WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF VIRTUAL REALITY (VR)?
VR is the next “big thing”
VR is the next “big thing”
VR has quite the history, from the first concepts in literature and art around the 1860s, the first instance of a VR device resembling what we know today in 1968 to the launch of the Oculus Rift CV (consumer version) 1 in early 2016 and many more versions in between and after.
At first, VR was presented as a technology primarily used for gaming. Bringing new and more immersive gaming experiences to people worldwide, but at a fairly high cost. Because of this, it took some years for the technology to become more “mainstream” and widely adopted by more users and other industries.
With time, more and more developers around the world started taking an interest in VR games and applications, which made sure the technology kept growing and developing. VR acted as a game-changer in the gaming sector, and it improved user experience significantly. It became one of the hottest topics in gaming and overall technology trends. It grabbed the attention of other potential markets because of some of the several benefits VR applications provide.VR used within businesses
Since VR recently became mainstream with the arrival of more affordable, better performing, and more consumer-friendly solutions, businesses are starting to embrace the opportunities created by this amazing technology. This isn’t surprising, given the possibilities it creates for freeing the users’ mind from the physical shackles of our bodies and allowing us to “see” into places that only exist in the digital world. In this world, rules are different. Objects can be created by simply pressing a (virtual) button, traveling to other places can be done instantly, and you can easily undo everything you have done in seconds to start over with a clean slate.
Just about any process or action that can be carried out in the physical world and in business can be simulated in VR. This could range from customer service to marketing, finance, human resources, and production. In general, these fields can be split into one of two categories: Training or practical application. For training purposes, VR offers the opportunity to immerse ourselves in simulations which can be carried out by computers and trick our brains into thinking what we see is real. Allowing us to monitor and learn from our interactions with the virtual world. As for the practical applications, they are limitless. The key factors here are the potential for enabling us to carry out tasks without being present and the possibilities for modelling and interacting with simulations of real-world objects that would not be feasible in real life.
The technology is widely used in production and design-driven businesses. VR allows for the fact that every part of a product or design can be simulated and tested under every possible condition, which is far more cost-effective, probably quicker, and safer. By using VR and eliminating the need to build full-scale working prototypes, companies can save millions. For example, the technology has been widely adopted by architects who are now able to test and present final concepts with clients, allowing them to experience their designs before even a single stone has been put into place.VR and your customers
VR offers every business the chance to rethink how they engage with customers. VR can be used as both a marketing and customer service tool. Instead of visiting a physical showroom, customers can simply put on a headset and appear in a virtual one where products and services are being showcased. They can test products and interact with them while being helped by sales assistants present in the virtual environment, which could be virtual representations of humans. Still, they will, given enough time, most likely become driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI). All without leaving their home.
Imagine trying out your new car, reimagining your furniture, or placing a new kitchen. VR will let your customers do this without leaving their house and without the need for a direct money or time investment. Of course, physical showrooms are likely to remain a part of the marketing landscape for some time, as for many products, there will be a point where customers want to “see and feel” the physical product. But VR is a perfect tool for early-stage marketing strategies and as a consumer quickly getting an overview of a brand’s product range and possibilities. Swedish furniture giant Ikea already offers a virtual showroom, and many more retailers are likely to follow.VR for Training and Education
Since VR is immersive by nature, it’s a great tool for training and educational purposes. In the past, a lot of education was done in classrooms, watching presentations, listening to a teacher, or even following an E-learning program, and where training had to be done physically at different locations with often bigger groups, it can now all be done in VR. The literature shows that because of the immersive factor VR brings to training and education, there are multiple benefits for students and trainees:
They feel more emotionally connected to the content;
They are more confident to act on what they learned after the training;
They are more focused during the training compared to E-learning;
They learn up to four times faster
VR is also perfect for playing out scenarios that would be difficult, dangerous, or stressful to do in the physical world. An example of this is recognizing possible dangers in different construction work scenarios where mistakes can result in people getting seriously injured in dangerous situations. With VR, this can all be done without putting anyone in danger. VR training and education also has positive effects in terms of logistics. It’s no longer needed to get groups of people or needed equipment to the same physical place, where a teacher can potentially only work with a small group of students and trainees at a time, and other people must wait as a result. This can now be done in a virtual world where everyone can learn at their own pace, wherever and whenever they want.Bottom line
VR is a not-so-new but fascinating tool that can be used for many use cases and experiences. It has made its mark and proven itself in the gaming industry. VR is now making its way toward other use cases for business, training, education, and retail. The market size of VR will continue to grow as the technology gets better, cheaper, and more user-friendly. It is the next “big thing” for many industries and will take businesses to another level.
Author's experience: Levi Visser, Unity Developer
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