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Time for visions – Digital transformation, virtual worlds: Virtual reality – more than just a lifestyle gimmick

Aufgrund intensiver Nachfrage aus dem englischsprachigen Raum veröffentlichen wir noch eine englische Fassung des Beitrags vom 10.01.2023 “Zeit für Visionen – Digitale Transformation, virtuelle Welten: Virtual Reality – Mehr als nur Lifestyle”

Due to intense demand from our English speaking audience, we are publishing an English version of the article as of 10.01.2023

Time for visions – Digital transformation, virtual worlds: Virtual reality – more than just a lifestyle gimmick

Former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt coined various proverbs, but his recommendation that “if you have visions, go a doctor” was definitely his worst. If you don’t have a vision what the future will bring and how it could be used to improve our way of life, then why are you into politics anyway? 

Virtual Reality (VR) is one of the most fascinating and fastest growing technologies. The possibility to immerse yourself in virtual worlds and to have interactive experiences has made VR play a significant part in the digital transformation. According to SuperData Research the worldwide VR market reached a volume of 7.9 billion Dollars in 2020, up 37% from the preceding year. The German digital industry association Bitkom estimated the national market at 250 million Euro, a 60% growth.

Growth of VR in Germany is fueled by the increasing availability of affordable VR headsets. SuperData Research statistics show a worldwide sales of 16 million units in 2020, 50% growth from 2019. According to the NPD Group, 3.7 million units were sold in the USA, 45% more than in the preceding year. The use of VR in various industries is a major factor supporting its acceptance and application. Training, education, retail, real estate, and entertainment are examples where VR is increasingly used. VR offers students a new dimension of learning. Retail can offer virtual shopping experiences. Real estate can offer potential customers virtual visits to objects without requiring travel. Entertainment industries can create superior experiences at new levels of immersion.

VR is a potential equalizer. It offers inclusive experiences for people with different abilities and backgrounds. Diving into a virtual reality with interactive experiences offers a new level of participation for people with disabilities. The market researchers of Greenlight Insights found that people with disabilities have a higher probability to use and adopt VR than people with no disabilities. According to the study, 31% of people with disabilities use VR regularly, compared to only 21% without disabilities. The increasing availability of barrierfree VR applications represent a vital factor for its inclusive use. The UK based organisation Disability Rights UK, for instance, developed the VR application “You Are Here”. It allows disabled people to interact in a virtual world and do things they may not be able to do in reality.

An increasing selection of VR headsets with functions tailored for people with disabilities are becoming available. Oculus Quest by Meta is an example. The Oculus Quest has several options to make it more accessible for people with disabilities, such as single-handed control mode and adaptable sizes for displays.

The digital transformation stemming from VR supports more inclusive experiences for people with all levels of abilities and backgrounds. Barrierfree usages of VR headsets allows more people to use a common platform.

The medical field is adopting VR as a useful tool also. Medical training, patient care, rehabilitation and remote operations are typical use cases for VR.

Especially VR based training has contributed to better quality in treatment and care. Difficult or dangerous tasks can be simulated safe environment using VR. Usage of VR by patients can support rehabilitation, pain treatment, and treatment of anxiety. Rehabilitation after accidents or operations can benefit from VR to restore movement and control.

Studies show great benefit of using VR for training especially in surgery. Surgeons trained with VR simulators have been shown to be significantly less likely to make mistakes during surgery than those trained with traditional methods. Applications in therapy also showed positive results. A study in 2018 showed on average a 50% pain reduction with VR based pain therapy. Rehabilitation supported by VR reduced the time to recovery by 25%.

So obviously VR is a very promising tool that already starts to pay off. VR is not just entertainment, fun, and lifestyle, it has very real use cases, can foster inclusion and quality of life when applied the right way.

Based on current trends and available statistical data it is safe to predict that VR will keep growing fast in the years to come. A 2020 study estimated an annual growth of the worldwide VR market by 30.8%. This means that this year, 2023, the market could reach a total volume of 45 billion Dollars.

The diversification of use cases, advancements in VR hardware, and increasing number of available applications will be key drivers. VR headsets and systems have constantly improved over time and dropped in cost. So it can be expected that in 2023 many more people will have access to VR technology.

Acceptance in an increasing number of industries will also drive the use of VR. There will be many more applications beyond training, education, medical, entertainment, and sales. Other sectors will undoubtedly find further applications for VR.

The Pirate Party of Germany welcomes the progress of VR in so many relevant fields. Especially the use in research, education, training, medical, and inclusion promises a new level of communication and interaction and improved accessibility of information and services. We support the adoption in public services and politics to remove barriers and improve inclusion.