August 3, 2020
Gabriella Chihan Stanley

The transformation of normality and the role of VR.

It’s quite challenging to imagine a daily routine without the use of our bodies. From non-verbal communication to physical activity, we’ve used our composite of flesh and blood to express ourselves, to commute, to dance, to love, to do a set of push-ups, to solve problems, and to have something to blame when things go wrong. It’s a solid solution for pretty much all our basic survival needs.

Fast forward to COVID-19. Suddenly we found ourselves confined within our four walls, with our emotions hidden behind face masks and our interactions with our fellow humans depending on good broadband connections and a big bladder. Our new uncharted reality pushed us to reevaluate deep-rooted concepts such as community, solidarity, and personal identity. And this is how, among quarantinis and watch parties, a truly remarkable phenomenon started to emerge. We started moving away from our fear-led skepticism of technology and started to make life-changing decisions that would soon become the foundation of a new digital future.

All first steps are good. But as any beginning, there is still a lot missing to make it perfect. Is the world ready to adopt VR as part of their daily routine? If so, do people already know what VR is capable of beyond entertainment purposes? Would people use it mindfully and purposefully? Regardless of the unanswered questions, what is most thrilling is that we seem to be ready to explore how we can live a more virtual life.

My husband Axel and I are both VR producers and founded vrisch together. And one thing we consider a vital part of our work is our duty to be clear about what immersive tech can do now, what would be able to do in the future, and what it would probably never happen. We’re the first ones who want to see VR reaching its full potential, and for that to happen, we need to ensure that our clients’ expectations are realistic, achievable, and, most of all, purposeful.

Now, more than ever, we can start living a more virtual life

How to integrate VR into our new normal

It would be nearly impossible to summarize in one single list all applications of VR that could be beneficial during and after the pandemic. Therefore, I based this small sample on my own professional experience as a content creator and my personal experience as a user:

VR can give ourselves a break from it all

As a locked-down parentpreneur doing home office in a small city apartment together with my husband/company partner and my highly talkative 4-year-old, there were moments that the only thing I would dream of is a quiet place to be alone. These are the conditions in which Empty Vienna was born. This 360 video portrayed previously-crowded landmarks in Vienna as empty urban sanctuaries to ponder alone.

Sure, visiting a beach or a forest in VR could have also done the trick. But having an admit- one ticket to a crucial moment in history that would probably never happen again in our living existence was a significant incentive. It was not only a calm hideout but an invitation to see things from a fresh new perspective.

'vrischluft' works as an active 360 VR full-body exercising program
VR can be an incredible workout for all ages

As much of a big fan of Beat Saber as I am, I was still missing working out outside during the lockdown. And this is the context in which our project vrischluft (a play of words in German translated as “fresh air”) came into existence. Vrischluft works as an active 360 VR full-body exercising program aimed to support an active lifestyle for those who have to stay inside during COVID-19.

By strapping on a pair of Cybershoes, users can have an outdoor get-away experience controlling the development of the story, at their own pace, based on their moving speed. In the near future, this project will grow into other uses such as rehabilitation, and as a supportive tool for assisted living residents and hospital patients to keep patients active and motivated.

VR can offer us emotional support

VR gives us the possibility of being alone while surrounded by people or being among many when we’re desperately craving for social interaction. But some effects of self-isolation go beyond the mere need for companionship. Our project HereVR was developed in collaboration with psychological therapy practice Phobius. It focuses on helping people cope with loneliness caused by self-isolation. HereVR will create a distraction-free simulation of loneliness as a means of exposure therapy, along with a series of anxiety-relieving physical and mental exercises defined by the user’s level of tolerance.

VR is an opportunity to find solutions

These three examples share one trait in common: None of them aim at replacing the real world. VR is an opportunity to find solutions that are inherently efficient as much as they are urgently necessary in the context of a world that has embraced a virtual life as a viable possibility.

And why is this extra exciting for VR content creators? Because the more VR becomes part of our routine, the more we will begin to understand the importance of authentic, quality, and meaningful immersive content. We will grow out of gimmicks and one-hit-wonder experiments and into a view of VR as a fertile ground for rich human experiences and an immensely powerful enhancer of human potential.

We’re ready for it. Take a deep breath. And let the journey begin!

Starting a project using new technologies can be overwhelming. We at vrisch can help you get you started on your immersive journey through VR and AR. We can guide you into how to use augmented and virtual reality to transmit your message memorably and effectively by eliminating external distractions and bringing your audience to the moment that matters the most –the present. Contact us!