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Fairfax County, Virginia

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Christina Paladeau,
Editor, Branch Out

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Virtual Reality: Not Just for Gamers Anymore

 

Unlocking a new world of education, healthcare and exploration.

We Can Do More

For many, the concept of virtual reality (VR) may seem like just an extension of video gaming — players put on a headset and immerse themselves in a battle, visit a remote planet or ride along with an eagle in flight. But the scope of this technology extends much further.

Emerging scientific evidence shows that virtual reality has tremendous potential in education, healthcare and improving quality of life. Popular wisdom suggests that people remember 10% of what they read and 90% of what they do, and virtual reality allows users to “do” things beyond what their physical circumstances might allow.

Explore the Possibilities

While history books and documentaries can provide an idea of what life in ancient civilizations was like, they can’t allow us to actually experience it. That’s where VR comes in. For example, Rome Reborn is an immersive piece of software that illustrates ancient Rome in detail. Available for VR headsets and personal computers, it allows the user to navigate through the ancient city and simultaneously listen to expert commentary.

In healthcare, virtual reality can support both patient and provider. To better understand a surgical procedure, a patient can “look” inside the human body. VR can also simulate scenarios that are difficult to recreate — such as flying or standing at the top of a tall building — to allow a mental health professional to coach and support a patient in real-time. Medical educators use virtual reality extensively to train students and providers who have varying learning styles including audio, visual and kinesthetic.

Improving Our Lives

Virtual reality has the potential to profoundly improve quality of life, bringing about positive change for those living with cognitive ailments or bridging gaps between disparate groups. Programs like VR Genie from the nonprofit Equality Lab help combat social isolation and depression in seniors by allowing them to “visit” destinations like the Grand Canyon or Eiffel Tower. Axon Academy provides VR-based empathy training for law enforcement officers, better equipping them to de-escalate dangerous situations. Far from just a novelty for gamers, VR has become a valuable tool with many real-world applications and benefits.

 

Virtual Reality at the Library

Fairfax County Public Library has just started offering virtual reality programs to help us all learn about this powerful new technology. The programs provide the consoles, headsets and software — you bring your mind and get ready for a whole new kind of library experience. These free programs are intended for teens and adults, and advance registration is requested but not required.

All games are rated E for Everyone, E for Everyone 10+ or T for Teen. Software available may include: Battlezone; Eagle Flight; Moss; Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin; Star Trek: Bridge Crew; Rigs; Robinson: The Journey; VR Karts; and WipEout. To learn more, search for “virtual reality” in the library events calendar online or ask at your branch.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant