The integration of VR technologies: How will virtual reality change the way you do business?
Bulky headsets, alternate realities and strikingly realistic simulations – virtual reality technology, or ‘VR’, might seem intimidatingly futuristic. VR is the use of technology to create a ‘simulated environment’ in such a way as to make the user feel like they are part of the environment, not viewing from an outside perspective.
With so many companies investing in its development, VR will be disrupting the way we do business before you know it. Though the gaming industry is the early adopter, VR has potential applications in a wide range of industries. Pretty soon, you’ll be experiencing the magic of VR in everything from banking to education and so much more. Here are just a few of the ways VR is already impacting key industries:
Gaming and entertainment
Gaming has been a key driver in VR adoption and development. Of Australians interested in buying a VR unit, 76% say it’s because they’re seeking an enhanced gaming experience, whereas only 66% are driven by its potential application in other areas, such as movies, education or e-commerce.
Market research suggests Australian consumers will purchase more than 500,000 VR headsets in 2017. Mobile VR and console-based systems each take up close to half of the market, with PC-based systems making up the small remaining share. By 2020, it is predicted that one in five Aussie households will have a VR unit, and the global market for VR is estimated to reach $10.9 billion this year.
VR’s immersive experience makes it ideal for enhancing the gaming experience, but any industry using 3D could benefit from adopting VR. Movies and streaming content businesses can use VR technologies to deliver immersive experiences to customers.
The potential for VR to transform the healthcare sector is exciting. Immersive, lifelike simulations unlock new possibilities for both training and treatment. VR can be used to train surgeons, giving them more hands-on experience, without the risks associated with live patient operations. Consumer electronics giant, HTC, has recently invested in developing VR to help brain surgeons with complex operations.
Hospitals can use VR simulations to reduce patient anxiety in a ‘safe space’, while exposure therapy can assist PTSD patients in recovery. VR holds promise also for physical therapy applications. Physical therapy is repetitive, and it can be boring, uninspiring, and uncomfortable. By integrating VR into movement, therapists can increase interest and enjoyment to motivate and engage clients in their rehabilitation programs.
Marketing and customer service
Consumer-facing functions along with B2C industries can reap the benefits of VR-driven innovations. Retail and e-commerce businesses can use VR to offer realistic walkthroughs and demonstrations to customers.
VR could be combined with augmented reality (AR) to give consumers virtual shopping experiences that mimic real life. Instead of going to the store, you can put on your headset and experience a simulated shopping experience from the comfort of your own home. Retail giants such as Myer and eBay have already started exploring this possibility.
VR can be used as a marketing tool to generate deeper consumer engagement and grow sales. Qantas has already begun exploring the potential for VR as part of its consumer marketing strategy. The airline’s VR trials have already boosted sales and engagement, and the company is considering VR as a new, standalone marketing channel.
Imagine experiencing your holiday before you commit to buying a ticket? Travel businesses could use realistic simulations to highlight attractions around the world and boost holiday sales. The application of VR to create experiential marketing content will revolutionise accommodation and hospitality, too. Customers will be able to view hotel rooms and restaurants before making a booking, allowing them to make better informed decisions.
Children have notoriously short attention spans, particularly when it comes to education. VR and AR technologies have the potential to make classrooms and learning more interesting and interactive. And it’s closer than you think. Some estimate that VR may be adopted in classrooms within the next few years. Simulations for history, biology, and geography, for example, could complement textbook learning. VR content can stimulate curiosity and assist visualisation by giving students learning-by-doing opportunities with interactive features.
VR has huge disruptive potential for businesses, especially in back-end operations. One survey showed that 60% of Australian and New Zealand organisations are already exploring the possibilities of VR to enhance their internet and customer-facing functions.
Visualisation and design
VR brings data to life, so it’s no wonder real estate, engineering, and architecture are some of the industries already deeply invested in its potential. The sensory immersion features gives these industries a powerful tool to play with. For example, VR which uses ‘reality capture’ tools will allow architects and planners to explore and work in real world scenarios. Reality capture is technology that allows VR developers to go out into the environment, collect real world data and use it to build a replica in a virtual reality setting. As the technology develops, these virtual environments could be based on real-time reality capture data, allowing a design team to work remotely, but with a simulation that replicates exactly what is happening on site.
Property developer Thirdi Group uses VR to display property models and designs to potential buyers and developers. VR technology facilitates the creation of powerful models for designers, builders, and planning officials. Customers can tour developments and request changes during the design process, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and quicker design-to-build timeframes.
Work and collaboration
VR can be used to create virtual work environments for telecommuting staff. Benefits include effective staff management and enhanced communications. Real-time availability to clients may also be improved. Managers can build a cross-border team and access talent regardless of location. An additional upside is reduced need for work space, leading to significant savings for organisations.
Businesses can use VR to create virtual training programs for new employees. The Commonwealth Bank is already exploring VR training systems for staff and developing immersive tools for traditional tasks such as trading.
The future is near
Virtual reality may seem hard to believe, but as affordability improves, VR will fast become a normal part of our day-to-day lives. With increasingly powerful computing systems to support VR integration, consumers and businesses will soon benefit from the possibilities offered by VR in work and play.
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