Imagine being able to view the Earth from space, or to fly over Manhattan at dusk, or perhaps to even go back in time and experience life as a medieval king, all of these from the safety and comfort of your own sofa. It’s something humanity has dreamt of being able to do for decades, if not centuries, but now, with the rapid development of virtual reality headsets, these sorts of experiences could become available.

Right now there are three main contenders for the title of “best virtual reality system”: Google’s Cardboard, Facebook’s Oculus Rift, and Sony’s Project Morpheus. Google’s product, Cardboard, unveiled at the company’s I/O developers conference last year, and improved upon at this year’s conference, is a cardboard apparatus costing a mere $4 that allows anyone to use their smartphone as a fully 3D virtual reality device. Oculus and Morpheus are more technological products, screens that should, when released, be able to be plugged in to video consoles and PCs, affording users an utterly high definition, gaming-focused experience.

As one might imagine, many in the tech industry are looking at these new products hungrily, but why? What sorts of experiences will these headsets offer to users?

The most obvious use of the devices will be gaming. Oculus has already been showcased in tandem with the space exploration adventure title Elite: Dangerous, but the future possibilities of Oculus and others are limitless. We could be able to play casino games of the ilk currently afforded by sites such as Euro Palace, but in a fully rendered, fully explore-able digital casino. Why would you travel to Vegas if you had a near-exact experience sitting in your living room?

But it’s not just gaming that is going to be turned on its head by VR. 360-degree, 3D-camera-equipped drones could give us amazing views of the world around us that currently only those with a helicopter could easily experience. In schools, pupils could be transported to the subjects of their studies, or even back in time, providing a completely engaging teaching experience that would surely enthral any child, bringing the school experience away from boring, bookish teaching and in to the twenty first century. Google’s Cardboard, with its scandalously low price point, combined with the fact that most children and teenagers already own smartphones, means this probably won’t be a development measured in terms of decades, but years.

Virtual reality looks set to change the way in which we learn, relax and entertain ourselves, but what do you think? Is VR the future? Or does the idea of putting on a headset and retreating away from the real world conjure up dystopian images? Tell us your thoughts, below.

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