Over the years of discussing VR technology with anyone willing to listen, I’ve noticed a common trend – even the mere thought of the technology tends to make a lot of people very nervous. This answer seems to be amplified even more when it comes to reflecting on the subject with my friends who are very interested in outdoor recreation.
Will virtual reality lead people even deeper into the digital world than they already are? Undoubtedly. And while the uncertainty of what it will look like can be a little terrifying to ponder, virtual reality will also bring many benefits to its users.
Here are a few ways I could see virtual reality technology impacting the outdoor recreation space:
1. Improved adventure preparation
Want the chance to practice navigating a hiking route before you’re actually on the mountain? Virtual reality will likely become a way for people to do that in a very immersive way.
Imagine putting on a helmet and being able to hike the road to the top of Colorado’s famous Capitol Peak before setting foot on the trail. The fully immersive and interactive nature of a virtual reality experience like this is sure to make route finding on the day of the real-world adventure much safer. Additionally, it’s likely that a program like this could simulate a variety of weather scenarios and other hazards that could further assist hikers in their preparation.
2. Improving accessibility through proxy experiences
Many outdoor recreational experiences are simply not accessible to many people, either due to physical limitations or prohibitive costs. In the same way that virtual reality could take outdoor recreators onto the trail when preparing for a real-world experience, it could also take others onto the trail, whether or not they have the intent to test their skills in the physical world. Want to find out what climbing Everest is like? Virtual reality might not (yet) be able to give you that frosty feeling, but it could give you a chance to see some pretty amazing and immersive sights in a way that no other multimedia technology can. can do it.
3. Make exercise more engaging, therefore more appealing
New media technology has long been used to make exercise more satisfying. A simple example is how indoor cycling units often have a small screen to make riders feel like they’re riding some sort of real-world road. Imagine how much more immersive and real this experience would be if, instead of a small screen, the visuals were shown to the user through a headset with an immersive 360 degree view. It’s likely that this higher level of engagement will keep users more engaged, possibly resulting in a better workout.
4. Eliminate the risks of dangerous experiments
The risk is half the fun, right? Maybe for some people, but for others, risk does nothing more than deter people from participating in certain activities. Want to try wingsuit flight, but not ready to put your own body at risk? Virtual reality could mimic the experience in a way that allows the average person to experience a fraction of the thrill. As technology improves, this fraction will become larger and larger.
5. More immersive outdoor entertainment media
This advantage of virtual reality is already here, as seen in the two-part virtual reality series ‘The Soloist,’ starring Alex Honnold. From being a cliffside observer as Honnold climbs ropeless above a massive valley floor to allow the viewer to participate in an interview that takes place in Honnold’s living room, there is no doubt – the Video shot this way makes the viewing experience much more realistic and intense. Plus, imagine the point-of-view capabilities – virtual reality technology could allow the viewer to become the skier in upcoming first movies. It’s likely that the same style of vantage point will be used at live sporting events, whether bringing the viewer to a spectator spot atop a huge air ramp or letting the viewer joins an athlete as he races down a track in real time from that athlete’s perspective.
6. Practice makes perfect
Are you good at tying climbing knots? There will probably be a virtual reality program that will make you better. The interactive nature of the technology will allow people to practice various technical aspects of the sport without actually having access to the expensive equipment they might need. In the same way that virtual reality could guide someone on a route before they actually hit the trail in the real world, it could also allow for a space where skills can be practiced over and over again, without adding wear and tear on real gear, while also providing access to emulated gear that you might not be able to get your hands on.
7. More time away means more time outdoors
This one is not directly related to outdoor recreation, but it will be a perk that outdoor recreation enthusiasts are sure to appreciate. While the coronavirus pandemic has caused many people to experience the benefits of working from home for the first time, working from home will only continue to become more attractive to large corporations as virtual reality technology picks up. will improve. While sending employees to telework in a real-world space can mean investing in a lot of hardware, virtual reality can remove that need. Not only can virtual reality make work more efficient, but in general, it can also free the employee from traditional office space, which means more time for fun activities, including outdoor recreation.
Curious about my thoughts on augmented reality and outdoor recreation? Find them here.
About the Author: Spencer McKee holds a graduate degree from Purdue University related to the impacts of new media technology on the individual and society.
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