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.

More About

Health
The Future of Healthcare Could Look a Lot Like the 1900s
The Future of Healthcare Could Look a Lot Like the 1900s
Health
The Future of Healthcare Could Look a Lot Like the 1900s

For many cancer patients, being treated at home is just as safe, more affordable, and more convenient than being treated…

For many cancer patients, being treated at home is just as safe, more affordable, and more convenient than being treated in a clinical setting.

The Student Laboratory Reinventing Food To Stop Waste
The Student Laboratory Reinventing Food To Stop Waste
Watch Now
The Student Laboratory Reinventing Food To Stop Waste

Inside the food laboratory inventing new foods to prevent waste.

Watch Now

As much as 40% of American food goes to waste — and much of that comes from companies. The food lab at Drexel University is helping companies “upcycle” unsold products into new ones and find ways to turn scraps or byproducts into great foods people want to buy.

Students work with customers and products to create new ideas and products that the companies can produce with food that would otherwise…

Dispatches
Tesla Fixed Its Model 3 Brakes with Software – And Showed Us the Future of Cars
Tesla Fixed Its Model 3 Brakes with Software – And Showed Us the Future of Cars
Dispatches
Tesla Fixed Its Model 3 Brakes with Software – And Showed Us the Future of Cars

Consumer Reports failed the Model 3's braking system. A week later, Tesla beamed a fix to the entire fleet.

By Dan Bier

Consumer Reports failed the Model 3's braking system. A week later, Tesla beamed a fix to the entire fleet.

Dispatches
Tesla and Uber Fatalities Show the Limits of “Semi-Autonomous” Cars
Tesla and Uber Fatalities Show the Limits of “Semi-Autonomous” Cars
Dispatches
Tesla and Uber Fatalities Show the Limits of “Semi-Autonomous” Cars

How can we make humans pay attention when a machine is doing our job for us?

By Dan Bier

How can we make humans pay attention when a machine is doing our job for us?

Dispatches
Self-driving Uber Fatality: Video Shows Tech Failure & Human Error
Self-driving Uber Fatality: Video Shows Tech Failure & Human Error
Dispatches
Self-driving Uber Fatality: Video Shows Tech Failure & Human Error

The only way to make self-driving cars safer is to take the risk of more testing.

By Dan Bier

The only way to make self-driving cars safer is to take the risk of more testing.

Challengers
Five Insights: Linc Gasking On What Every Startup Should Be Shooting For
Five Insights: Linc Gasking On What Every Startup Should Be Shooting For
Challengers
Five Insights: Linc Gasking On What Every Startup Should Be Shooting For

Linc Gasking, co-founder of VR startup 8i, discusses the day-to-day grind and big picture excitement of being an entrepreneur.

By Mike Riggs

Linc Gasking, co-founder of VR startup 8i, discusses the day-to-day grind and big picture excitement of being an entrepreneur.

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.

Challengers
Challengers Trailer
Challengers Trailer
Watch Now
Challengers
Challengers Trailer

Fast Company presents a Freethink original series about entrepreneurs building companies that could transform entire industries and change the world.

Watch Now

Across the globe, entrepreneurs are racing to develop new businesses that could dramatically improve people’s lives. But startups are hard work, and success is far from guaranteed. Join us as we profile the next generation of challenger companies on their journey to transform an entire industry—and change the world.

Superhuman
Karen Aiach on Doing the Impossible
Karen Aiach on Doing the Impossible
Watch Now
Superhuman
Karen Aiach on Doing the Impossible
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…