Virtual Reality (VR) has been around at the consumer level since the early 90s. The technology lets users explore full-scale, three-dimensional environments while controlling elements by clicking a button. It first emerged as part of the gaming industry, but with recent developments making VR more functional and user-friendly, will it be coming out of the shadows? Based on what we saw at the recent consumer electronics and consumer technology trade-show CES, it appears VR is ready to take center stage. In fact, today it’s being used in tour-oriented industries, while cruise lines and college campuses are incorporating VR strategies, as are construction companies and real estate firms. So, what are the implications of VR for the business world?
Touring Virtual Real Estate
House hunting can be a time-consuming process, but real estate companies are trying to use VR to lessen the burden. Some firms are currently letting prospects explore commercial real estate properties without getting in a car. The benefits are obvious—travel costs are cut and time is saved. Clients also have access to supplementary material and can take their time, and return and revisit a site whenever they feel so inclined.
VR in the Construction Field
Companies are using virtual reality to show clients a three dimensional view of what a building will look like before shovel has even hit dirt. Physical models can be expensive and labor intensive; they also have visual limitations. VR options allow for opportunities like “walking” virtual hallways and lobbies to be built right into the technology.
Designing Space Vehicles
Satellites and other space equipment is being optimized through the use of virtual reality. Professionals need to anticipate what scientists are looking for their vehicles to do. Simulating exploration experiences can lead to better design models. And of course, what happens first at the “NASA” level when it comes to technology usually trickles down to consumer industries eventually.
Car dealerships are developing methods of allowing customers to test-drive new vehicles before they’re even on the market. The feedback from these “drivers” (potential customers all) can be used in future designs.
VR isn’t limited to trial runs/touring. Recent developments are making it more consumer-oriented. Samsung Gear VR, compatible with Samsung Android smartphones, costs $199. The headset uses Oculus technology and displays a 96-degree field of vision. Touch controls on the headset allow users to control specific features. New apps and games are currently in development.
The device is a far cry from its predecessors. It’s lightweight, portable, wireless, and designed to fit comfortably. And at its reasonable price, it’s also a viable option for a greater number of people. The product sold out on Amazon and Best Buy within the first 24 hours of release. Will renewed public interest and the advent of low priced hardware and new VR apps mean virtual reality is back in vogue?
Three-dimensional features have already found their way into the retail industry. Some clothing companies have even added virtual elements to graphics of individual garments. Consumers can rotate a pair of jeans and dress virtual models. They may soon be able to try pieces on their own images while getting advice from VR fashion experts.
VR is being developed for use in the human resources field, as well, remote interviews and meetings now feeling more “real” than ever before. Want to see what the office space or factory floor looks like where you might be working should you accept an offer? We can take you there, using VR. Companies can also use it to collaborate on design issues, such as how an operating room or an executive boardroom or control room should look. Other applications include:
- Attending virtual tech conferences. New products can be displayed and discussed without a physical location – no more time consuming and costly sales trips. Less money is spent with the same learning benefits.
- Better collaboration and information sharing. Face-to-face conversations will be conducted in a VR arena. Remote workers will be able to feel like they are actually at the head office for their meetings or round table chats, which helps teams build trust and increases employee satisfaction and loyalty.
- Better training. Future employees can experience a work environment before entering it to help them prepare for jobs. Sessions can be recorded and reviewed for enhanced training purposes.
Businesses may be seeing more VR technology advances, but there’s still a long way to go before it becomes the norm. However, people can look to the future for more VR features being added to live entertainment, social media, gaming, and retail shopping. That said, while VR technology is making headway, its content and applications are still in the development phase.
Futuristic additions, including touch and smell, are also in the works. More important, though, are the practical concerns and real deciding factors, such as overall cost, ease of use, and just how real the environments look and how fast users can easily interact with things.