A year ago, I met up my friend Eugene Chung who used to run film & media for Oculus virtual reality (VR).  Eugene was telling me about his first VR film he created. At the time, I had very little knowledge about VR but definitely wanted to learn more and very curious. I asked Eugene why anyone should care about VR. His reply? He simply insisted that I should try it for myself and experience “The Rose and I”.

That day, I went to Eugene’s studio in SOMA and put on the Oculus Rift headset for the very first time. Boom, and finally I got it — I was in space and could see the little prince standing on the little planet not too far way. I walked towards him then realized I can walk around the planet. I could see him climbing in and out of his cave and plant his rose.  All I could say was I felt magically. Wow…

According to CBInsights, VR and AR startups have raised over $1 billion in funding since 2014.  VR did not only rock my world, but also the world of many other industries. VR has a depth of engagement that most other medium cannot match because of the immersion it offers. As Chris Dixon mentioned “VR will be the ultimate input-output device. Some people called VR ‘The last medium’ because any subsequent medium can be invested inside of VR, using software alone.”

From events to healthcare to travel — VR is not simply for kids to play games, but offers new forms of experience and expression. The space is moving so fast that most people are missing a lot of the best, under-the-radar use cases that have popped up in the last couple of years. Here’s a sampling:

1. Travel

Who wouldn’t want a “real life” experience in the Safari before committing to a $10K of travel cost?  Large hotel chains like Marriott and Thomas Cook are gearing up to create their own VR experience and giving their customers first peek before they arrive. 

Not only Marriott launched its “VRoom Service”, Discovery channel also launched its Discovery VR initiative and let you swim with sharks, ski downhill (although this makes me sick), or learn to forage for food via a phone and Google Cardboard.

2. Films & Entertainment

Last week, I finally got the chance to experience the Void’s Ghostbusters experience in New York. I felt that I was the actual Ghostbuster holding the proton gun catching ghosts while running around New York. I can feel the suspension bridge shaking and the elevator moving. It was absolutely thrilling. Even better than the actual movie  

3. VR Journalism

Startups like Within and Cryworks have created numerous VR journalism experience for New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Startups like Ryot also make VR film set at a school in Ghana and were able to raised $1.9 million during an annual gala.  Imagine you are sitting on stage during the Clinton & Trump debate instead of watching it from afar.

4. Real estate

Real estate shoppers can now “walk” around the properties and peek out windows to envision how their future home would look like via tools like Matterport and Toursler. Traditional real estate companies like Coldwell Banker, Halstead and Zillow are also catching on and providing their customers virtual home experience before dropping millions to purchase a new property.

5. Education

I got the chance to play with zSpace a few months and it was absolutely amazing. Using their special glasses and monitor, I was able to manipulate the heart, turn it around and do cross-sections search. They are now selling these medical training apps to hospitals and medical schools.

Google’s Expedition Pioneer Program and Nearpod VR also provide guided tours of places where school buses cannot go or startups like Unimersiv for history lessons, Immersive VR Education science and space learning, 

6. Healthcare and paging Dr. House:

Specialists are expensive and typically patients have to go to them to get surgery. But what if Doctors could do surgeries remotely using robotic tools and VR headsets? It would revolutionize and help democratize cutting-edge surgeries. Loyola hospital is using SnowWorld VR video to help with treating burn victims during wound care and physical therapy. Startup like Psious is also helping people face their fears, from spiders to heights to public speaking by using immersion VR therapy.

7. Sport / Live Streaming

This is still a little way to go, but companies like NextVR and Cryworks are working very hard to provide real time and live streaming experience for VR. Can you imagine seeing the Warrior games live sitting at courtside but you are really in the comfort of your home? That would truly be amazing.

8. Shopping

I want to see how I look in red, green or black in different environment and the VR is the only way that can shopper the instant gratification of trying things on without actually doing it.

9. Virtual fitness

Imagine you can train and swim with Michael Phelps and golf like a pro with Tiger Woods. Startup like StriVR is providing VR training for college and professional football teams.

In additional these existing use cases, I would also love to see the following use cases to happen:

10. Virtual Reality Search

Imagine you are in a VR environment and you say “I am in New York and I am hungry for burger”, it should immediate search and take you to the best burger joint in New York. Not exactly like beam me up Scotty…but I believe the future VR search will take you to anywhere in the world anytime you want.

11. Virtual Reality Office Space and real time conference call

Why bother to even go to work if you can work remotely and virtually. You could feel like you are just in the office and be able to do real time conversations with your colleague in the next cubicle.  

12. Virtual reality storage

Home videos have been relegated to boxes in the attic, but what if you could BE in the house you grew up in, next to your grandmother. In twenty years it will be amazing to go back and relive memories.

13. Virtual reality city planning

Imagine you can walk around a city that not yet exists. VR will be lower cost tool for city governments and urban planners to create the new worlds.

14. AR contact lenses

Why even brother with a smartphone if your contact lens can directly detect and find you all the Pokemon. Companies like Samsung already applied for some of these patents. I can definitely see physically embedded lower-powered sensors and chipsets could become another exciting enablers for mixed reality.

15. Virtual Reality Dining 

There’s dining in the dark. But what about dining at the top of Mount Everest or underwater, next to a coral reef? Or watch your food being prepared as you eat it. Experience your food in a new way.

16. 4D experiences 

If you’ve read Ready Player One or any other VR sci-fi then you’ll have heard about haptic suits and VR that engages the senses beyond sight and hearing. Touch and smell are on the horizon.

I look forward to meeting founders who are as excited as I am in creating the future.  What other use cases are you hoping to see in the future? Let us know in the comments!

Together, we can make this virtual world a reality.    

For more predictions as well as a closer look at the current state of VR, check out my slide deck The Virtual World is Calling: 18 Predictions and New Realities

Disclosure: I am an investor in Penrose Studios and Cryworks. I asked the founders if they would give me the opportunity to invest in them. And fortunately they said yes 🙂