Virtual reality is finally here, and surprisingly we've been doing a pretty good job of not (yet) using it for evil. Even though VR was created recently, people are already using it to vastly improve other big things like education and medical care, along with small, everyday things you didn't realize could be a lot better in virtual reality.

Judges can visit virtual crime scenes

Even the data gathered from the best documented crime scene can be diluted when all the information gets flattened out onto sheets of paper presented to a jury that needs this information to render a fair verdict. Things like bullet trajectories and blood spatters are all vital to understanding a crime, and they can be accidentally misinterpreted simply because the medium used to present them has inherent drawbacks that prevent the whole story from being told. This is one of the areas where virtual reality excels. Every detail of a crime scene can be re-created exactly in a virtual space that a jury can explore. And it works, since the crime scene re-creation tech is basically the same as the software used to make video games, crime scene re-creators can accurately replicate tiny details like height, distance, and the physical relation between objects and people -- all things needed to obtain a more complete understanding of events. If you've played Batman: Arkham Knight, you've already experienced something like this every time Batman analyzes a crime scene; now you can be happy our real-world justice system has finally caught up to a fictional vigilante.

Long-distance relationships are a lot easier

Long-distance relationships are tricky to navigate. Phone calls, even video chats, aren't a suitable replacement for physical presence. That lack of closeness can rip some couples apart. Luckily, VR simulates physical presence better than anything before it, which bodes well for couples trying to erase the space between them. Writer Nathan Grayson uses virtual reality to stay in contact with his girlfriend overseas. His experience thus far has been bizarre and touching. Using a VR social network called AltSpace VR, they've been able to establish something that feels akin to an actual physical presence even though their avatars are that of a generic blond guy and a floating ball. They hold hands, even though they can't feel other's touch. They stare deeply into each other's eyes even though it's all generic cartoon faces. But somehow, it works. They get something that sounds like and has the mannerisms of the person they miss. It's like they're there. They have an ocean between them but remain as close as ever, just in a nontraditional way. Maybe normalcy is the twist.

Roller Coasters that are Alien Dogfight Simulators

Gaming is the driving force of the VR economy, for now Six Flags was the first theme park to show off the new way tourists would be vomiting all over each other's neon fanny packs when they unveiled their partnership with Samsung to create a virtual reality experience combined with preexisting roller coasters. You simply strap in and put on a VR headset, which projects a movie that syncs with the movements of the roller coaster, because apparently 55 mph upside-down loop-the-loops on a runaway train car were boring us. The New Revolution VR-coaster is basically an on-rails first-person shooter like House Of The Dead or Time Crisis. Riders dive and careen through a city being invaded by aliens. By tapping on the side of their VR goggles they can shoot the aliens out of the sky, or, more likely, punch themselves in the head with the force of a roller coaster as they try.

You can Feel The News

Even if you regularly make an effort read and watch the news, it can still be difficult to fully empathize with the people featured in it. Without firsthand experience all you can do is use the information to paint as vivid a mental image as you can as you imagine their struggles. Virtual reality is already changing that by making the news more impactful and more emotionally resonant. If VR can convince people they're falling off a building when they absolutely know they're walking on solid ground, just think of how tangible and, frankly, painful it would be to experience the struggle of someone thousands of miles away.
The New York Times is experimenting with that kind of storytelling right now. Anyone with a VR headset, even the simple ones that are just a smartphone in a cardboard box, can experience the unsettling sense of physical presence within the stories they report in virtual reality Now, the question is, would this make people more empathetic to the struggles of strangers, or would it go the other way and harden the resolve of people who couldn't care less about other people's problems?

Seat Previews for Live Events

StubHub is developing a virtual reality version of seat previews. Meaning, you won't just get the painfully antiquated picture preview you used to get back in the days. Rather, you'll get a fully immersive, cutting-edge, almost-real sense of what it would be like to actually sit in the specific seat you've chosen. Like you're there, in the arena. Even more exciting is the obvious next step for this idea. Imagine a seat in a stadium or arena specifically for people at home who want to watch a live event through their VR rig. The NBA has already experimented with that idea, and there's a company out there trying to do something similar with live concerts. Who knows?