For a long time, the concept of virtual reality took a backseat to other technological advances. Despite the initial excitement about virtual reality possibilities in the ’90s, progress slowed for a couple decades. But the buzz surrounding virtual reality (VR) has now returned. Many tech giants—including Samsung, Facebook, and Google—have had a hand in the development of VR hardware.
Most of this buzz involves VR’s possible impact on gaming, which is no surprise. Video games offer a simulation for their players, so the evolution to an immersive, 3-D simulated reality seems like a natural step.
But are game companies the only businesses that will be affected by VR technology? Many business minds don’t think so. In fact, some companies are already incorporating virtual reality into their business practices.
Keep reading this blog to find out six possible business uses for virtual reality.
With the advent of unmanned aerial vehicles (commonly referred to as drones), it’s easy to see how robotics and visual input mix. A robot-mounted camera can provide a unique viewpoint, and adding the ability to look around in a simulation setting will only enhance the effect. If a company uses robots for their business, virtual reality could provide greater control while operating the robot.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory cooperated with Microsoft to develop a virtual reality software termed OnSight. This software will allow scientists to virtually explore and experiment on Mars in a three-dimensional setting.
2. Car Dealers
Flat images will only get you so far if you want to get a feel for a new car. Test drives work well for this purpose, but they come with their own set of challenges and require extra coordination. A virtual reality test drive could allow potential customers to get a feel for the car without risking a costly crash or requiring a representative from the car dealership to sit in the passenger seat.
Volvo teamed up with Google Cardboard to create a virtual reality test drive app for smartphones to provide the experience described above. While this was part of a global marketing strategy for Volvo, the same principles could become popular for individual car dealerships.
The healthcare industry has already latched on to the idea of virtual reality, and the industry currently uses VR technology in a variety of ways.
Virtual reality simulations provide a safe environment for medical students and new practitioners to practice surgery. Sophisticated simulators can provide visual as well as tactile feedback to make the virtual procedure more applicable to an actual surgery.
Simulators also allow physicians to treat patients in unique ways. Simulations can help patients combat phobias in a controlled setting, and virtual reality video games provide pain management as an alternative to addictive painkilling drugs.
Most customers want to visualize their finished project before they decide on a bid. Detailed models and sketches can help in this regard, but the future of construction project mockups might be in virtual reality.
One construction company is ahead of the game: McCarthy. They have built virtual reality replicas of their proposed construction projects for clients, and the results have been positive so far. Being able to walk through a project provides a different feel than a series of sketches.
5. Video Conferencing
Travelling is expensive, and companies already appreciate videoconferencing tools that allow face-to-face meetings. A virtual reality meeting room would make a long-distance conference even more functional. Being able to look around and see others’ reactions provides additional benefits beyond a simple conference call.
Virtual reality conferencing could also become popular for HR reps and hiring managers. Flying a potential hire in for an interview is costly, and over-the-phone interviews might stress or mask an interviewee’s weaknesses.
6. Retail Marketing
One common marketing tactic is to help customers envision themselves using the product. Car dealers will let potential customers sit inside the vehicle and put their hands on the wheel. A door-to-door salesperson will often show you the product in action (and in your own home, nonetheless).
But what about product experiences that are harder to create in a traditional retail setting? Active and adventurous clothing company The North Face used a VR program to allow customers to experience high-adventure simulations and get excited about the brand.
Tourism won’t likely get replaced by virtual reality anytime soon, since part of the charm of tourism involves stepping out your door and travelling to a new place. But an immersive virtual reality tour of a travel destination could help customers decide on and commit to their next vacation target.
Despite virtual reality’s slow start, more and more companies are finding uses for this powerful technology. IT professionals and business leaders need to start thinking about how virtual reality could change their industry. For additional IT-related news and tips, read our other blogs.