Virtual Reality Experiences for Business

Virtual reality has the potential to completely change the way companies interact and engage their clientele and employees.  Small businesses can even prepare for this latest business trend. By incorporating it into their digital strategy, businesses of all sizes will be able to take advantage of the opportunities virtual reality can present.

Virtual Reality (VR), is similar to augmented reality (AR) as in both immerse the user in virtual objects or a virtual world around them. No longer just industry hype, virtual reality is disruptive technology that is currently transforming life and business. Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai echoes this sentiment in the annual Founders’ letter saying,  “The next big step will be for the very concept of the ‘device’ to fade away”. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg also acknowledges the power behind virtual reality has in becoming the next major computing platform; as is evident in his acquisition of Oculus.

Technology to Enhance Your Business Interactions.

For small to medium sized businesses, incorporating any new digital or virtual initiative should be done so with the ultimate goal of improving your customer loyalty. Engage with your consumers to enhance your brand. By providing an innovative connection, your organization gains an advantage over competition.  There are plenty of use cases where your business would be able to implement virtual reality experiences:

  • Product/Service Presentations. Consider the engagement level a prospect could have when using virtual reality to gain 360 degree view into your product or service. The real estate market has been quick to adapt. Many realtors hold virtual tours of their housing inventory as an effective way to differentiate in a crowded market space.
  • Conferencing. Location and geography are rapidly becoming irrelevant when it comes to conducting business meetings. Travel costs will be greatly diminished by those who can conference in to a meeting. Virtual reality allows everyone to be seated at the boardroom table.
  • HR. Conducting interviews, holding training sessions or performance reviews could all be handled by the HR department remotely. Imagine an interview process where virtual reality allowed a candidate to demonstrate their “hands on” expertise.

How Businesses are Incorporating Virtual Reality.

Virtual reality is being leveraged as a cost effective way of developing products, as it allows you to explore prototypes before production. Virtual reality (VR) also proves helpful in areas with limited human resources. VR is being developed to provide a hands on guide of tutorials. Several big players have already begun differentiating themselves by leveraging virtual reality experiences:

  • Facebook/Oculus. Oculus, a VR company, is leading the way in “immersive gaming” but Mark Zuckerberg, truly believes this is just the beginning. “After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.”
  • Caterpillar. Serving the construction industry, Caterpillar utilizes innovative technologies in augmented reality. In an effort to increase the efficiency and productivity of their machinery and their operators VR is used. They’ve designed a software that provides a step by step tutorial on how to perform tasks (machine maintenance and safety checks). The software is hardware independent meaning it is compatible for use with phone, tablet or VR glasses. This allows the user to walk around, climb on top and duck beneath the machine they are working on. It even lets the user take a picture of the task that was completed to verify with the software whether the action was completed correctly.
  • Samsung and Google. Contact lenses are also being redesigned to go beyond providing clearer vision. In 2014, Samsung filed a patent on smart contact lenses. The design states that each lens will be fitted with a microscopic display camera and antenna that can be controlled by movement and blinking.  While likely still in its concept phase of design and not an actual product at this point, they are exploring ways of connecting the lens to a smart phone for processing power. Perhaps a more promising and practical concept, is Google’s patent for a contact lens. These lenses will help  measure the glucose levels of diabetics. While not exactly virtual reality, the interest behind transforming the way we use everyday products will give virtual reality the incentive to move beyond being used for video gaming capabilities.

Things to Consider.

Virtual reality will slowly but surely change the way we live and interact in the business world, especially if Microsoft has anything to say about it. Where Microsoft has failed to find a foothold in the mobile devices category, they are striving to become leaders in the VR sector. Their goal is to put the Windows Holographic platform (similar to an operating system for VR and AR) into as many devices as possible. With Intel, Lenovo, Dell, Acer, HTC, and ASUS already signed on to use Windows Holographic, they may just succeed. Pricing for VR headsets start at several hundreds of dollars, and Microsoft’s Holo lens (exclusively available for developers only) start at $3000.00.

Virtual reality technology may still currently be limited in its functionalities. Even as is, it’s pretty impressive what can be done with the wireless headsets currently available. As with any technology initiative your business brings into its strategy, the goal should be to enhance your customer experience. Forrester Research analysts estimate that corporations demand for VR headsets will reach 17 million within the next four years. When used in a way that simplifies tasks and enables your clients, virtual reality could also make your business stronger.

(image via flickr)