SINGAPORE (March 23): Virtual Reality (VR) is not a new medium, but it is being utilised in exciting new ways that are disrupting not just entertainment but entire industries at large as once traditionally considered industry standards become obsolete.

New VR devices have naturally found a place with gaming’s notorious early adopters. While the home systems continue to dominate the gaming industry today, even more so with the rise of mobile gaming, a lifeline has appeared for the once-booming arcade industry in the form of VR.  

The technology has given rise to a fresh new audience for traditional arcades; players can immerse themselves in games and environments via technology that might be normally cost-prohibitive (owning a high-end VR headset does not come cheap and requires a powerful computer) or not yet available.

Numerous companies like HTC are jumping to meet this demand while locations popup around Asia. Other only-in-arcade innovations that enliven VR experiences include things like fans, treadmills, and tactile feedback, upping the ante and helping arcades to claw their way back into the fray.

US VR startup The Void is taking this idea even further, and has already caught the eye of the world by marrying both virtual and physical worlds together.

The company aims to drive the distribution of Virtual Entertainment Centres (VECs) where people can immerse themselves in custom-built arenas, with the differentiator being the use of specially constructed physical environments which mirrors the physical landscape of the virtual world that players experience.

The likes of doors, buttons and fire in the virtual landscape are all imitated and have a physical representation the real world, providing players a complete immersion into the virtual environment, making reality all the more real.

The more familiar consumers become with VR, the more readily they will accept and expect it in everyday life, and this disruption brought about by VR is not only limited to the arcade industry. The levels of immersion, involved engagement and freedom that VR allows are re-energising other industries as well.

From education, where educators can bring students to historical sites around the world in first person without leaving the classroom, to interior design where home designers and owners can see the potential décor of their project, VR knows no limits when it comes to location and environment.

VR has also created whole new development and research fields, as with psychology, where VR is being used to treat cases of Post-Traumatic Stress disorders and phobias. With an unbridled ability to “transport” a consumer, businesses, researchers, artists and educators can think radically differently about how to reach their audiences, innovating beyond content delivery to business models themselves.

With more research and developments into VR technology underway and translated to new experiences, industries across the board are starting to realise the benefits and potential of VR. This has created a cycle of sorts for VR where new breakthroughs are applied to more services, which in turns spurns greater interest in developing better experiences and expanding applications.

It is via this cycle that traditional industries can expect to make a comeback and take centre stage, while pushing the once ‘disruptive’ industries to innovate to continue staying ahead.

Hubert Larenaudie is President APAC, Unity Technologies