When it comes to virtual reality (VR), one nagging question remains constant…

Is it just a cool, niche technology, or is it the next truly disruptive digital platform?

The question promises to intensify, as three new headsets, including one by Facebook-owned Oculus Rift, come to market in the next 12 months. And, of course, as we dream up newer and even more innovative applications for 3-D, computer-generated VR simulation.

For example, futurist Peter Diamandis swears that VR will soon disrupt the real estate market and eradicate the need for realtors if we can allow homebuyers to “virtually” visit properties. (I disagree, but we’ll save that for another column.)

Meanwhile, The Washington Post revealed yesterday how retailers from The North Face to Lowe’s (LOW) intend to use VR experiences to lure shoppers back into stores. (Again, I have my doubts about this application.)

But here’s one application in this fledgling space that’s anything but a gimmick. One with significant real-life benefits…

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