The modern global development is associated with a rapid increase in the amounts of information that should be processed and cultivated for the maintenance of progress in many fields of human performance. Nowadays, many scientists recognize the significance of interactive visualization of large information amounts for the understanding efficiency increase (Guitton, 2011). The virtual reality (VR) concept is meant to support the idea of scientific visualization and the technological methods of its realization. Thus, VR technology can become one of the biggest contributors to the development of global society in multiple fields of education and science.
Definition and History of VR Concept
Although the VR concept became widely known merely in the epoch of personal computers and the World Wide Web development, the ideas that led to the VR phenomenon occurrence were developed a long time ago. In the European philosophy of the Middle Ages, the term “virtual” applied to a particular type of existence: not simply existence but a type of ability to exist – a being which, strictly speaking, is not formally present but still potentially exists (Guitton, 2011).
The technological perception of VR is the most common nowadays. In the 20th century, many scientists were committed to the development of the technologies that would allow individuals to interact with computers through the immersion in VR by using the visual and acoustic means (Guitton, 2011). VR, as it is known now, is a computer-generated 3D image that you can interact within a way that it seems real.
Nowadays, VR devices are usually produced in the forms of helmets or glasses connected to hardware and software programs. VR devices are widely used in the games and entertainment industry. However, the interest to the implementation of VR in other areas of human performance is increasing, and many scientist and scholars begin to recognize that the application of VR technologies in the academic and medical sites has a significant potential to transform the approach towards the scientific development and education as a whole (Passut, 2015).
VR in Medicine
VR systems can be effectively used in medicine. Moreover, many technologically advanced medical institutions already apply them in the training of personnel and treatment of patients. For example, VR technologies are used by the physicians for the perception of 3D data about patients (i.e. tomography and ultrasonography results) (Debnath et al., 2013). Moreover, the specialized software assists the medical practitioners in the elaboration of the individual prosthetics based on the results of patients’ scanning. It allows the doctors to increase the quality and efficacy of service.
Nowadays, the virtual anatomic atlases are developed. The systems represent different organs of an average person, and they can reproduce both external and mechanical parameters of organs. The interactive models and reconstructions of organs are also applied in training and the projection of surgical interventions. The virtual operations on the virtual patients in medicine are of significant importance as they help to prepare doctors for the actual surgical process and avoid the potential extreme cases (Wiederhold, & Wiederhold, 2005).
In this way, the surgical system da Vinci Si allows the surgeon to see everything inside the body of a patient with a 3D camera, and it recognizes the movements of a surgeon’s hands transforming them into the instruments (Surgery, 2015). The application of VR in training leads to the increase of accuracy and predictability of outcomes in operations and experiments.
VR proved to be efficient in the treatment of phobias, rehabilitation, pain release, and other therapies interrelated with the individuals’ psychological perceptions and memories (Wiederhold, & Wiederhold, 2005). For example, the program SnowWorld allows patients with severe burns to immerse themselves in VR where they can walk around in the snowy and frosty landscapes and touch the virtual snow (Trost, & Parsons, 2014).
The program can be considered an efficient therapeutic instrument as it helped to reduce pain in many patients. The analogical program, SpiderWorld, may help to reduce anxiety during the contacts with spiders in patients with arachnophobia (Rinck, Kwakkenbos, Dotsch, Wigboldus, & Becker, 2010). A significant advantage of VR application in psychological treatment is the total control over the situation.
VR in Education
VR provides a perfect educational environment. Similarly to VR application in the medical sites, the individual perception of the virtual models allows training the specialists in many other fields: aviation, technology processing management, distant technology management, etc. In this case, it is important to pay attention to the quality of visual systems because the image should be accurate. The combination of VR with various elements of training technologies (hydro-drive chairs, platforms, control and feedback systems, tracking, etc.) ensures a high level of training adequacy. For example, the application of stereo visualization is extremely important in the education of aviators because the senses of distance and perspective are essential in the conditions of landing or refueling in air (Previc & Ercoline, 2004).
Education with VR application allows the visualization of lectures and seminars. With VR devices, teachers may show different aspects of a real object or a process to their students. As a result, a significant positive impact on the educational outcomes, increase in quality and speed of educational processes can be achieved. It is observed that people receive about 80% of information about the world through vision, wherein an individual can memorize about 20% of visual information; 40% of visual and acoustic information; or 70% of visual, acoustic and kinesthetic information (Thorsteinsson, 2008). In this way, the appropriate application of the VR technologies gives the opportunities to increase educational efficiency.
Nowadays, the realization of 3D information on the Internet offers new challenges and perspectives for the implementation of informational technologies in education. The latest tendencies in the technological development are strongly connected to the Internet, 3D graphics, and VR. For the integration of these three concepts, i.e. the representation of the special objects in the World Wide Web, the scientists and engineers attempt to develop distinct technologies that can be unified under a single concept of 3D VR Internet (Lea, Honda, & Matsuda, 1997). At the current stage, 3D VR Internet technology is considered underdeveloped and unsatisfactory in terms of its application, yet it has great potential in the provision of distance education in the future. The combination of the Internet and VR will help the students to attend classes in any part of the world while sitting comfortably at home. Thus, VR increases the accessibility of education, especially for the disabled people.
Even at the current stage of VR technology development, it is possible to say that the further technological advancements and discoveries in this area will have a tremendous social significance. VR technology has great potential for the social transformation on a global scale as it can change the very structure of communication, education, and service. VR provides great opportunities for the expansion of knowledge in science and the reduction of limitations in individuals’ capabilities of a psychological and cognitive character. Future VR innovations and their effective integration may substantially impact the mode of human life similar to the previous experience of the Internet and Wireless technology.
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