How can Virtual Reality impact creativity?

vrcreativity

Creativity comes from looking for the unexpected and stepping outside your own experience.

– Masaru Ibuka, Co-founder of Sony Corporation

Virtual Reality (VR) is emerging as one of the mainstream digital platforms set to transform and redefine the digital world and the industry itself. In fact, VR is becoming greater and more accessible to the general public as companies like Google, HTC and Samsung invest millions in developing hardware and software for this technology.

VR is here to stay, and while the gaming industry has been leading the market of VR content, the potential of this medium is not limited to gaming and entertainment. The specific features of VR, like the high immersion of the user, that is, the user’s perception of being physically present in a virtual world, give opportunities for the design of experiences that stimulate the brain in ways that other technologies don’t. In the light of this, several studies have accounted the power of VR in impacting creativity at various levels.

A recent research [1], which measured the effect of VR in teaching creative thinking, revealed that interaction in virtual reality appears to increase people’s responses to stimuli, leading to a greater amount of ideas generated in a short period of time. Furthermore, the high immersion of the medium positively influences the capability to find relationships, deficiencies, anomalies and complements among objects, e.g. discovering the unpracticality of a daily life object and further suggest an improved alternative. 

Another study [2] that explored the potential use of VR as a tool for the enhancement of creativity and innovation concluded that the latter can be a great instrument to increase problem solving and creative thinking in several ways, including 1) by altering features of the self and self-perception; 2) by optimizing environmental conditions and impacts; 3) by optimizing collaboration and interactions with others; 4) by facilitating instruction of the problem-solving process; and 5) by providing the possibility of integration of other creativity technologies, such as brain stimulation.

Virtual reality [is] perhaps the safest, most fully developed of the emerging technologies of cognitive enhancement. [3]

Furthermore, past research have connected creative thinking to uncommon and unusual experiences, such as moving abroad or early parental loss. Similarly, unusual and unexpected events actively experienced in a VR world enhance cognitive flexibility, i.e. the ability to shatter old thinking patterns, which has been conceptualized as the cognitive core of creative thinking, and a fundamental element of “real life” creativity [4].

Other benefits of VR include its stimulant environment in a controlled and ‘quiet’ virtual place where task focus is increased by eliminating common distractions, such as mobile phones. Additionally, VR is engaging from day one, keeping users motivated. By being more motivated people gain greater skills during their training, and consequently, have higher chances of career advancements. Alongside these, comes industry progress. In the longer game, VR for the purpose of enhancing creativity is a matter of investing in people and in their ability to being innovative and impactful in their working field. At this point, an important reminder is that everyone has the capability to be creative. This capability can be enhanced with the right tools and training. 

In sum, the amazing aspect of VR is that an infinity of events can be created and further experienced by the user. The world patterns we are used to, e.g. laws of physics, can be challenged and broken in virtual worlds, which as studies suggest, boosts creativity. In practice, this means that with the right design of experiences, tools and stimuli, VR can be the perfect medium for training and enhancing creativity.

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[1] Thornhill-Miller, B., & Dupont, J.-M. (2016). Virtual Reality and the Enhancement of Creativity and Innovation: Under Recognized Potential Among Converging Technologies? Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 102-121.

[2] Hu, R., Wu, Y.-Y., & Shieh, C.-J. (2016). Effects of Virtual Reality Integrated Creative Thinking Instruction on Students’ Creative Thinking Abilities. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 477-486.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ritter et al. (2012). Diversifying experiences enhance cognitive flexibility. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 961-964.

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