Virtual reality has been fluctuating in popularity with mainstream gamers & the general public for years as the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR & mobile phones struggle to gain broad adoption as the future of interactive entertainment.For all of the innovations in recent years, there are a lot of challenges between hardware cost for the premium versions, lack of killer software & the persistence of disorientation for some users.
That said, it offers a compelling way to experience new things in a safe, controlled environment that may otherwise be inaccessible for many users. Virtual reality for seniors matters because it allows a large, underserved audience to participate in a broad range of experiences from gaming to travel at high fidelity. Microsoft is a leader in performing usability studies, discovery, socialization & building products that address the desires of seniors to explore this technology.
As a mainstream gamer, I find it fascinating that games which have declined in popularity due to age & lack of visual fidelity such as Wii bowling continue to be hits with seniors; it is a stark reminder that different things matter to different audiences. Games that allow seniors to learn, interact & explore with others are still valued as traditional gamers have moved on to newer, trendier games in a non-stop release cycle.
Another interesting observation is that virtual reality can have comparable health benefits to regular low impact exercise & social interaction. The ability for digital experiences to detect early cognitive and/or visual impairment, provide training, train new motor skills, help with dementia & distract from pain are impressive benefits that I hope facilities such as senior homes & treatment centres will pay close attention to.
One of the beautiful things about digital technology is that it is an equalizer: the barrier to entry, learning curve & potential benefits combine into the most transformative change in the last century of human society. It’s important that people of all ages are included & valued in that journey as virtual reality or other technologies continue innovating into the future.