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Virtual Actualization

Content Specialist

Oculus Rift, the new great hope for the future of virtual reality, shipped its first batch of headsets to consumers on Monday. I, along with millions of others, am excited to finally have this thrilling, near-boundless technology at my fingertips. (Though I haven’t yet ordered my Rift—the price tag sits just a bit too high for the slightly above average tech fan like me, and pre-orders for the first batch sold out in a matter of minutes.) While consumers, without even testing the technology, have grasped onto it, it’s taking some time for brands to do the same.

When a new technology first enters the consumer arena, brands tiptoe around its edges, like wallflowers at a high school dance. Should they be the first to embrace this emerging medium, and take on the very real risk of abject failure? Or do they stand to the side while other brands figure out how to best harness the technology for their own good, at the risk of looking slow to react by comparison? It’s an age-old question, and one with no clear answer.

Virtual reality just might be one of the seminal technologies that can be used in a number of ways to better ourselves.

Some enterprising brands, however, have jumped right in, creating novel ways to incorporate VR into their products and offerings. They’ve sensed that there are opportunities beyond gaming, entertainment and social media. They understand that virtual reality just might be one of the seminal technologies that can be used in a number of ways to better ourselves. Hence, Virtual Actualization.

Virtual actualization piggybacks on the idea that new technologies are best used for personal growth. Instead of doing what the majority of brands will surely do, and create enjoyable full-on virtual experiences, brands might consider ways in which they can make individuals a little bit healthier.

See how 88’s partner NorthShore University HealthSystem is already making huge inroads into the use of virtual reality in personal health. NorthShore has incorporated VR into multiple aspects of the patient care process, beginning with practitioner training. They have shown how using virtual reality simulators to teach surgeons inspires greater patient confidence as well as better-prepared practitioners. Additionally, they’ve looked into using VR as a way to treat a number of afflictions, such as PTSD, depression and addiction.

In Switzerland, VR maker MindMaze’s MindMotionPro uses virtual reality and neuroscience to help people regain their motor functions and rebuild brain strength after a stroke. MindMaze began in 2012 by building products for private businesses, and then moved into the healthcare field. While there, they recognized the potential of VR. The MindMotionPro was approved for use across Europe in November, and the company is now valued at over $1 billion. There is no ceiling for virtual actualization.

Those brands whose programs I use to better my health in various ways will have earned my brand loyalty for an entirely new technology.

The healthcare industry is just one field in which virtual reality can be used to better people’s lives. VR programs have also been developed to help control breathing during meditation, to increase empathy among UN members (really) and to even teach teens about the dangers of distracted driving. When I finally do get my hands on an Oculus Rift, my experience will consist of much more than fun and games. And those brands whose programs I use to better my health in various ways will have earned my brand loyalty for an entirely new technology. There can be great reward in being the first on the dance floor.

Trends inspired by trendwatching.com/premium