Beyond gaming, the VR boom is everywhere—from classrooms to therapy couches

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“From trauma treatment to space exploration, VR is more than just fun and games.

While researchers have been proving the clinical value of virtual immersion therapy for decades now, the new wave of virtual reality technology has the potential to take the concept from the realm of academic research to widespread adoption by doctors and patients.

Even with today’s technology, a virtual reality version of a battlefield isn’t going to be as authentic as immersion therapy in the real world. Still, VR immersion therapy has been shown to be just as effective as “en vivo” real-world immersion therapy in treating everything from common phobias to deep-seated anxiety. Dr. Marat Zanov, a clinical psychologist and director of training at VR therapy firm Virtually Better, points to hundreds of clinical studies that have shown virtual therapy is “at least as effective as a real approach.”

The virtual classroom

We’re a long way from [a] kind of completely virtualized classroom, of course, but some teachers are taking the first steps toward it.

Mathieu Marunczyn is at the forefront of this effort. As the Information Communication Technology coordinator at the Jackson School in Victoria, Australia.

“[For] kids with sensory processing disorders, school days can be just overloading. [Virtual reality can provide] a way that you could carefully have them go into these environments that for them are peaceful,” he said.

While some are concerned that current virtual reality headsets are too isolating and anti-social for a learning environment, Marunczyn finds that VR has actually been a great tool for socialization for his students. “I don’t let these kids just drone out on it… They talk, they just chatter through it, and they want everyone around them to know [what they’re doing], even if they don’t really want to know,” he said.

“[I’ve valued] the language and discussions that have come out of it more than anything,” he continued. “Especially the first few times when they get lost in a new environment or whatever—there’s such huge interest in it and curiosity. In our environment, it’s those language skills, it’s the socialization that we really value. Parents have spoken to me a number of times—they said, ‘My son, he came home and he said he went out in space in your class. It was amazing!”

By Kyle Orland at Ars Technica

Read more: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/10/beyond-oculus-the-vr-boom-is-everywhere-from-classrooms-to-therapy-couches/