While virtual reality can be used as a training tool for industries such as medicine and transportation, it has also been used as a means to help individuals overcome phobias, and is a growing form of entertainment. It is also a largely untested technology that could have adverse side-effects on the brain and cognitive systems. Unforeseen benefits and risks are present whenever a new technology is invented.
Virtual reality is a technology in which computer-generated graphics are imbedded into real-world movement. Most often, individuals wear a helmet that tracks their movement and makes images on a screen within the helmet move along with them.
The most popular applications for virtual reality are in the movie, video game and entertainment industries. However, virtual reality is being used in training programs to simulate situations such as surgeries or airplane flights. For instance, pilot trainees can use virtual reality to practice flying a plane without any real danger involved. In the fields of medicine and psychology, virtual reality simulations are being used to help treat post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias by placing individuals into controllable situations where they can face their fears without danger.
Because virtual reality is such a new technology, many of the applications have not been tested properly yet. Glitchy graphics can cause vertigo and nausea, and sometimes individuals have a hard time deciphering what is real and what is virtual. Most risks involved in virtual reality applications are currently unknown.