The past decade has witnessed a shift from the previous capabilities of Virtual Reality (VR) technology to an immersive experience that can bring users to an incredibly realistic episode, or on the contrary, to a “supranatural” environment.


VR uses a computer-generated setting to create scenes, objects or characters that seem genuine to the users, especially as they have a sensorial experience simulating their physical presence in a space that generates images or sounds that reproduce authenticity. This setup is normally created by using a VR headset, where the user has a display in front of the eyes or can also use special rooms with multiple studios or screens.


Currently, new features are being implemented on VR systems, such as using Machine Learning (ML) algorithms (a subset of Artificial Intelligence) to enhance the potential of VR and achieve new milestones. A simple VR system does not require ML technology to display images that could emulate reality. But what if the algorithms are trained to learn and can create more sophisticated simulated experiences? The future is about to provide new answers about this capability.


Are Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (AR) the same thing?

As the discussions around VR and AR are still emerging, there are a few differences that need to be pointed out to avoid confusion between VR and AR technologies. The essential distinction is that through VR, the immersive experience is constructed with the help of an artificially created environment which uses images or sounds. On the other hand, AR uses our real world as the framework upon which there are added figures, objects etc., and it does not necessarily require a headset. Relevant examples of AR are well-known games such as Pokemon Go which could be played on smartphones, where users had to discover specific items using their phone camera at their locations. At the same time, there are remarkable examples of non-profits which used the potential of AR for a positive social impact, such as increasing awareness for blood donation, helping people with disabilities or encouraging sustainability measures.


What are some key applications of VR and what’s the future of it?

VR tools are used extensively in the healthcare or education sectors, but also in culture, architecture or entertainment areas. From complex surgeries to guided tours, improving learning conditions for students or performing extreme sports in a virtual format, envisaging physical spaces or training in simulated combat format, VR is creating promising features to be explored later on. In future years, huge investments are expected to be made into VR and AR technologies, which will offer great opportunities to users and businesses alike. Last but not least, keep an eye on the metaverse, a combination of VR, AR and videos where users are able to “live” in a virtual universe and big tech companies are willing to adopt it. Be aware, this might be transforming the future of the internet!


Cezara Panait
Cezara Panait

Cezara Panait is the Head of Digital Policy at the think-tank Europuls – Centre of European Expertise, where she is leading the research and policy activity on emerging technologies, including Artificial Intelligence, automation and digital platforms. She frequently publishes press articles and moderates high-level debates with policy-makers on these topics. Through her activities, she wants to contribute to strengthening an open and transparent debate framework between all actors involved in the decision-making process.