Skip to main content
Move the World.

Virtual reality headsets became a thing in 2016, with every big tech company — from Facebook to Google to HTC — committing big bucks to headsets like the Occulus Rift, Daydream, and Vive. But even with all that investment, the VR market is still essentially an extension of the PC video game market. For VR to make the leap from recreational gadget to transformational technology, we’ll need to, well, need it.

Here are four market segments where VR could gain a momentous foothold.

Helping busy people stay healthy

Between family and work obligations, many Americans can’t spare several hours a week to spend at the gym. Cyclists and other outdoor exercise enthusiasts face similar constraints, not to mention inclement weather and long travel times to good riding and rowing spots.

But what if we could get a workout that was both physically taxing and psychologically satisfying without ever leaving home? A workout that brought the best of the outdoors into our living rooms, while giving us the impression that we were some place thrilling? Indoor cycling company Zwift has demonstrated that people will do more indoors if you give them something to look at and a sense that they’re not just spinning their wheels, while Coreyak, a VR kayaking program that runs on multiple VR headsets, has raised thousands on Indiegogo since launching earlier this month.

**Training better doctors**

Medical students in the United States get their first hands-on experience not with living patients, but dead ones. Yet even though the cadaver lab is considered an essential training technique, the global expansion of the healthcare field has created scarcity in the cadaver market — which isn’t really a market at all, because schools can’t pay for the bodies. In response, some schools have introduced the use of virtual reality to familiarize students with human anatomy.

Medical experts aren’t convinced that VR will (or even should) fully replace cadaver labs, but that hasn’t stopped software developers from trying to match the cadaver experience with headset-ready anatomy programs. And proponents of VR medical training point out that the software allows for far more repetition and individual exploration than one-time use bodies that are often worked on by groups of five or more students.

**Communing with nature**

It might sound counterintuitive to suggest that plugging into a computer is the best way to experience natural beauty, but it can certainly make for an excellent supplement, as a group of London artists demonstrated this year. The Treehugger: Wawona exhibit allows visitors to go inside a sequoia tree, getting an intrinsically rare glimpse into how these ancient giants absorb and circulate nutrients. “By making the invisible visible” the exhibit’s creators hope to instill a sense of stewardship for rare and endangered forests.

**Experiencing a world that would otherwise be out of reach**

I might go to Mt. Everest in my lifetime. I might go to Antarctica. But unless I win the lottery, I doubt I’ll be able to afford both. Most people can think of dozens of things they’d like to do but can’t afford to. By importing far-away, high-dollar experiences to where we are, at a price we can afford, volumetric virtual reality — like the kind being developed by 8i — could offer a cure for the FOMO imposed by economic reality.

Up Next

Clean Energy
Brewery Is World’s First Factory Fueled by Iron Powder
iron powder fuel
Clean Energy
Brewery Is World’s First Factory Fueled by Iron Powder
A Dutch brewery is using iron powder to generate clean energy, marking the first industrial use of iron fuel.

A Dutch brewery is using iron powder to generate clean energy, marking the first industrial use of iron fuel.

Transportation
First Autonomous Air Taxi Terminal to Open in 2020
air taxi
Transportation
First Autonomous Air Taxi Terminal to Open in 2020
Chinese autonomous aerial vehicle company EHang plans to build the world’s first air taxi terminal in Hezhou, China, before the end of 2020.

Chinese autonomous aerial vehicle company EHang plans to build the world’s first air taxi terminal in Hezhou, China, before the end of 2020.

Global Impact
Powering the Most Remote Areas on Earth
Powering the Most Remote Areas on Earth
Global Impact
Powering the Most Remote Areas on Earth
With off-grid solar power systems, this company is building sustainable communities in remote areas, providing a source of renewable energy and clean water.

With off-grid solar power systems, this company is building sustainable communities in remote areas, providing a source of renewable energy and clean water.

Future of Cities
Getting Aerial Ridesharing Off the Ground
Getting Aerial Ridesharing Off the Ground
Future of Cities
Getting Aerial Ridesharing Off the Ground
It’s been the ultimate futuristic dream for decades: flying cars! But now, the future finally has a deadline. At least to start, it will land in the form of a small air taxi operated by Uber, not something you’ll park in your garage.

It’s been the ultimate futuristic dream for decades: flying cars! But now, the future finally has a deadline. At least to start, it will land in the form of a small air taxi operated by Uber, not something you’ll park in your garage.

Computer Science
An Address for Everywhere on Earth
An Address for Everywhere on Earth
Watch Now
Computer Science
An Address for Everywhere on Earth
Can three simple words change how we find each other?
Watch Now

We take addresses for granted - but billions of people and places don’t have them, and it’s a big problem. Whether it’s voting, disaster relief, or pinpointing a spot on festival grounds, not having an address makes things that should be simple difficult. Enter Chris Sheldrick, who coordinated events in the music industry where he was frustrated by address-related problems. He created What3Words, a method of dividing the...

Dispatches
Driverless Cars Go Off-roading
Driverless Cars Go Off-roading
Dispatches
Driverless Cars Go Off-roading
Computer-game simulations can train self-driving cars to navigate in the real world.
By Matthew Doude, Christopher Goodin, and Daniel Carruth

Computer-game simulations can train self-driving cars to navigate in the real world.

Education
Teaching Engineering with Dirt Bikes
Teaching Engineering with Dirt Bikes
Watch Now
Education
Teaching Engineering with Dirt Bikes
This teacher is using dirt bikes to help Baltimore's kids learn STEM.
Watch Now

Baltimore’s kids are obsessed with dirt bikes. Some people think that's a problem, but teacher Brittany Young is using dirt bikes to get kids into engineering and STEM education. Her organization, B-360 Baltimore, aims to use dirt bike culture to help end the cycle of poverty, disrupt the prison pipeline, and bring together communities — while giving dirt bikes a better reputation. Dirt bikes are a controversial issue in...

Challengers
Building a Better School System
Building a Better School System
Watch Now
Challengers
Building a Better School System
A highly-personalized experience could be the foundation for the future of education.
Watch Now

Everyone wants America’s education system to do better. Ex-Googler Max Ventilla has a radical idea for how to make it happen. Ventilla’s AltSchool is building a highly-personalized education experience that gets better and cheaper as more students use it.

Genetics
Karen Aiach on Doing the Impossible
Karen Aiach on Doing the Impossible
Watch Now
Genetics
Karen Aiach on Doing the Impossible
When Karen Aiach decided to quit her finance job in 2005 in order to find a cure for the rare genetic disease that...
Watch Now

When Karen Aiach decided to quit her finance job in 2005 in order to find a cure for the rare genetic disease that was killing her daughter, people told her it was impossible. In a weird way, it was just what Karen needed to hear. Because it meant if she didn’t do it, no one else would. She started with a search. The first thing she learned is that her daughter’s disease--a rare metabolic disorder called Sanfilippo...