VR and AR’s Unique Benefits for Young People

SXSW and the benefits of tech advancements for youth.

VR and AR’s Unique Benefits for Young People (Getty Images)

SXSW is an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences that take place in Austin, Texas. Established in 1987, SXSW has grown into one of the largest and most influential events of its kind globally. The festival showcases a diverse range of entertainment, including film premieres, music performances, and interactive technology exhibitions. It serves as a platform for emerging artists, filmmakers, and tech innovators to showcase their work, network, and engage with a wide audience. SXSW attracts professionals, enthusiasts, and industry leaders from various creative and technological fields, making it a dynamic and interdisciplinary event. 

YR’s CEO Kyra Kyles will be joining Pivotal Ventures at SXSW on the panel, “Teens, Screens & Wellbeing: Youth in the Digital Age,” to discuss how growing up in a tech-filled world can affect mental wellness and what we can be doing better.

And while Gen Z has wholly embraced TikTok, Snapchat and GenAI, it can feel difficult to keep up especially when virtual reality and augmented reality are added to the mix. These innovations are commonly found in the realm of gaming, but they are also going to pioneer a more streamlined experience in education and science as well. It’s almost inevitable that schools and other institutions will implement newer tech to innovate and produce.

For those unfamiliar with the terminology, virtual reality (VR) immerses users in a simulated world, often facilitated by hardware like Oculus headsets. On the other hand, augmented reality (AR) enhances real-world experiences with digital overlays, showcased in popular applications like Pokémon GO, camera filters, and certain Google Maps features.

So, why should teens explore this technological frontier, and what advantages await them regarding education and potential career paths?

The VR and AR landscape has witnessed remarkable growth, with projections indicating that a substantial percentage of the population will regularly engage with these technologies. The commercial availability of VR and AR, as we know it today, became widespread around 2015, marking a turning point that has resulted in billions of dollars, countless experiences, and a plethora of opportunities for the next generation of STEM enthusiasts.

Here are some compelling benefits for teens venturing into the world of VR and AR:

STEM Evolves into STEAM

In the VR and AR space, the traditional STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math seamlessly integrate with art. Contrary to the misconception that arts and humanities have no place in the tech world, VR and AR thrive on creativity. From film industry innovations to designing immersive user experiences, these technologies inherently involve elements of design, encouraging interdisciplinary thinking and problem-solving — essential STEM skills for the future.

Harnessing Tech for Social Impact

VR and AR are increasingly being utilized beyond entertainment, making significant contributions to healthcare, advocacy, and journalism. From alleviating patient anxiety to fostering empathy for marginalized communities, these technologies offer teens the opportunity to make a positive impact by raising awareness and providing valuable services to communities worldwide.

XR Health is a prime example of VR being used to enhance mental health treatments. The company offers therapy through virtual reality headsets, an alternative to medicated mental therapy. XR Health’s unique approach to therapy is designed to alleviate various conditions and challenges such as anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and stress management.

Building Knowledge in a Booming Industry

With the global market for VR and AR technologies predicted to grow 7.7 times between 2018 and 2022 (stats as of 2021), teens are uniquely positioned to ride the wave of this technological revolution. As digital natives, they possess foundational skills that, when nurtured, can pave the way for fulfilling careers in rapidly expanding fields such as UX design.

Exploring the Frontiers of Apps and Gaming

While VR and AR extend beyond gaming and smartphones, they undeniably breathe life into this industry. Teens passionate about game design and art can create AR games using C# or design VR games with Unity, potentially crafting the next groundbreaking experience like Pokémon GO or Beat Saber. Social media and interactive apps further open doors for VR and AR enhancements, allowing teens to shape the future of social interactions.

Opening Doors to Entrepreneurship and E-commerce

The ubiquity of smartphones capable of delivering augmented reality experiences presents exciting possibilities for entrepreneurship and e-commerce. VR and AR technologies are reshaping traditional online shopping by allowing users to virtually experience products before purchase, paving the way for new sales avenues and entrepreneurial ventures.

Noumaan Faiz, (he/him) is a journalist and entertainer from Hayward, CA who covers culture and entertainment.

Edited by Nykeya Woods

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