If you’ve ever watched someone experience virtual reality for the first time, you know it can involve screaming, flapping arms, and occasional falls.

On one level people know their bodies are safe on the stable chair, but as their minds are catapulted through outer space on a spaceship to Mars or beamed into a refugee camp in Syria —they can’t help but lose their grip on reality and go along for the ride.

In fact, our brains don’t even require photorealism for suspension of disbelief in VR. A choppy CGI rendition will cause our heart rates to increase and our palms to get sweaty when we’re riding a virtual roller coaster or standing on the edge of a virtual building looking at the ground 30 stories below.

Underneath the fun of VR is a truth that can be frightening: It doesn’t take much to trick our brains into believing something that’s not real. This is the reason the potential for VR is nearly limitless.

We’re so excited by the possibilities of VR at Singularity Hub, we’ve devoted the month of August to exploring this fascinating field and its current ‘second coming’ as part of our new Which Way Next? channel. This month, we’ll be bringing you perspective articles from our contributors, interviews, discussions, demos and more as we dive in and explore what the future of virtual reality holds.

The implications of VR are both crazy exciting and scary when we take into consideration the relative infancy of the industry and couple it with the growing amount of money and resources now being invested into improving the technology. The headline news was Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus in 2014. Meanwhile, in the last five years, virtual reality companies have raised $746 million in venture capital, over a third of which ($281 million) was raised in 2015 alone (and the year isn’t over).

Yet even with all that energy and excitement, there are a lot of unanswered questions.

  • Will consumer VR meet lofty expectations right away?
  • How can we further improve the experience?
  • And importantly: Now that we can simulate reality in a way that causes people to have genuine emotional and physical reactions—what should we use this technology for?

Gaming and entertainment will likely lead the way. But what else? In the past, we’ve been able to listen to, read and watch powerful stories that have often changed our thinking and values. VR allow us to experience environments, events and even the lives of other people in an unprecedented way.

VR has the potential to elicit empathy, promote physical and emotional healing, facilitate new forms of creative expression, help us understand our own brains and bodies, increase productivity and communication through virtual workspaces, and spark the development of new tools for teaching and learning.

Over the next four weeks, we’ll be exploring all these potential applications in our series on The Future of Virtual Reality.

Check back in tomorrow for an overview of the state of the VR industry with key insights from Greenlight VR. A leading research tool for discovering VR, Greenlight boasts more than a million data points on virtual reality apps and companies.

We will also be posting links to great VR demos. If you don’t have a head mounted display — don’t worry, you can buy some variation of a cardboard viewer here and come along for the ride!

We’d love to hear from you: Tweet to us @singularityhub or to me personally @svm118 with questions, suggestions, comments and ideas on the series. To get updates on Future of Virtual Reality posts, sign up here.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

Sveta writes about the intersection of biology and technology (and occasionally other things). She also enjoys long walks on the beach, being underwater and climbing rocks. You can follow her @svm118.

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