeling of nausea that can accompany it. But at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Oculus CEO, Brendan Iribe, revealed that its newest version, The Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype, has all of the great VR features, minus the nausea.

While you can buy the Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 for $350 here, the newest prototype will run you about $999.99 on Amazon (AMZN). Pricey? Yes. But as the technology develops further, the price is likely to decline.

Make no mistake, virtual reality technology is becoming increasingly popular and advanced as the major players enter the field. After all, the next best thing to real reality is virtual reality.

Where innovation meets investing,

Nikia Wade

Nikia Wade

, Technology Correspondent

View More By Nikia Wade